Thursday, 30 August 2018

Conrad Monk and the Great Heathen Army by Edoardo Albert

Conrad Monk and the Great Heathen Army by Edoardo Albert
Published in the UK by Endeavour Quill on the August 2018.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository

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?

Conrad Monk and the Great Heathen Army takes the reader on a hugely entertaining and highly informative trip through the Anglo-Saxon world, in the company of a persuasive and likeable — if frequently despicable — tour guide. It is a story that combines painstakingly accurate depictions of history with a fast-moving and often hilarious plot, and as such is bound to appeal to lovers of history, historical fiction and character-driven fiction alike.

I thoroughly enjoyed this humorous romp through Saxon England! I have previously read Edoardo Albert's serious historical novel, Edwin, so already knew of his impeccable research and great ability to evoke historic period in his writing. I wasn't prepared for his deft comedic touch and enthusiastic sense of fun though. Our hero (who is anything but heroic) is a dastardly character. Always out for himself and with a keen eye for personal profit, Conrad Monk is the type of person I shouldn't approve of at all. However, in following his journey across the country, I found myself willing him to escape each life-threatening situation.

Having recently watched the TV adaptation of The Last Kingdom which is set in the same period of Viking invasion, I was familiar with the main real characters and the general historic narrative. I think even if I hadn't been though, Albert gives enough detail to easily understand what is going on in the wider country. I recognised genuine people such as Ivarr and Ubba, King Aethelred and his younger brother Alfred. Conrad and his much put-upon companion, Brother Odo, are of course completely fictional, but the places they visit on their travels are real so I was interested to read Albert's brief essay explaining some of his inspirations. This novel is an entertaining mix of laugh-out-loud slapstick and deviously clever plotting. A delight to read!

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Edoardo Albert / Historical fiction / Books from England


  1. Funny books can be tough since everyone has different humor, so I'm glad to hear this one worked so well for you! It sounds fun. I love those characters who are kind of awful but you can't help but root for them anyway.

    1. Yes, Conrad really should be the villain of the piece, but I was always rooting for him!

  2. This sounds amazing! I LOVE historically accurate historical fictions and it sounds like this author really knows his stuff. I haven't read too many comedic historical fictions so this definitely has a spot on my list :) Lovely review, Stephanie!

    Laura @BlueEyeBooks

    1. I think this is Albert's only humorous historical novel so far, but spotting it reminded me I wanted to read more of his serious novels too

  3. Thank you for bringing this one to my attention, I will definitely have to give it a look!

    1. Irreverent but historically accurate and a good giggle throughout!


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