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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Bloodaxe – Erik Haraldsson 1 by C.R. May

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An exhilarating start to a new series, Bloodaxe follows the early life of Eric Haraldsson, the favored son of Harald Fairhair, King of Norway. Favored son or not, the path to true acceptance as rightful heir is strewn with Fairhair’s bastard progeny. Honing his skills as a warrior and a leader of men, and enriching himself and crew by raiding villages and churches, Eric returns to his homeland ready to rule. What follows is a stirring rendition of revenge for wrongs done in the past, and making war on half-brothers who dare to resist. Through the telling of this tale I felt myself relishing in the spray of the sea as Eric’s warship plowed from one adventure to the next. Eric Bloodaxe, as the name implies, is a character true to his time, and is not hesitant to deal out death. however, the author has endowed him with a depth that complements that warrior instinct with a clarity of purpose, and a will to succeed. Looking forward to the next chapter. 4 stars

 

The Scathing – King’s Bane III by C.R. May

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The Engeln have now settled on the isle of Britannia and are intent on staying, and will fight to maintain and expand their territory and culture.  The people of Powys are not too happy with this and are intent on driving the invaders out as they expand their own reach.  A clash is inevitable and the author is on top of his game in this tale of that confrontation.  Great characters, wonderful verbal byplay, thrilling action and an insightful look into Dark Age Britain make this book hard to put down. A good tale needs to be able to surprise the reader on occasion and The Scathing certainly fulfills that requirement.  In fact, it is the surprise element that has me looking forward to the continuation of this series.  4.7 stars and The Hoover Book Review’s prestigious “You Just Blew Me Away” award.  🙂

 

Gods of War – King’s Bane II by C.R. May

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It’s a tough gig to move an entire nation to a new home.  It’s even tougher when you have enemies everywhere bent on destroying you before you leave.  Gods of War continues the story of the Engeln people migrating to Britannia and the exploits of Eofer; a.k.a. King’s Bane.  A gritty tale of courage, drama and a fierce determination to succeed, the author paints a vivid picture of the times while drawing on the somewhat meager historical record, doing with it what all good historical-fiction authors do – make the story believable.  A wonderful cast of characters bolstered by the author’s ability to describe the terra-firma, the action, and the emotions of this intrepid band of warriors.  I am looking forward to the continuation of this tale, a tale of how Britain came to be.

4.3 stars

Fire and Steel – King’s Bane 1 by C.R. May

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The 6th century was a time of migration as many groups sought to better their prospects by moving to a more favorable location.  Of course, those favorable locations were either; already occupied, or being sought by more than one group.  This was especially true of northern Europe and the island of Britain.  Fire and Steel brings this migratory/conflict filled era to life in the person of an English/Angle/Engeln warrior, Eofer; nicknamed King’s Bane for his killing of the Swedish King during an attempt by the Swedes to migrate.  The English, under their king, Eomaer, are making plans to relocate from their home on the Jutland Peninsula to the bountiful, fertile island across the sea, Britannia but need to settle things with their enemies, The Jutes and The Danes first.  A tale packed with action; be it crashing shield walls, individual combat or heroic deeds, the author paints a picture filled with bloodied swords and spears but also the picture of the camaraderie of the ale house and the loyalty to one’s lord or king.  In King’s Bane 1, Mr.May has set the stage and I eagerly await the next act.  4.4stars

Dayraven – Sword of Woden 4 by C.R. May

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The finale of this most entertaining series about Beowulf concerns not only him but the Geatish King, Hygelac and his raid on the Frisians.  It is an exciting romp filled with insights into the culture of the Dark Age warrior; the bond between sword brothers, the need to die well in battle with your sword in hand so to feast at Woden’s table in Valhal ( the scene from the movie The Vikings springs to mind where Tony Curtis gets Ernest Borgnine a sword to face the wild dogs in the pit he is being thrown into).  Fast paced action is interspersed between some wonderful dialogue; especially between Hygelac and his vastly outnumbered raiding force as they prepare to face, not one, but two armies arrayed against them.  Meanwhile, Beowulf has been tasked by Woden to attend a religious festival; one where the author’s descriptive imagination brings the reader into the realm of Woden and Thunor.  Naturally, for Beowulf, this errand, while necessary, is somewhat of a distraction as he longs to be involved in the battle play with his King.  All in all, this is a page turning foray into an age that will soon be overtaken by Christianity and a most fitting end to the Sword of Woden series.   4.8 stars

