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Historical Novel Society

Review: The Bastard's Crown by H A Culley

The Bastard's Crown (The Normans) - H.A. Culley
The Bastard's Crown is a novel with definite potential. The research that went into creating this book is evident from beginning to end. The reader is taken through the politics leading up to the Norman invasion and through the conquest of England. The problem is that the author has tried to cover all this in a little over 200 pages, which just was not enough to also develop characters and much of a storyline to go along with the known history.

Most of the story follows Hugo de Cuille, beginning when he is a child in Maine. The Cuille family is displaced by the fight for control of Maine, and Hugo winds up in the Norman forces at Hastings. Since the author had introduced several characters on both sides of the fighting at Hastings, the battle and action leading up to it was told from both sides. I found this a little bit awkward, as was much of the dialog.

Due to the number of characters introduced and the amount of time covered in this rather short novel, it ended up feeling a little bit like a story outline that is waiting to be fleshed out. Some of the characters were not developed enough for me to remember who they were, let alone care about what happened to them. Relationships seemed shallow. I shouldn't have to be told what people's feelings are for each other. I should be able to tell by their interactions. The author seemed a little uncomfortable telling a story from the Norman viewpoint. Each of the Norman characters dealt with seemed to be begrudgingly doing their duty in devastating the Saxons, certainly the Normans could not have all felt that way.

I enjoyed the amount of historical details given, but would have appreciated more depth to Hugo's story and improved dialog. The history is well told, but the writing style is somewhat simplistic, leaving me reading about the Norman Conquest, never transported into it. I also grew weary of the constant use of destrier/courser/palfrey/rouncey - I get it, the guy knows his medieval horses. Sadly, enough grammatical errors exist to be distracting.

Overall, this is a novel that could be wonderful with some editing and development. In it's current form, I just wasn't drawn in and will probably not continue with the series.