Camelot by Giles Kristian

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Britain is a land riven by anarchy, slaughter, famine, filth and darkness. Its armies are destroyed, its heroes dead, or missing. Arthur and Lancelot fell in the last great battle and Merlin has not been these past ten years. But in a small, isolated monastery in the west of England, a young boy is suddenly plucked from his simple existence by the ageing warrior, Gawain. It seems he must come to terms with his legacy and fate as the son of the most celebrated yet most infamous of Arthur’s warriors: Lancelot. For this is the story of Galahad, Lancelot’s son – the reluctant warrior who dared to keep the dream of Camelot alive

REVIEW

In this emotionally taut follow up to Lancelot, the author has taken the Arthurian saga/epic/myth a step further; a certified page turning tale that immerses the reader into that darkest of dark periods in Britain’s history. Wonderfully crafted characters, imaginative plot lines full of surprises, a drama played out in heartrending, and visceral fashion…The Horse Lords of Arthur reemerge from fen and forest, proud, loyal to the death…Merlin rediscovers the gods…the lament of Arthur/Lancelot/Guinevere rekindled in Galahad and Iselle…yes my fellow readers, the follow up is an excellent continuation of Lancelot. Take the advice from this humble scribe as sung by The Moody Blues: Are you sitting comfortably? Let Merlin cast his spell.  5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Saxon Spears: an epic of the Dark Age (Song of Ash, #1) by James Calbraith

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Thirty years have passed since Britannia voted to throw off the Roman yoke. Now, the old world crumbles. 

Pirates roam the seas, bandits threaten the highways, and barbarian refugees land at Britannia’s shores, uninvited. The rich profit from the chaos, while the poor suffer. A new Dark Age is approaching – but all is not lost.

Ash is a Seaborn, a Saxon child found on the beach with nothing but a precious stone at his neck and a memory of a distant war from which his people have fled. Raised on the estate of a Briton nobleman, trained in warfare and ancient knowledge, he soon becomes embroiled in the machinations and intrigues at the court of Wortigern, the Dux of Londinium, a struggle that is about to determine the future of all Britannia.

A child of Saxon blood, an heir to Roman family, his is a destiny like no other: to join the two races and forge a new world from the ruins of the old.

The Saxon Spears is the first volume of the Song of Ash saga, perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell’s “The Last Kingdom” series, Simon Scarrow and Conn Iggulden.

REVIEW

A truly unsettled time with so many groups trying to establish themselves in Dark Age Britain, the author has created an intriguing tale of a young man’s struggle to find out who he is. Steeped in richly detailed descriptions of life in a post-Roman world, the story takes many twists and turns keeping the reader entertained, and in the way of all good historical-fiction, the reader may even learn a little about the trials, tribulations. innovations, and survival in a time and place shrouded in mystery.  A fine beginning indeed to what promises to be an exciting series.  4 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

About the Author

James Calbraith is a Poland-born British writer, foodie and traveller.

Growing up in communist Poland on a diet of powdered milk, Lord of the Rings and soviet science-fiction, he had his first story published at the ripe age of eight. After years of bouncing around Polish universities, he moved to London in 2007 and started writing in English. His debut historical fantasy novel, “The Shadow of Black Wings”, has reached ABNA semi-finals. It was published in July 2012 and hit the Historical Fantasy and Alternate History bestseller lists on Amazon US & UK.

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The Last of the Romans by Derek Birks

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454 AD.

Northern Italy.
Dux Ambrosius Aurelianus has served the Roman Empire with distinction.
His bucellarii, a small band of irregular soldiers, have helped to bring a fragile peace to the beleaguered empire in the west. But, with the empire now at peace, his master, Flavius Aetius, decides to chain up his dogs of war.
Ambrosius and his men are left to idle away their days in a rural backwater, but Ambrosius’ boredom is brutally swept aside when old rivals seize the opportunity to destroy him.
Pursued as a traitor by the imperial guard, Ambrosius takes his loyal band, along with other dissident soldiers and a Saxon girl, Inga, into the mountains. Since nowhere is safe, Ambrosius travels north, across the crumbling ruins of the empire, to his estranged family in Gaul. But there too, he finds nothing but conflict, for his home town is now besieged by a small army of rebellious Franks. Freedom and peace seem a world away.
Whatever course the soldier takes, Ambrosius and his bucellarii will need to muster all their strength and skill to survive.
At the twilight of the empire, they may be the Last of the Romans…

