Book Review: In the Shadows of Castles by G. K Holloway #RBRT #medieval history #Norman Conquest of England


The novel is book two in the 1066 saga.

Book one, 1066: What the Fates Impose, is about the atmosphere leading up to and following the Battle of Hastings in 1066 between the Norman-French army of William, Duke of Normandy, and an English army under the Anglo-Saxon King Harold Godwinson. It began the Norman Conquest of England.

In the Shadows of Castles, William of Normandy is enforcing a new, brutal, and bloody regime of Norman rule throughout England, creating feudalism as the dominant social and economic system. William spreads his soldiers throughout the kingdom, killing, raping, and pillaging to force the Anglo-Saxons to bend to his rule. His plan includes the construction of castles in all the main cities to secure the Norman foothold, hence the title of this novel, and he creates a ruling class of Norman nobles and arranges the appointment of his supporters as bishops and abbots in the Norman church. But these sudden changes in the English political, religious, and cultural landscape create resistance. Dispossessed, driven from their homes, the members of an English network of resistors have the courage to fight, but scattered across the land, can they coalesce to defeat William? Can they entice the Danes to join them?

This seemingly endless turmoil is populated by many characters, which the author – fortunately for the reader – introduces at the beginning of the book. The main ones are two sisters, a thane (a freeman who had his own land), and a soldier. These characters are likable and real. Intrigues, kidnaps, battles, escapes, murder, destruction, and death face them as the resistance takes shape and their fates intertwine in love, hope, and their fight for survival.

The author has a monumental knowledge of the history, politics, and turmoil of the time. He unflinchingly portrays the brutality of William and his reasoning behind it, as well as the anger and needs for vengeance by those resisting him. Thus this novel is a powerful lesson for its readers. So powerful that I wanted William to fail and wanted justice for all those murdered. But history tells the tale: his plan worked, which allowed him to spend the greater part of his reign at his home in Normandy.

This is an accomplished historical novel, challenging to the reader only in the number of players on the stage. Anyone interested in English history and this historical period in particular, will love this book and should definitely read it. I look forward to his next book.

About the author:

G K Holloway left school at sixteen and worked in a series of manual jobs until, at the age of 24, he decided to do something more challenging and rewarding, combining education and travel. He eventually gained the qualifications to get on to a degree course in History and Politics at Coventry University.  After graduating, he trained as a Careers Officer, later working in Adult Education, and then as a Student Welfare Officer at Bath Spa University, during which time he was inspired by a biography time about King Harold II enough to write my own version of events, resulting in 1066.  The author’s opinion is that the events of the mid-eleventh century and specifically the Battle of Hastings, set England on a new course, which led over a long time to a British Empire. The impact the Normans had on England will be in his next novel.

You can find GK Holloway at:



15 thoughts on “Book Review: In the Shadows of Castles by G. K Holloway #RBRT #medieval history #Norman Conquest of England

  1. alexcraigie

    Great review, Noelle. I understand William’s last days weren’t pleasant ones and it goes a tiny way to compensate for the brutality he imposed on others. Those days from Edward the Confessor’s illness onwards are a particularly dark period in British history and not for the faint-hearted. If my Kindle can cope, I might buy this one now. (Yesterday, I finished your excellent Death in a Red Canvas Chair and a review will follow soon.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alex, you are so sweet! Alison Williams (you probably know her blog) has been my editor for every book in my series, and she told me with the latest (out in early March) that my writing has made a lot of progress. So I hope you will forgive the problems with this first book – too many was’s and passive voice. I’m still learning! I agree with you about this being a dark period in British history and so brutal and bloody. Women and children are treated like animals. This is on Kindle.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I really like historical fiction, Noelle, and if the author is immensely knowledgeable, all the better. The number of characters is a little intimidating as I often lose track, but it didn’t seem like it was a challenge for you. The time period does intrigue me. My fat old kindle is drooling on me. OMG, can I fit one more?

    Liked by 1 person

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