I lived in a troubled time, when the shores of this land were ravaged by fierce, blood-crazed raiders who feared nothing, not even death itself.
It is 878, and Wessex stands alone against Guthrum's Viking hordes as all England cowers beneath their raven banner. With most of his army destroyed following a surprise attack at Chippenham, Alfred, King of Wessex, retreats to the desolate marshes at Athelney.
Whilst few believe he can ever restore the kingdom, he remains determined no matter the cost. Among the small band of weary survivors is Matthew, a novice monk who must learn to fight like a warrior if he, along with his brother and fellow Saxons, are to have any chance of defeating the Vikings.
As the impending battle looms, Matthew is charged with a vital role that means he must face danger and betrayal and undertake a hazardous journey during which his faith will face the ultimate test.
I do like a book that lives up to its title and this one has that Ronseal feel to it doing exactly what it says on the tin! There is a very atmospheric opening at the grave of Edward as he introduces us to his story and from then on the tale delivers fine Saxons and evil Vikings with no little gusto.
There is battle, betrayal and vengeance and having read several books from the Viking point of view it's only proper that the Saxons get a look in with the tale of the greatest of their Kings.
Is it as sophisticated as say a Cornwell? Does it have the depth of an Iggulden? Well I'd say no, not quite on both counts but many fans of those authors and indeed newer ones like Giles Kristian will find plenty to like here.
It is the start to Bishop's Under the Raven series so there will be more to come but this can still be read as a tale in its own right. If a slice of bloody Dark Ages history sprinkled with battles and historical detail is your thing then this could well suit.
5 of 7 people found this review helpful