REVIEW

One of the things I’ve come to expect from Mr. Birks is an adrenaline rush of a tale from start to finish. The Last of the Romans is no exception to that rule; indeed I was gasping for breath in the first chapter. Set in the turbulent time just after the death of Attila, the Western Empire should be stable, but peace is always a fragile thing, and it’s not always beneficial to be aligned to the wrong side in a fractious court. The Last of the Romans is a gripping story of the sheer determination of a very enigmatic leader/ fearsome warrior, to survive some unexpected and dangerous situations.  A wonderful cast of characters, full of the range of emotions that bring life to the narrative as they navigate the many twists, turns, and upsets to their plans that spring from the pages, taunting the readers; daring them to put the book down without knowing what happens next. 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Wolf of Wessex by Matthew Harffy

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AD 838. Deep in the forests of Wessex, Dunston’s solitary existence is shattered when he stumbles on a mutilated corpse.

Accused of the murder, Dunston must clear his name and keep the dead man’s daughter alive in the face of savage pursuers desperate to prevent a terrible secret from being revealed.

Rushing headlong through Wessex, Dunston will need to use all the skills of survival garnered from a lifetime in the wilderness. And if he has any hope of victory against the implacable enemies on their trail, he must confront his long-buried past – becoming the man he once was and embracing traits he had promised he would never return to. The Wolf of Wessex must hunt again; honour and duty demand it.

REVIEW

By the author’s own admission, this tale was partly inspired by the Charles Portis novel, True Grit. There’s a scene in Wolf of Wessex, where the protagonist, Dunston, an aging warrior of some distinction, is alone facing ten mounted foes…the verbal give and take reminded me of Lucky Ned Pepper and Rooster Cogburn to wit: Lucky Ned – I call that bold talk for a one-eyed fat man.  Rooster – Well fill your hands you son of a bitch. The ensuing battle in Wolf is just one of the many edge of the seat encounters Dunston faces in this gripping tale of remembrance, honor bound fortitude, and yes grit. While this story does have its share of gruesome events, the periods when Dunston and Aedwyn enjoy even a brief peaceful rest, bring a nice counterbalance to the violence they follow; e.g. teaching the young girl how to track and read sign. Reaching into the history of Wessex prior to Alfred, the author has created a convincing tale that is rather hard to put down.  5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Song of the Centurion (Warrior Druid of Britain #2) by Steven A. McKay

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Blurb

It is AD 430. Against all odds Princess Catia has been rescued from her brutal Saxon captors and Bellicus is taking her home at last.

As the giant warrior-druid knows, however, the gods rarely make things easy and, even if he can escort the girl back to the North safely, their troubles will be far from over…
In a land beset by the rivalries of petty warlords, Dun Breatann has stood solid and secure for untold generations. Trouble brews though as King Coroticus has cracked under the pressure and, as well as starting a war with the neighbouring kings, he has become jealous, suspicious, and often blind drunk. When the king’s paranoia finally boils over during a winter feast, Bel finds himself with two choices – accept exile, or complete another seemingly impossible undertaking.
So much for the returning hero…

Accompanied by his massive war-dog, Cai, and the ever-loyal former centurion, Duro – who has his own painful issues to contend with – Bellicus must somehow survive a journey east into enemy-held lands. There, he will need to use his gods-given talents to the full if they are to survive the winter frosts and carry out the mad king’s orders without being captured or killed by the men of Dalriada.

Folklore, superstition, the healing power of song, and even a wondrous white stag will all play a part in the companions’ continuing adventures, but, no matter the outcome of their mission, it will take a miracle to untangle the mess they’ve left behind in Alt Clota. Armies are gathering and, when spring returns, the people of Dun Breatann will be under siege once again.

