This is a historical fiction tale, based on some real events, but mostly it was just a damn good read with plenty of elements to please every reader. Mike Dixon has taken a childhood curiosity, delved into the history and then created a story that engages and entertains as It does give you a feel for the times.
In 1436 in the market town of Sherborne in the northwest corner of Dorset there is an abbey. The Abbot and the monks are prone to abusing the villagers and peasants, using the active role that the church has in everyday life to levy taxes, rules, penalties and threats of eternal damnation upon the people of the town. Of course, England is still in some turmoil: it is during the Hundred Years War where Henry Vi is fighting for control of France, Joan of Arc has been burned at the stake and alternate thoughts have her as a hero or heretic, and much of the countryside is in tumult. Whether from small family battles, to highwaymen to Robin Hood-like bandits, everyone is struggling for their own piece of power.
Starting out with the introduction of several characters, it was a bit confusing until the separate threads started to weave together to move the plot forward with simple vignettes that compose each day and different characters in the forefront. Soon I was lost in the story, wondering just where it would end: mixing some violence, religion, imagery and long-lost medical and herbal treatments into the tale made this just an enjoyable read. With plenty of characters to love or hate, I think I had my favorite in Harald and Alice. Harald was a bit of a reluctant leader, soft spoken and learned far more at home with pretty things and bookish pursuits. Alice as the prioress of the almshouse for the poor: well educated herself she is a bit of a free-thinker, learned in herbal medicines and more concerned about doing for others than protecting herself. Both of these characters complimented each other nicely, and seeing a woman busily defying the often ridiculous proclamations of the abbot was a nice change for a story of the time.
What you won’t find in Wolf Wood is a story that has clearly defined good and bad, right and wrong: each character tries to show their reasons for their actions, and while those reasons may not be particularly tasteful, they are there. This was a fun read, engaging with lots of ideas, action and characters to enjoy and follow.
I received an eBook copy from the author for a review and tour with France Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Title: Wolf Wood
Author: Mike Dixon
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Wolf Wood # 1
Best Read in Order: Yes
Purchase Now: Amazon (Part 1) § Amazon (Part 2 – not reviewed)
About the Book:
(Some violence, family and political intrigue, quite a lot of romance, some sex but never explicit.)
In 1436 a dispute arose between the people of Sherborne and their abbot over the ownership of a baptismal font. Before it was settled, the abbey was burnt down and a bishop murdered. Some saw the hand of evil at work and blamed a newcomer to the town, accusing her of being a witch. Others saw her as a saint. Wolf Wood is set in the turbulent years of the late middle ages. The old feudal aristocracy is losing control, a new middle class is flexing its muscles, the authority of the church is being questioned, law and order have broken down and England is facing defeat in France. Wolf Wood is a work of fiction based on actual events.
About the Auhor:
I was born in Sherborne (Dorset) and attended school there and (as an exchange student) in the Medoc region of France. I studied physics at Oxford and received a PhD degree in astrophysics from the University of Cambridge. Following teaching and research appointments in South Africa, Scotland and Australia, I joined the Australian Government Service and worked, for a while, as a ministerial assistant. I entered the tourist industry through public relations and scuba diving and established one of Australia’s first backpacker resorts. I have a keen interest in medieval history and I am a frequent visitor to Britain and France.
As a boy, growing up in Sherborne, I heard about the famous fire of Sherborne Abbey and was told that a priest shot a flaming arrow into the tower and set the building on fire. The marks of the fire are visible today, over five hundred years later. And there is a lot more to tell us what happened. There was an inquiry into the dispute that led to the fire and the surviving documents tell of a bitter feud between the abbot and the townspeople. It’s highly dramatic stuff and it inspired me to write my Wolf Wood novels.My books are fiction. Some of the characters are based on real people; others are entirely imaginary. I have done my best to be faithful to the main course of historical events and fill in the gaps with the sort of things that could have happened to my characters.