Book Review: Dunstan by Conn Iggulden

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Very readable, this fictionalised account of Dunstan is interesting and entertaining.  A very good read! 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

In the year 937, King Æthelstan, grandson of Alfred the Great, readies himself to throw a great spear into the north. His dream of a kingdom of all England will stand or fall on one field and the passage of a single day.

At his side is Dunstan of Glastonbury, full of ambition and wit, perhaps enough to damn his soul. His talents will take him from the villages of Wessex to the royal court, to the hills of Rome – from exile to exaltation.

Through Dunstan’s vision, by his guiding hand, England may come together as one great country – or fall back into anarchy and misrule . . .

From one of our finest historical writers, Dunstan is an intimate portrait of a priest and performer, a visionary, a traitor and confessor to kings – the man who changed the fate of England.

Favourite Quote

All the philosophers of Greece and Rome had long sunny days to stroll and think.  In England, we had to build roofs or freeze.

(From Dunstan by Conn Iggulden, page 276)


It has been many years since I read Conn Iggulden’s Emperor series, charting the life of Julius Caesar.  Since then, I have acquired a number of his books, including those of The War of the Roses series and The Conqueror series.  Yet, with a very full and extensive “To Be Read” list, those books remain hidden on shelves, unread.  However, a chance find in a bookshop last month, saw me stumbling across Dunstan, and thus I returned to the stories of one of my favourite historical fiction authors.

Conn Iggulden writes believable, authentic historical fiction.  His prose, descriptions and character portrayals ensure the reader is fully immersed in the period the story is set.  The Anglo-Saxon world felt very real as I read Dunstan’s story.  I had heard of Dunstan prior to reading this, but this depiction brought him to life and made him relatable, even across the span of over a thousand years…

So, Dunstan…who was he?  A popular saint in England in the centuries after his death, he is mostly remembered for building Glastonbury Abbey and for monastic reform in England. He witnessed the fight for and the cementing of a nation, under seven different kings, with all the political intrigue and bloody fighting that went with it, as well as travelling to and from Rome, and at one time fleeing from the kingdom because he had insulted the king!

I enjoyed the descriptions of a number of the settings: Glastonbury Abbey and Tor, the main settlement of Anglo-Saxon territory, Winchester, and the bustling town of London, now growing in importance. I also liked reading about Dunstan’s ability as a master craftsman.  It is clear that he was a very talented man, and though he was made a saint, he arguably didn’t act very much like one. He could be bullying, manipulative, vengeful…how close this portrayal is to the truth, I cannot attest, but can people climb so high without getting their hands dirty, even a little? I would like to think so, but… Regardless, this made for a very good, very interesting, very believable story.

Highly recommended to those who enjoy historical fiction and / or tenth century history.