Will their legendary warrior-druid be there to defend them, or will the new ways sweep away the old once and for all? Find out in Song of the Centurion, the action-packed sequel to 2018’s The Druid!

Review

Well now, my fellow readers, prepare yourself for an exciting, page turning sequel to The Druid. The author has created a suspense filled tale that finds Bellicus, Duro, and Cai in some pretty hairy situations….situations that don’t always turn out the way they expected.  Plot twists, surprises, plus a damn good story, make Song of The Centurion a more than worthy successor to The Druid…now we wait for results of all those twists and surprises. Book 3 can’t get here soon enough.  5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

 

Sign of the White Foal by Chris Thorndycroft

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A generation after Hengest and Horsa carved out a kingdom in the east, a hero of the Britons rises in the west…

North Wales, 480 A.D. The sons of Cunedag have ruled Venedotia for fifty years but the chief of them – the Pendraig – is now dying. His sons Cadwallon and Owain must fight to retain their birthright from their envious cousins. As civil war consumes Venedotia, Arthur – a young warrior and bastard son of the Pendraig – is sent on a perilous quest that will determine the fate of the kingdom.

The Morgens; nine priestesses of the Mother Goddess have found the cauldron of rebirth – a symbol of otherworldly power – and have allied themselves with the enemy. Arthur and six companions are dispatched to the mysterious island of Ynys Mon to steal the cauldron and break the power of the Morgens. Along the way they run into the formidable Guenhuifar whose family have been stewards of Ynys Mon for generations. They need her help. The trouble is, Guenhuifar despises Arthur’s family and all they stand for…

Based on the earliest Arthurian legends, Sign of the White Foal is a rip-roaring adventure of Celtic myth and real history set in the ruins of post-Roman Britain.

REVIEW

You know what I love about Arthurian fiction? This – no matter what version of Arthur is being told – no matter the situation, or the time and place, a believable tale can be spun. In this intriguing tale, Arthur is the foster son of the Pendraig, the High King in Cmry, and has trained as a warrior, but as the story evolves it becomes evident that he is also a natural leader of men. In Sign of the White Foal the author has taken one of the oldest Arthurian texts and given us an exciting look at the harsh existence in post-Roman Briton. The seeming constant petty rivalries, the increasing threat from Gaelic invaders, and the conflict to claim the title of Pendraig. The story flows easily back and forth from Cadwallon’s battle to keep his crown, and the special mission undertaken by Arthur and his companions. The characters are real, their strengths, weaknesses, doubts and fears are all on display as the two story-lines gradually meld together. An enjoyable look at the beginnings of what promises to be a must read Arthurian series. 4 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

 

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About the Author

Chris Thorndycroft is a British writer of historical fiction, horror and fantasy. His early short stories appeared in magazines and anthologies such as Dark Moon Digest and American Nightmare. His first novel under his own name was A Brother’s Oath; the first book in the Hengest and Horsa Trilogy. He also writes under the pseudonym P. J. Thorndyke.

For more information, please visit Chris Thorndycroft’s website. You can also find him on Twitter and Goodreads.

 

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Storm of Steel (Bernicia Chronicles #6) by Matthew Harffy

 

 

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AD 643. Anglo-Saxon Britain. A gripping, action-packed historical thriller and the sixth installment in the Bernicia Chronicles. Perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell.

Heading south to lands he once considered his home, Beobrand is plunged into a dark world of piracy and slavery when an old friend enlists his help to recover a kidnapped girl.

Embarking onto the wind-tossed seas, Beobrand pursues his quarry with single-minded tenacity. But the Whale Road is never calm and his journey is beset with storms, betrayal and violence.

As the winds of his wyrd blow him ever further from what he knows, will Beobrand find victory on his quest or has his luck finally abandoned him?

