Sunday, 10 May 2020
Review: In Two Minds by KT Findlay
'Museum curator Thomas and ten-year-old Anglo-Saxon, Wulfstan, have to cope with a fifty-year age gap, a huge culture clash and never knowing from one moment to the next who’s going to be in control.
As they’re trying to come to terms with it all, they inadvertently antagonise Wulfstan’s father, King Offa of Mercia. The King is already frustrated with his son’s “late” development and issues the boy a challenge. Wulfstan is given just a year to find and train ten slaves who can beat the King’s own champions in a fight to the death, but there’s a twist.
When his son accepts the challenge, Offa turns the screws to make him back down and limits him to females only. In the brute strength world of Anglo-Saxon battle they surely haven’t a chance, but Thomas convinces Wulfstan that if they can find the right people, a few new ideas and enough practice might just give those women the tools to become the heroes Wulfstan so desperately needs.'
Considering the themes at play in this engrossing story, I must say that the author has done a skilful job at threading them together. Part history lesson, transcendent spiritual journey, an examination of early proto-feminism and with many digs at the corruption of the early church, this is an unusual book. I long for it to be optioned as a series.
The pace is really efficient as it covers a year in the life of young Wulfstan as he sets out to challenge the truly-hissable villain Grimketil. If the history is as accurate as it is portrayed here, then it depicts a frightening age of deprivation particularly if you were poor, female or a slave.
It's interesting to note the power that the church had over literacy, for example, and the way in which education was denied to little girls. I enjoyed all the descriptions of technology that we now take for granted. But it's the foregrounding of female experience here that wins the day, in a genre of fiction that so often privileges the male view. It's a book that wears its emancipated heart on its sleeve. I look forward to future volumes.
Buy it here
Follow the author on Twitter