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The Serpent Sword (The Bernicia Chronicles Book 1) Kindle Edition
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'HISTORICAL FICTION DOESN'T GET MUCH BETTER THAN THIS' ANGUS DONALD
Beobrand is a young man with a shadowy past. As an outsider in the kingdom of Bernicia, he is compelled to join his brother, Octa, as a warrior in the household of King Edwin. He must learn to fight with sword and shield to defend the war-ravaged kingdoms of Northumbria.
In a period of great upheaval for Dark Age Britain, all he finds is death and war. Men and women strive to seize control of their destinies in a time of despair, and the land is rife with danger as warlords vie for supremacy and dominion. Amongst the blood and the betrayals, Beobrand learns of his brother's near-certain murder. Inexperienced but ruthless, Beobrand must form his own allegiances and learn to fight as a warrior with sword and shield.
Driven by a desire for vengeance and a relentless pursuit of his enemies, he faces challenges which transform him from a boy to a man who stands strong in the clamour and gore of the shieldwall. As he closes in on his kin's slayer, can Beobrand mete out the retribution he craves without sacrificing his honour... or even his soul?
Praise for Matthew Harffy:
'Nothing less than superb... The tale is fast paced and violence lurks on every page' Historical Novel Society
'Beobrand is the warrior to follow' David Gilman
'A tale that rings like sword song in the reader's mind' Giles Kristian
'A brilliant characterization of a difficult hero in a dangerous time. Excellent!' Christian Cameron
'A terrific novel. It illuminates the Dark Ages like a bolt of lightning' Toby Clements
'Battles, treachery, revenge and a healthy dose of Dark Age adventure' Simon Turney
'Matthew Harffy tells a great story' Joanna Hickson
'Harffy's writing just gets better and better... He is really proving himself the rightful heir to Gemmell's crown' Jemahl Evans
'Harffy has a real winner on his hands... A genuinely superb novel' Steven McKay
'A breathtaking novel that sweeps the reader into a dark and dangerous world' Paul Fraser Collard
About the Author
Matthew Harffy lived in Northumberland as a child and the area had a great impact on him. The rugged terrain, ruined castles and rocky coastline made it easy to imagine the past. Decades later, a documentary about Northumbria's Golden Age sowed the kernel of an idea for a series of historical fiction novels that became THE BERNICIA CHRONICLES.
Matthew has worked in the IT industry, where he spent all day writing and editing, just not the words that most interested him. 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 lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife and their two daughters.
Matthew was the singer in Rock Dog.--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
“With strong, believable characters and plot, this is a remarkable debut novel.” —Historical Novels Review
--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B01DBZ51FO
- Publisher : Head of Zeus -- an Aries Book (June 1, 2016)
- Publication date : June 1, 2016
- Language : English
- File size : 8601 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Sticky notes : On Kindle Scribe
- Print length : 347 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: #76,817 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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Rather than risk spoiling the story, I will list the pros and cons of this story below:
*Atmospheric and immersive writing
*Mostly fleshed out characters
*Riveting plot of revenge (if a little derivative)
*Bloody action scenes (described in vivid detail)
*Attention to historical accuracy and detail
*Main character felt a little overpowered in his fighting ability
*Villain should have been more rounded out and less derivative, given a better motivation for their actions. It has been said that the greatest and most fascinating villains are those that you can understand and empathize with on some level.
To the nitty gritty: This is less a journal than a standard coming of age story set in the 0600s. The saxons are effictively in control though resistance remains, but the vikings haven't come yet. The main character isn't exactly a deep one, but there are slight twists to him. This writing gets more down to the details of the specific events. instead of simply detailing that a girl was raped or someone was killed, it details it. Instead of hinting at sex scenes, they're described a bit.
The writing feels less mature, which for a first book isn't a bad thing really. I suspect the writing style would make it a fairly unremarkable as a literary piece goes if it wearn't for the fact it is slipping in between two time periods of BCs other works, thus making it a good niche.
The author did a good job making you think that a certain revenge would be had fantasy style where the bad guy hunts down everyone he can in revenge, but instead shows it to be a realistic killing of opportunity as you would expect in life.
You get more into the heads of the characters, but their thinking is fairly linear so it isn't a game changer.
All in all, it's a decent book that was interesting enough to make me want to read the next. If that doesn't mean 3+ stars, then I don't know what does.
Top reviews from other countries
Book seven in this series is centred on Bebbenburgh castle or, Bamburgh castle as it is today, just down the road from where I live so, as that tweaked my interest, I thought that I'd better start at the beginning of this series, with 'The Serpent Sword'.
Here's the problem; the story itself is pretty good, well constructed with rounded out characters and it moves along nicely, but the writing style leaves much to be desired and has the naivety of a young and inexperienced author. The poor writing style jars the whole story and I found myself, after the first couple of chapters, deciding that I'd flog through to the end but not buy any more from Mr Harffy. At that point, this wasn't a book that drew me back to it, keen to read the next thrilling installment; I was getting through it because I very, very, rarely fail to complete a book once I've started it.
Gradually, things changed. The story drew me in and it seemed to me that the writing style improved a little; it now felt as though it had been written by a sixteen year old rather than a twelve year old. When i reached the end, I was hooked on the story and I want to know what happens next so, on that basis, I'm prepared to give Mr H another chance and I'll buy the next in this series. If his writing improved over the course of one novel, then perhaps his next outing will show some further improvement.
