THE TIME OF THE WOLF is a novel set in England and Flanders in the 11th century. Written by James Wilde, a pseudonym of prolific and popular fantasy author Mark Chadbourn, it’s a novel without magic or monsters or the other fripperies of fantasy literature, but it’s a compelling read, a doom-laden tale filled with tragic characters, scheming plotlines, and the violence of the times.
Alric is a young cleric haunted by his past, being chased by pursuers who insist on having him face trial by ordeal for an accidental death he caused. Hereward is a man of violent tastes, a brutal savage who is skilled in the art of causing murder and destruction. When Hereward first encounters Alric, he despises the cleric’s self-indulgent holiness but saves his life nonetheless.
The two travel on together and slowly, very slowly, become friends as Hereward begins to discover the better angel of his nature. Hereward is also on the run from the English monarchy. He is accused of murdering the heir to the throne and at the same time his own true love, but the point is eventually revealed that Hereward did nothing of the sort, and is instead being used as a pawn in a political game played by one Harold Godwinson. Godwinson’s ambition is to rule England, and his devious machinations involve not only the persecution of Hereward but murder.
This relatively simple tale is well-told. While it’s obvious considerable research went into the book’s historical background, Wilde/Chadbourn smoothly elides unnecessary details and instead drags you along through the adventure of Hereward and Alric’s escape, and dips you into the sour madness of Harold Godwinson and his plans. If you love this time period, you should thoroughly enjoy THE TIME OF THE WOLF, and we can hope that this may be the beginning of an interesting historical fiction series. —Mark Rose