About the Book
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?
Format: ebook (219 pages) Publisher: Lume Books
Publication date: 31 July 2018 Genre: Historical Fiction
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I’m embarrassed to say it’s three years since Abby at Endeavour (now Lume Books) sent me a review copy of this book but it’s only now that it has been plucked from my TBR pile. I was looking for something more light-hearted to read as a change from my recent diet of rather intense books and Conrad Monk and the Great Heathen Army certainly fitted the bill.
Conrad is a true picaresque hero with a shameless awareness that at heart he is a rogue and a chancer. In fact, he rather revels in it freely admitting at one point that where others see the ‘open and honest face of a man of worth and truth’ in actual fact they’re looking at the ‘shifting mien of the vain dissimulator and crafty poltroon’. He is prepared to lie, cheat or bluff to extricate himself from any situation and the book sees him make repeated (and I do mean repeated) escapes from seemingly impossible situations. At times, for me, Conrad’s actions pushed the boundary between appealing rogue and objectionable cad – and I could have done with a little less information about the state of his bowels!
His companion on his adventures, poor Brother Odo, finds himself taking the role of anything from beast of burden, to oarsman, to unwitting accomplice, his spirits maintained by Conrad’s constant reassurance that ‘It’s all part of the plan’. Plus his unwavering belief that, as a fellow monk, Conrad is a man of faith. Big mistake, Odo.
I have a feeling the author had great fun writing this book and there are some comical moments. Confronted by a marauding Dane, Conrad attempts to pass himself off as a fellow countryman thanks to his knowledge of the language. “Hey, Erik,” I yelled to him – if you don’t know the name of a Dane, just call him Erik, they all answer to it.” Later Conrad learns his real name is – you guessed it – Erik.
Amid the humour there’s some authentic detail about Anglo-Saxon England and many of the characters who feature in the book existed in real life, as the author explains in his historical note. Personally, I wouldn’t trust Conrad for a moment or believe a word he said but it was fun spending a few hours in his company.
In three words: Lively, humorous, entertaining
About the Author
Edoardo Albert is a British writer of Italian and Sri Lankan descent. He writes about Britain in the early medieval period (between the Romans leaving and the Normans arriving), the 40th millennium in the Warhammer universe, and lots of other things besides. He enjoys hearing from his readers via social media or directly through this website. (Photo/bio credit: Author website)