REVIEW

While the previous books in this series have shown Beobrand in all sorts of dilemmas, and in a wide range of emotions, Storm of Steel has managed to raise the bar. The opposing forces within this warrior chieftain; anguish, pride, brutal in war and anger, generous and kind, are displayed throughout this absolute page turning episode of Dark Age Britain. As is expected in a time where violence and brutality are seemingly constant companions, the tale is full of action, a storm of steel. But what really makes this part of the saga most appealing to me is the depth of character Beobrand has become. Without giving anything away, the situations, the anguish, angst, frustration, and doubts Beobrand has to deal with make this tale tick. He is long past the inexperienced young warrior in book 1, and with every ordeal he becomes more human, less exalted. The rest of the cast ain’t too shabby either. The author continues his wonderful portrayal of the warrior band of brothers; their camaraderie, their fierce loyalty to their lord, their battle proven worthiness, their grief at the loss of a friend. Their mettle is tested again and again in this tale of rescue and revenge. Surprises aplenty as Beobrand navigates the tortuous path woven for him by The Norns.  5 stars

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About the author

Matthew grew up in Northumberland where the rugged terrain, ruined castles and rocky coastline had a huge impact on him. He now lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife and their two daughters.

 Follow Matthew Harffy:    

Twitter: @MatthewHarffy

Facebook: @MatthewHarffyAuthor

Website: http://www.matthewharffy.com/

Buy links:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2INuSlg

Kobo: https://bit.ly/2IQsFWo

Google Play: https://bit.ly/2GEC8i9

iBooks: https://apple.co/2UQcr6Y

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Killer of Kings – The Bernicia Chronicles by Matthew Harffy

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Blurb:

AD 636. Anglo-Saxon Britain. A gripping, action-packed historical thriller and the fourth instalment in The Bernicia Chronicles. Perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell.

Beobrand has land, men and riches. He should be content. And yet he cannot find peace until his enemies are food for the ravens. But before Beobrand can embark on his bloodfeud, King Oswald orders him southward, to escort holy men bearing sacred relics.

When Penda of Mercia marches a warhost into the southern kingdoms, Beobrand and his men are thrown into the midst of the conflict. Beobrand soon finds himself fighting for his life and his honour.

In the chaos that grips the south, dark secrets are exposed, bringing into question much that Beobrand had believed true. Can he unearth the answers and exact the vengeance he craves? Or will the blood-price prove too high, even for a warrior of his battle-fame and skill? 

REVIEW

Beobrand, mighty warrior, lord of his own hall, leader of his own war band but still tormented by events in the past.  Sent by King Oswald on a seemingly innocent mission finds himself embroiled in war and conflict.  He also finds that the main tormentor, the man he has pledged to kill, is among the foes arrayed against him.  In this latest installment of The Bernicia Chronicles, the author has taken this rash, headstrong, Dark Age warrior, and as he has done throughout this series has turned up the angst, turned up the rash/reckless responses, and turned up the brooding melancholy. A short quote, “It seemed it was his wyrd to become that which he most despised.”

The author also exhibits his same flair for bringing the reader into the scene he is describing, whether it is Reaghan placating/pleading her goddess or Beobrand in the midst of sword-song.  Killer of Kings is a multi-layered, page turner; an excellent addition to what has become one of my favorite series.  5 stars

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About the author

Matthew grew up in Northumberland where the rugged terrain, ruined castles and rocky coastline had a huge impact on him. He now lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife and their two daughters.

 Follow Matthew Harffy:    

Twitter: @MatthewHarffy

Facebook: @MatthewHarffyAuthor

Website: http://www.matthewharffy.com/

Buy links:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2IRI8W6

Kobo: https://bit.ly/2GC9YnM

Google Play: https://bit.ly/2W3G4y3

iBooks: https://apple.co/2ISjuF1

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Guest Blog post

Why I chose to write about the Anglo-Saxon period

By Matthew Harffy

People often ask me why I chose to write about the Anglo-Saxon period. The answer to that question sounds like a typical author’s cliché answer, such as, ‘the characters have a life of their own’, ‘I cannot not write’, and, one of my favourites, ‘I don’t choose what the characters do, I just write their story as they tell it to me’. I have heard writers say all of the above in one form or another, and I have even said some of those things myself. I used to think they were all trite answers that authors would trot out in order to sound mysterious and intriguing. That is, until I became an author myself and realised that there is an element of truth in every one of them! I suppose that is the case with most clichés. And, as is so often the case with clichés, even though my answer to the question about how I decided on the period to write about sounds contrived, it is actually true.

