This is book three in The Bernicia Chronicles and the story of a 7th century warrior, Beobrand. When I read book 2, I said at the end of my review that I was eagerly anticipating the 3rd. The author did not disappoint me. Skillfully intertwining fact with some robust and entertaining fiction, Mr. Harffy takes the reader on an interesting ride through Northumbria, Wessex, Mercia and the land of The Picts. This was a violent and confusing period where warriors still fought for their lords and still sought vengeance for any slights or misdeeds; where the old gods were beginning to lose their sway over the populace as kings converted to Christ and looked for alliances with other Christ minded rulers. Beobrand is now a renowned warrior in the service of King Oswald and the lord of his own land and gesithas (his personal retinue of warriors), but he still has many enemies seeking to do him harm. And so, we have a page turning affair redolent in the violence of the age but one also of plot shifts, surprises and new forays into love; reluctant, unexpected, dangerous and forbidden love. Give yourself a treat, dear reader, if you haven’t started this series, then you owe it to yourself to do so. The Dark Age of Albion awaits you. 5 stars
In the course of my perusing for books to read I am occasionally offered the chance to read a book prior to it being released. Such was the case with this book, The Serpent Sword by Matthew Harffy. Set in 7th century Britain, a time of unsettled violence where the prowess of warriors and the shield wall determines the fate of kings among the disparate factions that inhabit the island. Angles, Seaxons, Waelisc vie for control and into the mix brought about by the chaos of war is a lawlessness perpetrated by bands of desperate and ruthless outlaws. Beobrand, a young farmer from Cantware(Kent) travels to Northumbria to seek and join his brother, a warrior in the household of King Edwin. Beobrand has lost his mother and sisters to a plague and his father to a mysterious fire and his wish is to become a warrior like his brother. The tale is one of suffered loss and helplessness as Beobrand strives to avenge the murder of his brother and the paths he takes to ease the burdens of his troubled mind.
The author has done a splendid job in crafting a tale that is not only historical but very entertaining as well. He captures the mood of the times in such a fashion that the reader feels the strife and tensions of this brutal time from the ethos of the warrior class to the peasants and craftsmen who struggle to survive the violence and the conflicts of competing religions and peoples. The author also makes you feel what it is like to stand in the shield wall as warriors perform heroic deeds or as they fall in the attempt. It is a stunning debut from Mr. Harffy and I look expectantly for more from him as he continues the story of Beobrand. A two thumbs up recommendation and 5 stars.
A bit about the author.
Matthew Harffy is currently writing a series of novels set in seventh century Northumbria. The first book isThe Serpent Sword. The sequel is The Cross and The Curse.
In his day job he is a manager of fifteen technical writers, so spends all day writing and editing, just not the words he’s most interested in! Prior to that he worked in Spain as an English teacher and translator. He has co-authored seven published academic articles, ranging in topic from the ecological impact of mining to the construction of a marble pipe organ.
Matthew is outnumbered at home by his wife and their two daughters.
When not writing, or spending time with his family, Matthew sings in a band called Rock Dog.