King Hereafter

Dorothy Dunnett

Hamlyn 1983
A book review by Danny Yee © 1996
King Hereafter is a fictional account of the life of Thorfinn II (1009-1057), Earl of Caithness and Orkney and then — in Dunnett's reconstruction — King of Alba (Scotland) and the figure on whom Shakespeare's Macbeth was based. Dunnett is best known for her Renaissance novels, but here she turns to the cold, stormy, only barely Christian northwest of Europe during the first half of the eleventh century. She brings to life the turbulent power politics of the region, the web of feuds, alliances, marriages, and betrayals linking rival powers in Norway, Denmark, Ireland, Northumbria, Mercia, and Normandy and, further off, the Pope, the Emperor and the Archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen. (The accompanying maps and genealogies are essential for following events; the absence of a bibliography is unfortunate, since King Hereafter is likely to leave the reader wanting to know more about the period.)

King Hereafter is my favourite among Dunnett's historical novels, though it is, for fairly obvious reasons, less popular than her others. Though she still idealises her hero, and chooses to turn his marriage into a love story, here historical constraints prevent the excessive romanticisation of the Lymond books. King Hereafter is a dark and sombre work — this edition even has a black cover! — and at near nine hundred pages not one to be tackled lightly. It is, however, a rewarding feast for those who like solid historical fiction.

August 1996

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%T King Hereafter
%A Dunnett, Dorothy
%I Hamlyn
%D 1983
%O paperback, maps and genealogies
%G ISBN 0600207056
%P 880pp