Today’s team review is from Sean, he blogs here https://ebookwormssite.wordpress.com
Sean has been reading Conrad Monk and the Great Heathen Army by Edoardo Albert
A light humorous tale of medieval England, where Vikings terrorised the Saxons, looting and pillaging as they went. Two monks, one devout, the other a total chancer and not really a monk at all, somehow find themselves having to travel through dangerous country to get to the Saxon King, to warn him of the Viking invasion.
Conrad Monk: A schemer, selfish, and always looking to turn every situation to his own advantage. A plausible liar, there really are no redeeming features.
Brother Odo: Humble, honest, naïve in many respects, he is the complete opposite to Conrad, his manipulative companion.
The Vikings: A Danish horde, led by the three sons of Ragnar Lothbrok – everyone flees before their mindless orgy of violence.
Abbot Flory: A man of the world yet still spiritual, he led the monastery until its sacking by the Vikings.
King Ethelred: The last hold-out against the Danish invasion, Conrad and Odo travel there to warn him, and seek safety.
Essentially, it is a medieval car-chase, with our two “heroes” running from the Vikings to get to the Saxon camp, with various situations to be met and resolved along the way.
We first meet Conrad and Odo literally up to their necks in it, as they are hiding in a pigsty. The Vikings are ransacking the Abbey, looking for all the gold and silver treasure, and to take prisoners as slaves to be sold. Most of the monks got away to a secret location, except for our two.
We immediately see Conrad for what he is – prepared to sacrifice the unsuspecting innocent Odo in order to save his own skin. This leads Conrad to meeting with the Viking leader, then revealing the whereabouts of the monks and betraying them to the slavers. As he keeps repeating to Odo and anyone else who would listen, this is all actually a ruse to get everyone to safety. However, Odo was not sold at the slave market, so Conrad has to buy him, and is lumbered with him for the rest of the book. All part of the plan, of course.
The most important treasure is the intricately decorated Gospel, a holy book covered in gold and precious gems. Flory had entrusted its safety to three monks, but they had been compromised. Conrad wants this for himself – his pension plan I would think – but innocent Brother Odo believes him when he says they are taking it to the Saxon King for safe-keeping. Having retrieved it literally from under the noses of the vicious Viking brothers, they are forced into making a run for it.
The type of humorous escapades in the book include Conrad using Odo as a human horse to escape the oncoming Heathen Army, obtaining a valuable bishops ring by removing it from the said dead bishop’s posterior, and escaping his captors by means of projectile diarrhoea.
What I Liked:
- The author’s research is thorough.
- It reads easily and fast, with action happening on nearly every page.
- This approach to history may make the subject more interesting to a younger audience.
What I Didn’t Like:
- The humour did not appeal to me, being way too slapstick and appealing to a scatological-type mindset. (Yep call me a snob!).
- I didn’t particularly like either of the main characters, Conrad being too stereotypical as a self-absorbed chancer, and Odo too much of a docile wet blanket.
I liked how the author brought the historical figures to life, and it is a good approach to humanising history. I think however it is an opportunity missed, as this type of humour won’t appeal to everyone. The book is written to entertain first, and for those who like this style it will absolutely do that. A three-star for me.
I received a .pdf of this book as part of Rosie Amber’s Review Team, in return for an honest and objective review.
Conrad is a monk, but he has become a monk through trickery and against his will. So, it is fair to say that his heart isn’t really in it.
Conrad is also clever, charming, entirely self-serving, self-absorbed and almost completely without scruple — but in Anglo-Saxon England, when the Danish invaders come calling, those are very helpful attributes to have.
And so it comes to pass that Conrad finds himself constantly dodging death by various means, some reasonable, some… less so. His tricks include selling his brother monks into slavery, witnessing the death of a king, juggling his loyalties between his own people and the Danes, robbing corpses and impersonating a bishop.
By his side throughout is the gentle and honourable Brother Odo, a man so naturally and completely good that even animals sense it. He is no match of wits for the cunning Conrad but can he, perhaps, at least encourage the wayward monk to behave a little better?