The Last Wife of Attila the Hun by Joan Schweighardt is an ambitious, superbly researched, excellently written novel based on Germanic legends and the true life of Attila the Hun that will mesmerize fans of historical fiction. There isn’t a lot of fiction based on Attila, so being a lover of history I was instantly intrigued about reading the book.
The novel moves back and forth in time, interweaving two stories. In one, we meet Gudrun, a brave Burgundian noble woman with a lethal mission, destroy the infamous Attila the Hun. In the other, the reader travels to the past to learn the overwhelming events that brought Gudrun to this difficult, suicidal undertaking.
From the beginning, Schweighardt’s imaginative storytelling and attention to detail shine through the pages, bringing Attila’s fifth century landscape to life in all its gritty vividness. Characters are deftly drawn, and I found myself instantly sympathetic to Gudrun’s situation, as well as absorbed by the other characters. This was especially true of Attila’s second in command, with whom Gudrun develops an unusual relationship. Attila himself is portrayed in chilling detail.
Needless to say, I love the fact that the story is seen from a female perspective. At times, her focused obsession for revenge propels the tale at a breathless pace. Juxtaposing with her present life as Attila’s prisoner are her memories of her great yet tragic love with Sigurd.
I’m not surprised the novel has won awards and it’s been translated into other languages. Dark, mysterious, and beautifully layered, The Last Wife of Attila the Hun is filled with lust, revenge and passion, and comes highly recommended by this reviewer. If you’re a historical fiction enthusiast, this is for you.