Summary and book reviews of The Abbot's Tale by Conn Iggulden

The Abbot's Tale

by Conn Iggulden

The Abbot's Tale by Conn Iggulden X
The Abbot's Tale by Conn Iggulden
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  • Published:
    May 2018, 480 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kate Braithwaite

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About this Book

Book Summary

From New York Times bestselling Conn Iggulden comes a new novel set in the red-blooded days of Anglo-Saxon England. This is the original game for the English throne.

In the year 937, the new king of England, a grandson of Alfred the Great, readies himself to go to war in the north. His dream of a united kingdom of all England will stand or fall on one field - on the passage of a single day.

At his side is the priest Dunstan of Glastonbury, full of ambition and wit (perhaps enough to damn his soul). His talents will take him from the villages of Wessex to the royal court, to the hills of Rome - from exile to exaltation. Through Dunstan's vision, by his guiding hand, England will either come together as one great country or fall back into anarchy and misrule ...

From one of our finest historical writers, The Abbott's Tale is an intimate portrait of a priest and performer, a visionary, a traitor and confessor to kings - the man who can change the fate of England.

I could have hung on that cliff all day, if they hadn't broken my fingers. My hands have always been strong, but when bones crack, there is no true anchor, not even for an ocean of rage. Yet I clung on for a time even so. Near the end, as I glared at them without pleading or begging, all their laughter and mockery died away, which gave me some small satisfaction. That little crowd of men and women stood around the edge, just waiting for me to fall. They watched me hold on to crumbling earth with torn and swollen hands and yet remain to spite them.

I saw Encarius abashed then, he who had become my friend. I tried to form the words to tell him I forgave him, because I had no other way to take revenge and I wanted him to wince when he recalled me ever after. Vengeance is a fine thing, but forgiveness can be just as cruel.

I did not fear death. In my youth, I do not think I could imagine it. I ground my teeth as my fingernails tore on the stone, and I remember trying to look down ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The book suffers at points from the limitations of a first-person narrator point of view. Dunstan's voice, although enjoyable, is that of an old man looking to the past and this keeps many of the other characters at a distance. What the novel lacks in dramatic tension, however, it makes up for in its epic sweep and immersion into a fully realized vision of the past. From the smelting of coins to the crowning of kings and hunting for stag in the wilds of the countryside, The Abbot's Tale captures the imagination and engages the senses.   (Reviewed by Kate Braithwaite).

Full Review Members Only (615 words).

Media Reviews

BBC History Magazine (UK)
Conn Iggulden's Dunstan is a vivid, convincing character.

The Daily Express (UK)
This engrossing novel is rich in intrigue, with Iggulden breathing life into this remarkable and complex figure who played a vital role in safeguarding a newly united England

The Times (UK)
Superbly plotted and paced. An absolutely cracking story. The pace is nail-biting and the set dressing magnificent. Iggulden has created an intriguingly complex saint - flawed, spiteful, and unreliable as the teller of his own tale. Through his eyes we watch the story of the making of England.

The Daily Mirror (UK)
Iggulden is in a class of his own when it comes to epic, historical fiction.

Publishers Weekly
Having already taken on Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan, and the War of the Roses, Iggulden successfully dramatizes the life of Dunstan, Abbot of Glastonbury and confidant of King Aethelstan, the grandson of Alfred the Great. There are more than enough holes in the historical record for Iggulden to fill out Dunstan's life story imaginatively. Immerses the reader in 10th-century England.

Booklist
Both a compelling fictional biography and an epic overview of the birth of England. A natural companion piece to Bernard Cornwell's megapopular Saxon series, Iggulden's page-turning narrative provides another piece to the often-challenging puzzle that is tenth-century England.

Library Journal
A well-paced, believable peek into the brutal and often outright cruel world of tenth-century Europe. Iggulden's attention to detail is illuminating and never tedious. This gripping saga will appeal to historical fiction buffs, fans of Bernard Cornwell's 'Saxon Stories' series, as well as anyone who yearns for a compelling, well-told story.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. A 10th-century English abbot tells of his service to seven kings - a story of pride, vengeance, and blood - in a tale abounding with real historical characters. Fans of the genre will love this masterpiece of historical fiction.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Glastonbury and Arthurian Legend

Nowadays famous for its music festival, held in nearby Pilton, Glastonbury is a small English town in Somerset, with a population of around 9000 people. In the 10th century, before Dunstan, the character in The Abbot's Tale arrived there and built the first great Glastonbury Abbey, it was little more than a medieval village but still one with a long history behind it.

Lady Chapel Interior of Glastonbury Abbey With evidence of habitation dating back to the Iron and Bronze Age, the name Glastonbury, and the presence of Benedictine monks living there, appear to date from the 7th century, and are Anglo-Saxon in origin. Glastonbury in the 10th century was an island dominated by a tor, or hill, and although the land has long since been drained, the expanse of flat, low land, with ...

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