You see, I didn’t set out to write about the seventh century. This early mediaeval period, often referred to as being in the Dark Ages, chose me.

I can remember the moment when the seed of the first book in the series, The Serpent Sword, was sown. That was one October night back in 2001. But before I get to that, I need to give a bit of my history which will explain why that seed took root.

My parents moved us all to Northumberland when I was nine years old. I didn’t have the easiest time at school there. Being from West Sussex, my accent marked me as an outsider, which the girls seemed to like and the boys appeared to hate. This resulted in me being popular with the girls and being bullied by many of the boys.

But even though school wasn’t always fun, I loved the countryside that surrounded the small village of Norham where we lived. Northumberland is much more rugged and sparsely populated than the south east of England and everywhere you turn there are reminders of the distant past. The village of Norham itself, nestling beside the broad expanse of the River Tweed, is overlooked by the crumbling ruins of a Norman castle and its mediaeval church once housed Robert the Bruce’s forces when they besieged the castle for seven months in 1318. The land is hilly and wild and the coastline is rocky and dotted with ruins, such as the picturesque and magnificent Dunstanburgh Castle, which sparked my youthful imagination.

One of the most famous castles on that coastline is Bamburgh. The fortress that stands on the mighty crag overlooking the North Sea is huge and built in a mediaeval style, having been significantly restored in the nineteenth century. But for a long time I never understood the castle’s significance to the region from long before it was a stone castle that played an important role in the fifteenth century Wars of the Roses.

We moved away from the area when I was still a child, but it had a lasting effect upon me and my view on the world. I remained interested in the natural world and also in castles and the people who had lived in them. Growing up in the eighties, I became obsessed with fantasy novels and films and played role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons, where larger-than-life characters battled evil creatures with swords, spears, shields and magic.

Years went by and so it was in 2001, with my first daughter asleep in her cot and my wife working late, that I found myself watching a documentary on television about Bamburgh Castle and graves which archaeologists were excavating there. The graves dated from the seventh century and earlier and the programme spoke of the importance of Bamburgh, or Bebbanburg as it was known then, in the early mediaeval period. This was the time of the Anglo-Saxons, whom I knew little about at the time. Bebbanburg was the capital of the northern kingdom of Bernicia. I had never heard of such a place, but in the seventh and eighth centuries Bernicia and its neighbouring kingdom Deira, which when unified became Northumbria, were some of the most important kingdoms of the British Isles and even of Europe!

That television programme gave me a brief glimpse into the past of a landscape that I hadn’t visited for twenty years. And something about it spoke to me. I rushed upstairs and started to write the first scene of what would become, many years of research and writing later, the first novel of the Bernicia Chronicles, The Serpent Sword.

As my writing and research continued over the ensuing years, I discovered that the period was perfect for writing epic, gripping thrillers. Good stories need conflict and the seventh century is full of it. You have the Anglo-Saxons invading from the east battling with the native Britons who they referred to as the Welsh (which derives from the Old English for foreigner!). There is the clash between old pagan religions and Christianity. And there is even the conflict between the Roman Christianity coming from the south, and the Irish form of Christianity, spreading from the west and the north. Most of the kings of the time died in battle and there was subterfuge and intrigue aplenty. On top of all of that, there were very few written records, meaning there is a lot of leeway for a novelist to create original stories. I realised that I was able to write stories that indulged my love of swords and battles and great heroes, grounding them in a real historical time and place. The only real difference from the fantasy books and games I loved was that there were no dragons and no magic, though of course, the people of the time believed in both.

And so you see, I did not make the decision to write about the early Anglo-Saxon period. If I hadn’t lived in Northumberland as a child, perhaps that television documentary would never have resonated with me in the way that it did. But as I look back, I am so pleased that my parents chose to move to Northumberland, as without that experience the seeds for The Serpent Sword might never have found fertile ground in my mind and I’m sure that my life would have been much less interesting and rewarding as a result.

