“His name was Eadric, which meant ‘power,’ and he had been acquiring it consistently his entire life.
Once a bastard and a swineherd, now a thegn. Who could say what he might become tomorrow?”
Eadric the Grasper: Sons of Mercia Vol. 1
Author Jayden Woods explores the life of the “worst Briton of the 11th century” in her new novel, Eadric the Grasper: Sons of Mercia Vol. 1. From Eadric’s humble beginnings as a fatherless swineherd, to his meteoric rise as ealdorman of Mercia in northern England, Woods has provided readers a multifaceted view of one of history’s supposed villains.
A casual conversation about the Danish invaders plaguing England occurs between Eadric and a young boy, revealed as the king’s son. It swiftly leads to a summons to the court of King Ethelred the Unready, where, after some shock the king demands to know what he should do about the Danes. Eadric’s answer seems simple enough: deal with the invaders, as they have done with the English in the past, a history mired with their broken promises. Eadric is unprepared when his answer precipitates a massacre of the Danes, including his master Wulfric’s host. In the aftermath, Eadric soon has an unforgettable encounter with the king’s daughter Aydith, which will influence the course of his life in years to come.
Throughout the intervening years, Eadric attempts to survive the politics, famines and Danish raids that threaten to destroy England. However, he cannot remain ignorant of the upheaval for long because Ethelred soon demands that he kill a great Saxon landowner. Seeing little choice, Eadric submits to the command and gains land for his troubles. By then, his reputation is growing unfavorably in the kingdom, as people question his influence. In an attempt to impress Aydith, he leads a ragtag band against the Danes and gets himself captured. Although he survives the ordeal, it is a turning point for Eadric, the moment where it becomes clear that prevailing winds of change can easily sway his loyalties.
For her part, the princess Aydith is a staunch, defiant enemy of the Danes. She harbors a dangerous secret, one that often imperils her life. Not even the mutual attraction between her and Eadric and their later marriage can distract her from the goal of riding England of the invaders. She refuses to stand by helplessly while her father vacillates and capitulates to every Danish demand for even more bribes. The worse betrayal for her is when she thinks Eadric’s sole focus is on his selfish interests, and that he cares nothing for the fate of England. Although she tries to remain a dutiful wife, they clash and mutual suspicions ruin their former happiness. When Eadric finally discovers the secret that his wife has held from him, he must decide whether his own interests or her safety is his paramount concern. His choice surprised me.
Like Aydith, sometimes I struggled to reconcile Eadric’s character. I understand that for Ms. Woods it is no easy feat to turn the “worst Briton of the 11th century” into a man with distinct motivations. It was not often clear whether Eadric was on a quest for peace throughout the kingdom, or just in his domain, in an idyllic world of his own creation. Because of this ambiguity, he could easily swing from supporting Ethelred and his children to betraying them in the next instant. Although his relationship with Aydith grew difficult over time because of those actions, I never got the sense that they had ever stopped loving each other. Many of the characters refer to him as a coward, but I never thought of him in that way. If anything, he acted boldly and through astute observation of the swift changes coming to England, he did his best to forge a good life for him and his family. Still, his boldness accompanied a strange and dangerous naiveté that did not allow him to appreciate the full consequences of his actions at times. As in life, Jayden Woods’ Eadric remains a complicated character.
Jayden Woods has graciously offered a FREE copy of her new novel, Eadric the Grasper: Sons of Mercia Vol. 1. Please leave a comment on the blog this week for your chance to win.
AVAILABLE OCTOBER 5, 2010