Review: King of Kings by MJ Porter

I'm thrilled to share my review of King of Kings, a gripping historical novel by MJ Porter – who is fast turning into one of my favourite writers. Read on, and you'll see why!

King of Kings is currently on blog tour with Rachel’s Random Resources. Make sure to check out all the other posts on this tour.

King of Kings

MJ Porter

King of Kings is a very different read, in a very good way. It is compelling, full of political intrigues. 

We're in the British Isles in the 10th century. King Athelstan is in charge of the former independent Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Wessex, Mercia, and East-Anglia. He begins to style himself as King of the English – the first step towards a united England.

When the Norse ruler of York/Jorvik dies, Athelstan hurries north to support his sister, the dead ruler's widow, and to add the town to his own dominions. The little resistance from the Dublin Norse is easily quashed, and Athelstan eyes up the remaining kingdoms of the isles: the Scots, Strathclyde, Bamburgh, and the small Welsh kingdoms.

In 927, he invites the rulers of those kingdoms to sign a peace accord with him. Constantin, King of the Scots, arrives, as does Owain of Strathclyde. Hywel of the South Welsh  is also there, a man whose religious beliefs match Athelstan's. And there's Ealdred of Bamburgh who was keen at first to accept Athelstan's terms, in order to protect his small kingdom from the eagle eyes of Constantin. And Owain also wants to also sign to seek revenge on Constantin who is overlord of Strathclyde. 

And Constantin himself seeks to protect his borders, and he signs the accord in the same sense previous treaties have been – broken when it suited the signatories. But this one's different – it lays out that Athelstan, and all future Kings of the English, are overlords of all the other kingdoms on the isle of Britain. The repercussions last to this day...

You see that there's much going on in terms of politics, personal ambition, defence, and false allegiances. The author has done much research into the individuals involved, and the setting is sparingly but authentically described. 

The events are told from the various points of view, not just all the main protagonists’ but also several minor characters. This adds a great depth of intrigue to the story, as MJ Porter shows the kings’ real thoughts, their intrigues and their opinions of each other. And they're not always positive! 

The author reveals the men's true ambitions, and none of them come away as a likeable person. I guess 10th-century rulers shouldn't be, to start with, but Athelstan's seemingly benevolent stance hides a ruthless mind that reminded me of King Edward I, the ’Hammer of the Scots’. I could easily visualise him, and each of the other narrators.

And even though I normally prefer novels told from a small number of points of view, in King of Kings, the range of characters, all separated in individual chapters, works perfectly.

Yes, there is some repetition of information at times – it's unavoidable when you have different characters attending the same events – and I sometimes skipped a few paragraphs. But that's a very minor point.

King of Kings is an engrossing, intriguing read, utterly compelling and thoroughly gripping.

Highly recommended!



In the battle for power, there can be only one ruler. 


Athelstan is the king of the English, uniting the petty kingdoms of Wessex, Mercia, the Danish-held Five Boroughs and York following the sudden death of his father, King Edward.

His vision is to unite the realms of the Scots and the Welsh in a peace accord that will protect their borders from the marauding threat of the Norse Vikings.

Whilst seemingly craving peace and demanding loyalty with an imperium over every kingdom, Athelstan could dream of a much bigger prize.

But danger and betrayal surround his best intentions, namely from his overlooked stepbrother, Edwin, who conspires and vies for what he deems is his rightful place as England’s king.

As ever, powerful men who wish to rule do not wish to be ruled, and Constantin of the Scots, Owain of Strathclyde, and Ealdred of Bamburgh plot their revenge against the upstart English king, using any means necessary.

An epic story of kingsmanship that will set in motion the pivotal, bloody Battle of Brunanburh where allies have to be chosen wisely…

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About the Author:

MJ Porter

MJ Porter is the author of many historical novels set predominantly in Seventh to Eleventh-Century England, and in Viking Age Denmark. They were raised in the shadow of a building that they believed housed the bones of long-dead Kings of Mercia – so their writing destiny was set. The first novel in their new Anglo-Saxon series for Boldwood Son of Mercia was published in February 2022.

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