Reviewed: Blood and Blade by Matthew Harffy


Kindle Edition, Published December 1st 2016 by Aria. 318 Pages

635AD. Anglo-Saxon Britain. A gripping, action-packed historical thriller and third instalment in The Bernicia Chronicles. Perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell.

Oswald is now King of Northumbria. However, his plans for further alliances and conquests are quickly thrown into disarray when his wedding to a princess of Wessex is interrupted by news of a Pictish uprising.

Rushing north, Oswald leaves Beobrand to escort the young queen to her new home. Their path is fraught with danger and uncertainty, Beobrand must try to unravel secrets and lies if they are to survive.

Meanwhile, old enemies are closing in, seeking brutal revenge. Beobrand will give his blood and blade in service to his king, but will that be enough to avert disaster and save his kith and kin from the evil forces that surround them?

The third instalment in The Bernicia Chronicles was the first that I requested to read from Netgalley, so I figured it was best to get through the first two beforehand and purchased the audiobooks. I have a weakness for the Seventh Century, so of course I want for it because it was set during the reigns of the legendary Kings Oswald, Edwin and Oswui for Northumbria.

Certainly, the Bernicia Chronicles and the latest instalment are exhilarating adventure stories peopled with a host of colourful and interesting characters. They do bring the period of warriors and warlords, blood-feuds and heroism, saints and superstition at a time when the distinction between myth and history were not easily distinguishable. The author has done a good job creating characters who are true to the time, but relatable and real in their emotions and desires.

However, whilst this series was enjoyable historical fiction, it’s far from my favourite. Perhaps it’s because this series is cast in the mould of Bernard Cornwell’s Warrior Chronicles, with almost invincible hero sporting a Thor’s Hammer pendent, who trudges along from battle to battle with his trusty band of very manly warriors. I couldn’t get on with the Warrior Chronicles or Uhtred of Bebbanburg the hero of that story, which sort of prejudices me against this.

With the exception, perhaps of Sunniver, Beobrand’s wife, who was genuinely strong and interesting, one gets the impression that most of the female characters in the series as only there as ‘Romantic interest’, or as extras. Really, I don’t need all the detailed descriptions when the hero remembers back all the ‘action’ of the night before, as he does in many scenes.  I get it, the warrior who the ladies fall over themselves for might have been some ideal, but that content just doesn’t appeal to me.

Also, some of the incidents in Blood and Blade did not seem consistent. I don’t recall Beobrand and Oswui being on bad terms in the last story, but suddenly, the Northumbrian atheling is arrogant and totally hates him? Why, just to create more tension and conflict I suppose. Also, there were a few historical details I disagreed with. For instance, Cadwallon, the King of Gwynedd in the second book, is described as a pagan when Bede and other observers are quite unequivocal that he was a Christian. Many historians seem to agree that most of the Welsh and remaining Britons identified as such by the seventh century. Beobrand’s Welsh slave girl is also a pagan, as is his adversary Toran, who is meant to be of the Goddodin, which from that I recall was a British tribal Kingdom which has also been identified as predominantly Christian by the time this book is set.

I may read the next books in the series, but they’re not entirely my cup of tea. Personally, I prefer Edoardo Albert’s Northumbrian Thrones Trilogy

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