Monsters -Sword of Woden Book 3 by C.R.May

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I’m sure that somewhere during my school years I was subjected to the Beowulf poem; I think I even remember a comic book version, however, back in those days I wasn’t too interested in poetic writings, so my knowledge of the story is, or I should say was, limited basically to knowing it existed.  Then along comes this prose version of the story; a historical fiction/fantasy that has filled the Beowulf void in my literary adventures.  In this, the third volume of the series Beowulf continues his quest to be a well renowned and remembered Geatish warrior.  The author has done a fantastic job in taking the tale to a very entertaining level.  The fights with Grendel and then with the Mother are the focal points of this volume but certainly not the only ones.  Plenty of action, lots of warrior camaraderie, and a poignant look at the Dark Age civilizations of northern Europe.  One of the particulars that I really enjoyed is the influence and meddling of the gods, most especially Woden.  Incorporating the beliefs of the time into the telling of this tale is a definite plus and puts the reader into the mindset of Beowulf and his crew. The descriptive talent of the author is on display throughout whether it be on land or aboard ship.  All in all, another job well done by Mr. May and I look forward to the conclusion in book four, Dayraven.  4.3 stars.

Wraecca -Sword of Woden II by C.R. May

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The adventures of Beowulf continue.  He is now an exile and finds himself in the land of his enemies while he plans to take revenge on the men who usurped the Geat throne.  A short historical note for the unwashed masses (I was once one of them)…there were many groups/nations/peoples that have come under the term viking….viking was an activity (raiding for instance) that was practiced by Jutes, Danes, Norse, Geats, Swedes…etc etc…  The author does the reader a service in that regard while he brings to life the times and practices of the differing groups.  Beowulf is portrayed as a warrior of great ability; a leader who honors and values his men and his gods.  It has been a treat watching him grow into his position among not only the Geats but with his hosts(I will not say who they are…kind of a spoiler)…  Given that this story is about warriors, there are battles and skirmishes…there are heroic deeds performed…there are visitations form the gods…but most of all there is Beowulf; growing steadily in battle skills and learning how to be an honorable man in a time of deadly uncertainty.  Kudos to C.R. May for his lively and entertaining interpretation of the Beowulf saga.  4.3 stars   Book 3, Monsters, is already on my Kindle.  🙂

 

Sorrow Hill – Sword of Woden 1 by C.R. May

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An engaging tale of the legendary character of Beowulf.  The author has done an excellent job in bringing to life the early 6th Century with all the struggles inherent with all of the various groups, Geats, Jutes, Swedes, etc as they seek to further their prestige and power.  Beowulf grows to manhood in this, the first volume in the series, and becomes an accomplished warrior and leader, albeit one with still much to learn.  The  situation for Beowulf and his family gets complicated with the mysterious deaths of the heir to the Geat throne and his father, the King, and it is this plot line that makes for a page turning opening to this saga.  One of the more appealing aspects of the book is the camaraderie between the warriors and how the author propels the reader into the action, making it feel as if you are in the shield wall.  I eagerly look forward to continuing this series.  4.2 stars

Nemesis (Brennus – Conqueror of Rome Book 2) by C.R. May

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Most of the Roman historical fiction that I have read dates from the Late Republic on through the ascendancy of the Eastern Empire so it was a nice change of pace to read this series that takes place before Rome became Rome.  In Nemesis,the Gaulish tribe the Senones complete their conquest of Rome and sack the city. The author presents the reader with the opposing mindsets of the combatants; the warrior ethos of the Senones versus the more disciplined Romans.  Also evident is the well researched descriptions of both Senone culture and the ways of the Roman Patrician class.   Intermingled with the historical event is the continuing story of the three childhood friends, Solemis, Albiomaros and the Druid Catumanda; a story that follows the fate that binds them together.  That thread is but one of the sub-plots running through the tale and that makes for many possibilities and surprises which I enjoyed but will not reveal.  The Conqueror of Rome series is the first I’ve read by this author and I am looking forward to moving onto his other works  Just as Brennus got the Roman’s attention, so to has C.R. May gotten mine.  4.3 stars