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King's Shadow

by Elizabeth Alder
258 pages, Historical Fiction
Reviewed by Nienna

Good read, but some violence and incorrect spiritual content.

Plot

Evyn, a thirteen-year-old Welsh boy, has one desire: to be a storiawr, that is, a story-teller. His hopes are high until one terrible day when his father is murdered and the boy's tongue is cut from his mouth. Fearing for his life, Evyn's uncle sells him as a slave to the Lady Ealdgyth Swanneck who, not knowing his true name, calls the boy Shadow. Through the kindness of the Lady, Evyn learns to read and write, being able to communicate for the first time since his maiming. When he is called upon to act as a guide for Earl Harold, Evyn does not know how dear that lord's welfare will become to him, nor how close Harold will hold him to himself.

Morality

Very good. Evyn is sometimes filled with hatred or anger towards people, but he always changes and regrets that. Harold is the picture of chivalrous nobility, and, as seen through Evyn's eyes, is highly revered for it. Selfless love, courage, and honor are all highly valued.

Spiritual Content

Most of the characters, particularly Harold, are Christians. A few minor characters mention old British gods. Evyn believes in bad omens and, at least in the beginning, witches.

Violence

A man is killed in self-defense, a man is murdered, Evyn's tongue is cut out, and he also breaks his arm. Many people are injured and killed in battles; there is a shipwreck; Duke William is careless of his men's lives and nearly strikes his wife in anger. Evyn fights with and kills an important character, and many people are killed by Harold Hardrada and Duke William. In the Battle of Hastings hundreds of people die, including a main character whose body is hacked to pieces, and Evyn is wounded almost to death. None of this is graphically described.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Mead and wine are both drunk frequently, as that was the main beverage of that day, and many people get a little drunk, though this is shown as foolish through what happens.

Sexual Content

Evyn has to get bathwater for the women of the household, and the girls giggle at him. Harold has two wives, his commonlaw wife, Lady Ealdgyth; and his noble, "official" queen: Queen Edith, sister of the earls Edwin and Morcar. He and Lady Ealdgyth kiss.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

One man calls Duke William a b*****d. God's name is taken in vain a couple of times.

Conclusion

Though I do not care for the portrayal of Duke William as an immature monster or for the fact that the story does not seem to be written from a Christian worldview, I have to say that The King's Shadow is one of my favorite books. Evyn is a compelling character, deeply passionate and easy to relate to, and the story as seen through his eyes carries the same traits. All of the historical characters seem like real people and I could sympathize with almost all of them. The morals are very good, and I especially appreciated how Evyn grows, losing his pride and hatred. The King's Shadow is an interesting and moving story that ends well, though sadly.

Fun Score: 5
Values Score: 4
Written for Age: 13+

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