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The Cross and the Curse (The Bernicia Chronicles) Paperback – January 1, 2019
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About the Author
Matthew Harffy is the author of the Bernicia Chronicles.
- Publisher : Head of Zeus; Reprint edition (January 1, 2019)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 400 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1786696274
- ISBN-13 : 978-1786696274
- Item Weight : 11.2 ounces
- Dimensions : 5 x 1.2 x 7.75 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #735,041 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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This book earned 5 stars from me for a variety of reasons. First, the plot is highly entertaining but also believable and unpredictable. Second, new characters are introduced that add to the depth of perspective throughout the story. Third, Beobrand is seeing the world in a time that many have not learned about and Harffy's research into making a true setting are clearly well developed.
I do wish the book spent a bit more time on the landscape. As a reader from the United States who has been to Europe, but not this portion of England, I struggle at times to picture what the setting really looks like, especially when Beobrand travels to various parts of northern England and Scotland throughout the book.
All in all this is a very well done book. It was better than the first, in my opinion, and I enjoyed the first quite a bit. I found that I learned new things, was entertained, and am considerably more attached to characters now than I was going into book two.
If you are reading this review I hope you find it helpful. I tried to keep spoilers out of the review. Truely, you won't regret reading this book. It is available in many forms as well as Audible. The audio version was great, too, and the performer did a great job with the text.
A gritty, realistic tale of a war torn land, The Cross and the Curse is a page turner. Beobrand is well written with depth and humanity. We feel for him as he deals with his new responsilbilities, his new riches, and his new losses. Harffy makes the reader root for Beobrand to overcome his difficulties, beat his enemies and succeed in his life goals.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes a story taking place in pre-Conquest Britain and seeing the young country of England as it emerges from strife and war. I look forward to book 3 to see the rest of Beobrand's journey and where his wyrd will take him.
I enjoyed Mr Harffy's first book, "The Serpent Sword" so much that I placed an advance order for "The Cross and the Curse" and I was not disappointed. This is an exciting, very well written novel that weaves real historical figures and events into the continuing story of Beobrand of Ubbanford. It's obvious that Mr Harffy did considerable research into the period and the locations, and the payoff for the reader comes in his vivid descriptions of daily life, political events and the tensions and conflicts that existed between the native Britons and the Saxons who had come to dominate most of England by the late 7th century. His descriptions of the savagery and blood-lust of battle have stayed with me and made me very glad that I live in the 21st century. That said, i'll be back for more, and I'm very much looking forward to Book 3 of "The Bernicia Chronicles".
Top reviews from other countries
At the beginning we have a prologue set in 619AD, which shows how King Edwin was trying to introduce Christianity to Bernicia with the aid of Paulinius, effectively highlighting the battle for hearts and minds between the 'Old Gods' and the 'New Christ God' during this period of history. This section also has bearing on what comes later.
We then move forward to 634AD, a few months after the end of the previous tale. Beobrand, oathsworn to Scand, is waiting with the masses at Bebbanburg, preparing to march out with King Oswald, newly returned from exile, to do battle with Cadwallon, who is ravaging the surrounding countryside. I read 'The Serpent Sword' about six months ago and, although I am sure this book can be read in isolation, Matthew cleverly intersperses in the opening chapters enough snippets of information to jog ones memory on the action that had come before.
We are soon thrown into the thick of it with a breathtaking battle in which Beobrand assists the King with some inspirational tactics, fights well and is rewarded with a beautiful horse and some land to call his own.
Hence, Beobrand begins the next chapter of his life, a life with a wife, responsibilities and some oathsworn men. Once more, we are treated to the authors thoroughly researched knowledge of the period with another full-on tale. Beobrand is still fighting his inner demons whilst adding to his list of enemies. We learn more about some well loved characters from the first book, particularly developing Beobrands complicated friendship with Acennan and seeing the cracks appearing in the faith of the young monk, Coenred. The newly introduced characters are varied, colourful and strong and Beobrands new and at times difficultly conflicting circumstances are wonderfully portrayed. This time we are also introduced to a touch of the mystical, hence 'the curse'.
All in all, Matthews 'difficult second book' is in my opinion a resounding success and, although this instalment has a definite conclusion, it is easy to see boundless possibilities for the direction of the next in the series, 'By Blood and Blade', already pre-ordered. I can't wait!
Storytelling has been once again of a top-notch quality, all figures featuring in this wonderful historical tale, whether great historical or delightful fictional, come vividly to life, and the warlike atmosphere of Albion in the Dark Ages comes superbly off the pages.
Right at the inside of the book you'll find two well-drawn maps, one of Albion in AD 634, and one of Northumbria, divided in Bernicia and Deira, with the neighbours in the south, Elmet, in the north, Dal Riata, and in the west, Hibernia.
At the beginning of the book you'll find a list of Place Names with places that will play an important part in this great tale, while at the back you'll notice a very well documented Historical Note where the historical details are wonderfully explained by the author.
The book starts with a prologue which is set in the year AD 619, and in this prologue we encounter Hengist as a young boy, but more importantly there's his mother, Nelda, a kind of witch who will play a devious part and who will cast a spell on Beobrand within the main story.
The main story is set during the years AD 634-635, mainly in Bernicia, where our main protagonist, Beobrand, with his band of followers and especially with his wife, Sunniva, is finding at first happiness and bliss domestically, but when deep sorrow will come into the fray, this last emotion will have a great impact on him and will play a definite role in Beobrand's future actions, while being a man of action on the battlefield but also as a father.
What will follow as a whole is an amazing breathtaking tale, written with verve and passion, about domestic life at Beobrand's new home at Ubbanford, as well as his leadership as thegn of his community and his men, and not to forget his heroics in battles for King Oswald, while at the same time the clergyman Corman will act in a misguided fashion regarding pupils/people and will be sent back to Hii, but also in this world of loyalty, with Acennan, treachery, with Wybert, and bravery with Anhaga, Beobrand must seem to survive, if he wants to find his way towards salvation and glory in his rightful quest for vengeance and honour for all the people he has lost, especially the defiler and abuser of his wife, Sunniva, the very one woman he loved so dearly.
Very much recommended, for this is another fabulous addition to this great series, and that's why I want to call this episode: "A Superb Bernicia Sequel"!
I was really sorry to come to the end of this book and I look forward keenly to the third of the chronicles. I will definitely buy it.
Although I liked this very much, I can't give it 5 stars or what would I reserve for the masters - such as Bernard Cornwell?
(Sorry Matthew, you are getting close but Cornwell still has the upper hand.)