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HFC Editorial Review of "Senlac: Book Two" by Julian de la Motte

Updated: Sep 5, 2021

Senlac is a two-part historical novel that brings to life the turbulent period leading to the Norman conquest of England in 1066, when the English were forced to defend the kingdom against invasions by both the Normans and the Vikings. Named for the hill upon which the final battle took place, and where history was changed in the course of one day.

Senlac, Book One, opens during Christmas of the year 1065, a time of grave national crisis and disquieting omens, when the aged King Edward the Confessor, the seventh son of Æthelred the Unready, dies in the Palace of Westminster in London. Even as a successor is crowned by popular acclaim, King Harold II faces attack from two formidable neighbors: the Viking army of Harald Hardraada, and the Norman forces led by William the Conqueror. Also in play is Harold’s own exiled younger brother, Tostig, who is bent on revenge against the King who banished him.


In Book Two of Senlac, the inevitable happens; forces are engaged in violent, bloody war. Each of the three powerful leaders are forced to the very limit of their abilities and resources as they fight to achieve their ambitious goals. The result is the tragic year of The Three Battles, the death of thousands of warriors and common people conscripted for the carnage, and the destruction of a whole way of life. Nothing was ever the same again.

A scourge is let loose on England, in the form of Tostig, one-time Earl of Northumbria and the exiled brother of King Harold of England, joining forces with some of the north men of Alba (King Malcolm Canmore of Scotland, and the fierce King of Norway) all for his own advantage. After opening with an up-to-date account of all that transpired in Book One (which is a clever device for the author to have used to allow this book to be read as a stand-alone which, by the way, I do not recommend – both books need to be devoured and enjoyed), we are taken directly into the action. And when I say action, this book (as well as book one) is full of meaty action playing in a reader’s mind like an epic movie.

Three battles play out in this book, all leading to the culmination upon Senlac Hill between King Harold and William, Duke of Normandy. You think you know the story, as many who are fed on the history of the Battle of Hastings, but to read the details offered in this novel is simply incredible writing.

Harold, crowned King after Edward the Confessor’s death, faces three invasions – from his own brother Tostig, the fierce Norwegian King Hardraada, and from William, Duke of Normandy – all with their own agendas and motives against England. Tostig and Hardraada combine forces and defeat some of the English at the Battle of Fulford, but then are defeated by Harold at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. With two opponents down, Harold turns his attention to the taunts of William, and even rejects another offer of a ‘Dux Anglorum’ position after taking a child bride with a new heir on the way. There was no turning back. He was determined to remain King, or go down fighting. After William lands his invasion force, Harold marches south to meet him, all converging near Hastings at Senlac Hill.

Some of my favorite lines from the book:

-Tostig played upon the King of the Scots as he might upon a musical instrument, teasing out appropriate notes at appropriate points.-

-It was a season, as a consequence, of food poisoning and collective hallucinogenic mass visions and hysteria brought on by the eating of what the people called ‘the crazy bread.’ It was a season for outbreaks and violence and visions and the prophesying of the deranged. These crazed unfortunates haunted the woods and the fields and the riverbanks. - (Very Shakespearean!!)

-“Well, best to get started, I suppose, before we all die of old age,” It was a curiously flat and simple statement with which to set such a momentous act in motion.- I loved these two lines, the first spoken by William, with the narrative setting William’s mood and final words before a battle which changed history. Just brilliant!

Again, so much praise for this novel that is Shakespearean to the highest degree – with epic battles, era-accurate dialogue, poetic descriptions, and intriguing omen-inspired threads weaving through the story line as if Mr De La Motte held his ear against the Bayeux Tapestry to hear the tale unfold. Even the way the author wraps up the story with what happens to the main women in the story is perfection – Edith (Harold’s hand-fasted wife), Gytha, his mother, and Aeldyth, his Queen – all their real stories fade into history, but here we are offered a view into what might have happened to them after the Battle of Hastings, and the offering is very believable.

This is truly the Bayeux Tapestry come to life! Mr De La Motte gives writers an exquisite lesson on how to write a historical novel, and he gives readers a glorious future classic to enjoy. This book is lush, atmospheric, and worthy of the highest praise.

Five stars from The Historical Fiction Company!!





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