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Uther’s Destiny by Tim Walker

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Late fifth century Britannia recoils in shock at the murder of charismatic High King, Ambrosius Aurelianus, and looks to his brother and successor, Uther, to continue his work in leading the resistance to barbarian invaders. Uther’s destiny as a warrior king seems set until his world is turned on its head when his burning desire to possess the beautiful Ygerne leads to conflict. Could the fate of his kingdom hang in the balance as a consequence?

Court healer and schemer, Merlyn, sees an opportunity in Uther’s lustful obsession to fulfil the prophetic visions that guide him. He is encouraged on his mission by druids who align their desire for a return to ancient ways with his urge to protect the one destined to save the Britons from invaders and lead them to a time of peace and prosperity. Merlyn must use his wisdom and guile to thwart the machinations of an enemy intent on foiling his plans.

Meanwhile, Saxon chiefs Octa and Ælla have their own plans for seizing the island of Britannia and forging a new colony of Germanic tribes. Can Uther rise above his family problems and raise an army to oppose them?

Book three in A Light in the Dark Ages series, Uther’s Destiny is an historical fiction novel set in the Fifth Century – a time of myths and legends that builds to the greatest legend of all – King Arthur and his knights.

This book is preceded in the series by Abandoned (book one) and Ambrosius: Last of the Romans (book two).

REVIEW

Most of the Arthurian tales I read when I was younger, such as The Crystal Cave series by Mary Stewart (which I thought was magnificent), or saw via movies or TV (Richard Harris’ Camelot), dwelt on the mythical for the most part. Uther’s Destiny while it is certainly comprised of those mythical bits, it is also a stark look at post-Roman Britain; the vacuum left with the departure of the legions, and the very real danger of being overrun by the Angles/Saxons/Jutes etc who rushed in to fill that vacuum.  The author’s portrayal of Uther; a complicated man firmly rooted in the 5th century, a king weighed down with the prospect of losing Britain to the invaders, but also a king with the smarts and tenacity to succeed. Indeed, the characters in this tale from Merlyn, to the proud knights, the scheming Morganna, and the treacherous Pascent all do their part to make this an enjoyable read. Also woven into the plot is the inevitable clash of the old religion with Christianity and Uther’s juggling of the two as needed. So, dear reader, immerse yourself in The Dark Ages, and prepare for the enlightenment to come in the person of Artorious.  4 stars

The Raven and the Cross by C.R. May

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The North: 937AD – Three years have passed since the English king Athelstan bribed treacherous jarls to take Erik’s half-brother as king in Norway.

Forced from his kingdom, Erik Bloodaxe returns to the Viking ways of his youth. Warlords are driven from Danish lands, Saxony burns, and Dublin falls to a brutal assault before the prow beasts of Erik’s fleet turn south to stalk the seas off Al-Andalus.

As Erik’s reputation as a battle winner spreads his sons grow to manhood, and together they carve a new kingdom to rule from the islands which gird Britain’s north-west.

But Bloodaxe is not alone in suffering the Imperial ambitions of the southern English, and when a half-remembered figure leads a Northumbrian deputation to the king’s Orkney fastness, events are set in motion which will lure Erik south to face his greatest test.

The Raven and the Cross continues the turbulent story of Erik Haraldsson, a legendary king of the Viking Age.

REVIEW

An exciting sequel to Bloodaxe, Eric is a little older now. A bit more mature, a bit more pragmatic, without dulling the warrior within. The author portrays this formidable son of Harald Fairhair at the height of his battle prowess, and his abilities as a leader, who inspires not just loyalty from his people, but also love as well.  The underlying thread in book 2 is the fulfillment of a prophecy Erik had received as a young man. It was prophesied that Eric would be a king five times. He and his retinue do a fair bit of traveling in this tale, gaining wealth and prestige, as well as getting closer to achieving that prophetic number. Page turning drama, characters who give life to an era shrouded in mystery, and the coming clash of the old religion(s) versus the Cross of Christ, all this and more awaits you my dear readers. 4 stars

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