Today it’s my turn on the blog tour for Killer of Kings by Matthew Harffy, book 4 in the Bernicia Chronicles series.
If you’ve not read me reviews for the rest of the series and the standalone novella click the images below to find out more!
Want to know more about book 4? Well here’s the blurb followed by an extract to hook you in.
AD 636. Anglo-Saxon Britain. A gripping, action-packed historical thriller and the fourth instalment in The Bernicia Chronicles. Perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell.
Beobrand has land, men and riches. He should be content. And yet he cannot find peace until his enemies are food for the ravens. But before Beobrand can embark on his bloodfeud, King Oswald orders him southward, to escort holy men bearing sacred relics.
When Penda of Mercia marches a warhost into the southern kingdoms, Beobrand and his men are thrown into the midst of the conflict. Beobrand soon finds himself fighting for his life and his honour.
In the chaos that grips the south, dark secrets are exposed, bringing into question much that Beobrand had believed true. Can he unearth the answers and exact the vengeance he craves? Or will the blood-price prove too high, even for a warrior of his battle-fame and skill?
FRANKIA, ad 635
“Be careful there, you two!”
The cry came from old Halig. He worried like a maid.
Wuscfrea ignored him, leaping up to the next branch of the gnarled oak. The bark was damp and cold, but the sun was warm on his face as he looked for the next handhold. They had been enclosed in the hall for endless days of storms. Great gusts of wind had made the hall creak and moan as if it would collapse and when they had peered through the windows, the world had been hidden beneath the sheeting rain.
After so long inside it felt wonderful to be able to run free in the open air.
A crow cawed angrily at Wuscfrea from a perch high in the canopy of the trees. The boy laughed, echoing the bird’s call.
“Away with you,” Wuscfrea shouted at the creature. “You have wings, so use them. The sun is shining and the world is warm.” The crow gazed at him with its beady eyes, but did not leave its branch. Wuscfrea looked down. Fair-haired Yffi was some way below, but was grinning up at him.
“Wait for me,” Yffi shouted, his voice high and excited.
“Wait for me, uncle,” Wuscfrea corrected him, smiling. He knew how it angered Yffi to be reminded that Wuscfrea was the son of Edwin, the king, while he was only the son of the atheling, Osfrid. The son of the king’s son.
“I’ll get you,” yelled Yffi and renewed his exertions, reaching for a thick branch and pulling himself up.
Wuscfrea saw a perfect path between the next few branches that would take him to the uppermost limbs of the oak. Beyond that he was not sure the branches would hold his weight. He scrambled up, his seven-year-old muscles strong and his body lithe.
The crow croaked again and lazily flapped into the sky. It seemed to observe him with a cold fury at being disturbed, but Wuscfrea merely spat at the bird. Today was a day to enjoy the fresh air and the warmth of the sun, not to worry about silly birds. For a moment, he frowned. He hoped Yffi had not seen the crow. Crows were the birds of war. Whenever he saw them Yffi recalled the tales of the battle of Elmet, and how the corpse-strewn bog had been covered by great clouds of the birds. The boys had frightened themselves by imagining how the birds had eaten so much man-flesh that they could barely fly. It was a black thought. As black as the wings of the crows. To think of the death of their fathers brought them nothing but grief. Wuscfrea shook the thoughts away. He would not allow himself to be made sad on such a bright day.
Glancing down, he saw that Yffi was struggling to reach a branch. He was a year younger than Wuscfrea, and shorter.
“Come on, nephew,” Wuscfrea goaded him. “Are you too small to join me up here? The views are fit for a king.” Wuscfrea laughed at the frustrated roar that came from Yffi. Yet there was no malice in his words. Despite being uncle and nephew, the two boys were more like brothers, and the best of friends. Still, it was good to be the superior climber. Yffi, even though younger, was better at most things. The long storm-riven days had seen the younger boy beat Wuscfrea ceaselessly at tafl and Yffi had joked that someone with turnips for brains would only be good to rule over pigs. The words had stung and Wuscfrea had sulked for a while until Yffi had brought him some of Berit’s cheese as an offering of truce. Wuscfrea loved the salty tang of the cheese and the insult was quickly put aside.
Now, as he pulled his head and shoulders above the thick leaves of the oak, Wuscfrea wondered whether he would ever be king of anything. Certainly not of this land, rich and lush as it was. This was Uncle Dagobert’s kingdom. Far to the south of Bernicia and Deira, the kingdoms his father had forged into the single realm of Northumbria. Far away and over the sea. A safe distance from the new king.
Wuscfrea breathed in deeply of the cool, crisp air. The treetops on the rolling hills all around swayed in the gentle breeze. The leaves sparkled and glistened in the sunlight. High in the sky to the north, wisps of white clouds floated like half-remembered dreams.
One day, he would travel north with a great warband, with Yffi at his side. They would have ships built from the wood of this great forest and they would ride the Whale Road to Northumbria. They would avenge their fathers’ slaying and take back the kingdom that should have been theirs. Wuscfrea’s chest swelled at the thought.
“Vengeance is a potent brew,” Halig had said to him when they had spoken of the battle of Elmet one night over a year before. “Drink of it and let it ferment in your belly. And one day you will wreak your revenge on the usurper, Oswald,” the old warrior had touched the iron cross at his neck. Wuscfrea had thought of how Jesu told his followers to turn the other cheek when struck and wondered what the Christ would think of the lust for revenge that burnt and bubbled inside him. But then Wuscfrea was the son of a great king, descended from the old gods themselves so they said, so why should he care what one god thought?
Here’s my thoughts –
Beo’s back and this one is just as brutal as it’s predecessors. Beobrand is older but still as sharp and hot-headed as always.
Old enemies show their faces again but this time Beobrand might actually be able to rid himself of them..that ever present shadow looming over him.
War is coming and while on a mission for Oswald Beo is sucked in and the bloodlust takes holds..it’s time for a blood feud to be settled.
We get a great mix of action and suspense as the focus switches from Brobrand to Reaghan back home struggling to figure out her place in Beobrand’s absence. She’s resented by others because of her past but she’s powerless to change it.. While the action is non-stop this switch of focus really gave it a suspenseful build up.
Chapter 15 was my favourite chapter of the story, real white knuckle moment. Scary and exciting at the same time.
Harffy once again holds no favouritism with his characters..not all Beo’s gesithas will make it home… but neither will Beobrand’s enemies.
The character I most enjoyed was Wynhelm. I didn’t like him at first but as he developed throughout the tale I warmed to him like I felt Beo did to. Although he may rub Beo up the wrong way he’s loyal and is faultless in his logic.
The one difference I felt this book had over the rest in the series is that Beobrand gets some closure, so it does leave me wondering what could possibly happen next.
Harffy is one of my top authors who never disappoints and he has my thanks for having me on the blog tour. I would also like to thank Yasemin at Head of Zeus who organised everything. While I’m always grateful for the ARC of the book it was my pleasure to purchase the book on release.
Killer of Kings is a strong book that solidifies this series as being one of the best to be published in recent years.
My verdict – 5* all the way!
Keep an eye on my blog tomorrow for a Q&A with the author himself who kindly answered some of my burning questions.
Other stops on the tour –
Matthew grew up in Northumberland where the rugged terrain, ruined castles and rocky coastline had a huge impact on him He now lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife and their two daughters.
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