So, on the basis that I do intend to read the next in this series, I wanted to give a three and a half star rating and, as you can see, I opted for three rather than four. Harsh but, hey, that's me!
This is an epic tale of men and women swept up by terrible events. The hand of fate lies heavy on them but they strive their utmost to seize and shape their destinies. In doing so they court disaster and despair. The novel is powered by an intricate interplay between character and plot, each driving the story forward with unstoppable momentum.
Matthew Harrfy creates a world of unforgettable characters. Beobrand is a young man forced to face terrible choices. Sometimes he chooses wisely, other times less well. His journey is one of pain and peril and kept me reading non-stop. His enemy, Hengist, is a masterly creation, complex, beguiling and utterly ruthless. Other characters, men and women, are drawn so well I almost felt I’d met them. I walked with them in the wilds of 7th century England.
The story moves at a fast pace, with one heart-stopping event followed hard on the heels by another. There’s no time to rest for the characters in the novel and no time for the reader to do so either. I read the book in one sitting. I went to bed thinking about it and woke up the same.
Matthew Harrfy is a master story-teller; the Serpent Sword a wonderful book. I can’t wait to read the sequels.
Our main character is Beobrand, who is easy to love and root for, and his coming of age story is a fast tracked one which helps us get to the action faster.
Matthew Harffy brings edge of your seat action and an eye for historical detail, expertly capturing the atmosphere and setting. I liked the fact at the end of the book, Harffy explains his thought processes behind many of the historical references, where creative liberties were taken etc. and it really puts into perspective how much work went into making the book as true to the time period as possible whilst maintaining the excitement and action that makes Beobrand’s tale particularly engaging.
There isn’t a reliance on adrenaline alone to propel the story though and I really liked Beobrand’s honest internal strife and the inner turmoil he goes through, weighing up the man he wants to be and questioning his own ethics.
This links into what is probably the heart of the book, which is revenge. It’s tricky to make a reader care enough to share the character’s passion for vengeance and this is another aspect that makes this such a page turner in that you do share these feelings and each encounter has you willing Beobrand on. There are some despicable characters, and there are those that commit despicable acts that are otherwise portrayed as good people. It serves as a good reminder that when taken out of ‘normal’ stress free circumstances, there is a primal, animalistic nature within some humans – yet this should not serve as an excuse for heinous actions.
There is one scene in which Beobrand has to weigh up whether to seek justice against one such character, and it is satisfying to see justice served and actions having consequences rather than our protagonist taking the easy route. Beobrand is definitely in the Goldilocks zone in terms of not being too cold or barbaric to relate to, whilst also being real enough not to develop into a shining hero of chivalry – he can be brutal and there is a level of fear he invokes in other men at times, but there are moments we see his softer side. This is a theme that runs through the book and is done very well; characters are human, with flaws, layers to their personalities, loyalties and betrayals, grabs for power and acts of both kindness and evil when you might not expect them.
The Serpent Sword is a real page turner, full of entertainment, brutality, emotive moments and well researched history. If you like historical fiction and a good dose of action, I’m confident you’ll love this.
I feel a review is required in case anyone checks before reading. From the beginning I loved this book and the following ones. If you want adventure great fighting and wonderful descriptions through out these are the books for you.
I can't wait for number 7. Mathew Harffy has a great skill of story telling and within each book is a poetic descriptive phase which I read over and over it was that captivating. I won't reveal one as each person is different. But this writer has class.
I have read lots of these historical tales and can say, for me , these books are amongst the best.
Storytelling is of a top-notch quality, all characters, whether they are real great historical or fantastic fictional, are believable and lifelike and they come vividly to life within this wonderful historical adventure, and the atmosphere of Albion in the Dark Ages comes splendidly off the pages.
Right at the inside of the book you'll find two well-drawn maps of Albion in AD 633, and of Northumbria, divided in Bernicia, Deira and Elmet, with their neighbours in the west, Hibernia, and north, Dal Riata.
At the beginning of the book you'll find a short passage by the Venerable Bede in Latin and English, as well as Place Names with places that will play an important part in this tremendous tale.
At the back of the book you'll notice a superbly documented Historical Note, where the historical details concerning this terrific story are wonderfully explained by the author.
The book is set during the years AD 633-634, in Bernicia, where our protagonist Beobrand has arrived by ship from Cantware in an effort to find and unite himself with his brother Octa, only to hear that his brother is already dead, and later to find out that his brother has been murdered by Beobrand's deadly foe, Hengist.
What follows overall is a tremendous historical tale about the Kings of Bernicia and their fates and deaths, one due to war, King Edwin, and one due to treachery, King Eanfrith, and in this environment of hostility and war Beobrand must find a way to become a worthy warrior of Bernicia, but it also an environment where his love and devotion for his woman Sunniva will grow, where camaraderie between him and the warriors of Bernicia, especially Acennan and the bard Leofwine will also mean everything to him, and finally where desperate battles will have to be fought against the forces of King Cadwallon of Gwynedd and against his foe Hengist, before he and his fellow warriors are safely within the walls of the mighty fortress of Bebbanburg, to fight another day for the new king of Bernicia, Oswald.
Highly recommended, especially for lovers of the Bernard Cornwell's Uhtred series, simply because this Beobrand of Bernicia is just as formidable in his cunning, deeds and loyalty to his Kings and Lords, and that's why I like to call this first episode: "A Stunning Beobrand Of Bernicia Opener"!