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Hengist: Exile, Warlord, Britain’s First Anglo-Saxon King is a Best Books '23 pick #histfic



Title:

Hengist

Exile, Warlord, Britain’s First Anglo-Saxon King

 

Author:

Sean Poage

 

Genre:

Historical Fiction Adventure

 

Book Blurb:

 

 A jealous brother drove a boy from his home, expecting him to die on the hostile sea. Instead, the boy fought to manhood, became a famed warlord, and the first Anglo-Saxon king in Britain.

 

HENGIST

 

Hengist claimed he came to Britannia a willing exile. But the truth is . . . more complicated. His path was not straight. His hands, not clean. The truth sets the stage for the bitter conflict between the Anglo-Saxons and the Britons.

 

Sail with Hengist and his warband and witness the opening moves in the long struggle for Britain.

 

* This novel is based on the research of J.R.R. Tolkien, arguing that the Hengist recorded in Beowulf, the History of the Britons, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles and other sources refer to the same man, and were based on historical people and events.

 

Excerpt:

 

Ah, it promised to be a grand Yule!

 

When meat was served, we all took seats, interspersed with Finn’s men. Being Hnæf’s second captain, I had one of the seats closest to the head table. As I ate, I studied our hosts. Finn was grey-bearded with a kindly face, soft voice and easy laugh. It was clear his people loved him. Hildeburh, Hoc’s firstborn, was at least ten winters older than Hnæf, but the fading of her beauty was still far off. She was somewhat aloof, perhaps careful to maintain the dignity of her majesty amongst us coarser men. Hildeburh was every bit the peace-weaver her marriage sought and demanded.

 

She seemed distant to her brother beside her. Hnæf had said he barely remembered her, as she was married off when he still hugged his mother’s skirts. Frithuwulf, beside his father, also seemed uncomfortable. These may be his people, but he had spent his formative years with Hoc’s family, and his affections were clearly confused.

 

Finn’s warriors were mostly of Frisian stock, though I caught the accents of Saxons, Franks, Jutes, and even a Geat from far beyond Frisia. No Anglii, though. Perhaps that should have been a warning.

 

With bellies sated, Finn’s scop, a battered old warrior missing an eye, took the floor to recite Finn’s lineage. Hildeburh served mead to her lord and those at the upper table, and then she and the other women took their leave.

 

The mead-jug went round and round as the scop entertained us with bawdy poems, and we joined in raucous songs. Drink and laughter encouraged ever more lewd jests and implausible boasts, inevitably turning to the ancient art of insult. Every man, be he ceorl, captain or king, is fair sport. It is a measure of the man to not only laugh along at his own expense but to serve back better than he received. Finn was a master of the art, laughing at a poem about his age and offering a hilarious rebuttal regarding his warrior’s noxious flatulence.

 

Eventually, it was my turn. One of my younger men, Ealdræd, stood and lifted his cup to me. “Hail, Hengist, son of Wihtgils, son of Witta, son of Wecta, son of Woden! May your sail never slacken!” He took a drink, and I waited, grinning. “Unlike your misshapen misused meagre manhood!”

 

I joined the laughter and table-banging that rewarded Ealdræd for his alliterative wit. I was about to stand and respond when my eye caught that of a young man across the hall from me. One of Finn’s warriors, he rose slowly, leaning forward with his hands on the table. I hesitated, perplexed by the intensity of his glare.

 

“Wecta, son of Woden?” His voice rose with him. Accent of a Jute. “Kin to Wihtlæg?”

 

The room quieted.

 

“Aye.” I raised an eyebrow and lowered my chin, guessing the source of his ire.

 

“Wihtlæg? The butcher of Amloth, king of the Jutes?”

 

“King of the Jutes?” I feigned confusion, choosing my words carefully. “It’s been long since the Anglii permitted a Jute to be called king. Who is this Amloth? And who are you to show such poor manners?”

 

“I am Garulf, son of Guthulf, Amloth’s heir.”

 

“Ah, of course . . . Amloth, the usurper. That war is long past, Garulf, son of Guthulf.”

 

“Murder, theft, and exile make for long memory.”

 

“Mind your tongue, boy,” I growled. “Slandering my kin may call for justice.”

 

“Justice? Amloth’s father—appointed by your king—was murdered by his own brother, and your king ignored it. Amloth brought justice to the murderer, and the people proclaimed him king–”

 

“The Anglii subjugated your people long ago. Only our king appoints governors to the Jutes. Amloth flouted that law and paid the price.”

 

“If Wihtlæg knew anything of justice, he would have affirmed Amloth’s rule. Instead, he brought war to peaceful people, coveting their wealth and using Amloth as the excuse!”

 

I leapt to my feet and slammed my cup on the table, splashing mead across the boards. “Boy–” I glanced to the high table. Hnæf was alarmed and spread his fingers out on the table, signalling me to calm. Beside him, Finn looked distressed. Tension was thicker than the smoke in the rafters. My men looked ready to rip Garulf in two. I took a breath. “We are guests of your liege, Garulf. There ought be no quarrel between us over the actions of our forebears. There are many of your tribe amongst my own warband.” I held my cup out to be refilled and raised it towards Garulf. “Let you and I drink and be friends, as well.”

 

“Friends?” Garulf picked up his cup but paused at chest height. “Prince of the Anglii to Prince of the Jutes?”

 

“Aye.” It would mean nothing to call him a prince.

 

“Then you will acknowledge my family’s injury? Support restoring me to my legacy and my people?”

 

I stared at him. Whatever his youth and impulsiveness, Garulf had manoeuvred me into a trap. I could not, here before royal witnesses, advocate his return to his ancestral lands. I could not admit, here before all, that I had no authority to do so. That I had no standing in my own family.

 

Garulf raised his cup above his head and raised his eyebrows, waiting.

 

“I cannot.”

 

Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):

 

 

Goodreads:

 


What makes your featured book a must-read?

 

Hengist is the catalyst for what became England, and is one of the founding legends that link to King Arthur and his wars with the Saxons. This book tells the story that JRR Tolkien suggested brought Hengist to Britain.

 

Giveaway –

 

Enter to win a $45 Amazon gift card:

 

 

Open Internationally.


Runs December 18 – December 31, 2023.


Winner will be drawn on January 2, 2024.

 


Author Biography:

 

Sean Poage has had an exciting and varied life as a laborer, salesman, soldier, police officer, investigator, instructor, computer geek and author. He’s lived all over the US and a few places overseas. Travelling the world to see history up close is his passion.

 

A history buff his entire life, he is most drawn to the eras of the ancient Greeks and Dark Ages Britain. His books, so far, have been historical fiction novels, but he has plans to branch out in the future.

 

These days he works in the tech world, writes when he can, and spends the rest of the time with his family, which usually means chores and home improvement projects. When he can find the time, he enjoys travel, scuba diving, and hiking in the beautiful Maine outdoors. He blogs about the historical subjects behind his writing at his website, seanpoage.com.

 

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