The King’s Hounds by Martin Jensen
Release Date: October 2013
Age Group: Adult
Source: Bought for Kindle
Series: King Cnud (#1)
Other Titles in the Series: Oathbreaker (#2)
Summary (goodreads.com): The first in the bestselling Danish series of historical mysteries
The newly crowned King Cnut of Denmark has conquered England and rules his new empire from Oxford. The year is 1018 and the war is finally over, but the unified kingdom is far from peaceful.
Halfdan’s mixed lineage—half Danish, half Saxon—has made him a pauper in the new kingdom. His father, his brother, and the land he should have inherited were all taken by the new king’s men. He lost everything to the war but his sense of humor. Once a proud nobleman, Halfdan now wanders the country aimlessly, powered only by his considerable charm and some petty theft. When he finds an unlikely ally in Winston, a former monk, he sees no reason not to accept his strange invitation to travel together to Oxford. Winston has been commissioned to paint a portrait of the king at the invitation of his new wife, and the protection of a clever man like Halfdan is well worth its price in wine and bread.
But when the pair’s arrival in court coincides with news of a murder, the king has a brilliant idea: Why not enlist the newly arrived womanizing half-Dane and the Saxon intellectual to defuse a politically explosive situation? The pair represents both sides of the conflict and seem to have crime-solving skills to boot. In their search for the killer, Halfdan and Winston find seduction, adventure, and scandal in the wild early days of Cnut’s rule.
I decided to read this for many reason: I wanted to read a historical mystery, I wanted to read a book about the medieval England ruled by the Danes, and I am obsessed with illuminators right now. This was perfect fit. The only major thing I noticed about this that kind of threw me off was that the author was obviously not a stickler for the use of historically appropriate language. At times it seems like he's trying to remain historically accurate by using words that originated in the Middle Ages, but then veers off and uses words like "scram" which didn't become a word until the 20th century. This use of modern colloquial language makes the book enjoyable though.
The characters are very vivid. It took me a while to like Halfdan because at times he is just so crude. After a while though I grew used to him and decided he was okay. My favorite part about Halfdan, though, is how he describes his encounters with Winston’s mule in an amusing way, reminiscent of Flynn Ryder vs. Maximus the Horse in Tangled. I appreciated that Halfdan was a former nobleman’s son with no land because as I was reading this I was taking a course on Medieval Europe and when my professor got to this part of English history and how this happened to some people I was able to have Halfdan’s experiences as a reference point. Even though his life was fictional, Halfdan’s situation was very real during the Middle Ages. Other than the language errors, Jensen did a fantastic job with his research which is evident in Halfdan. I fell for Winston's character immediately because he was an illuminator and I've always been fascinated with those. I was also impressed with how fleshed out minor characters were in this as well. I was able to get a very complete picture of medieval England in my mind because of these minor characters.
This is a mystery and it doesn’t disappoint. Several times I was convinced I knew who the murderer was, just to be proved wrong by Winston’s amazing deductive skills. In that way I was a lot like Halfdan. I really enjoyed this and I am looking forward to more from Jensen.