Goodness, this novel was FULL. Full in character analysis, in the history of the period, rich with detail and humor, and clever in its perception of politics in the early medieval period. Georgette Heyer is a giant among historical novelists, and this is the first I have read of her. She is famous for her Regency romances, but this epic is also a masterpiece of literature.
Mind you, this novel is not for someone who cannot read battles and quickly catch the tenor of a period. It is not, by any means, a beach read, an easy read; but it is rewarding in its scale.
I had thought it would center around William and Matilda's romance, but it covers William's rise to the throne of England through several channels. Central to the novel is Raoul, his faithful knight, and the moral epitome of the story. Raoul is the white knight, the Arthurian ideal character, but William is pragmatic, even Machiavellian in his moves. William is not a likeable character in the way that Raoul is, but William commands respect and admiration in his cunning and fortitude.
I am deeply impressed with Heyer's writing, now that I have had a sampling, and I heartily recommend this to a serious reader of history.