I’m not quite sure how you could have missed it but the third book in The Bernicia Chronicles was released 1st December and I’m lucky enough to be part of the blog tour.
Matthew has kindly allowed me to share with you an extract from chapter one of the book to hook you in!
Before you read it here’s the blurb:
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?
And if you’d like to read my reviews on the previous installments click below to open a new window!
Book 1 – The Serpent Sword
Book 2 – The Cross and the Curse
Chapter 1 – Blood and Blade
They attacked at night. Beobrand had known they would. The ragged group of Picts was driven by their desire for blood and death; their hunger for vengeance. And that was something he understood well.
The Picts descended on them in the stillest part of the night, as silent as the wraiths that haunt the burial mounds of ancient kings. Blades glimmered dully in the cool starlight. Approaching from the south, they were hopeful for the element of surprise. They had traipsed far to the west before crossing the river Tuidi and then circling round to move on Ubbanford from the desolate hills where few men lived.
The plan was good, but Beobrand was also cunning. Anticipating such a move from his enemies, he had set his men to watch the hills. At sunset, Attor, the most lithe and soft-footed of Beobrand’s warband, had padded into the newly-finished great hall.
“They are coming,” he’d said, the glint in his eye from the hearth fire speaking of his thirst for battle-fame.
“How many?” Beobrand had asked, setting aside his horn of mead unfinished. He would need his wits about him this night.
“A dozen. Mayhap more.”
Beobrand had scowled. He hoped all the planning was enough. His warband would be outnumbered, it was true, but they would also be prepared, armed and waiting for the attack.
He had stood, pushing his freshly-carved gift-stool back and looking at each of his warriors, his gesithas, in turn. He nodded, his face grim in the flickering flame light.
“We have prepared for this. Each take your position and await the signal. Attor, fetch Elmer from where he wards the river and have him get the women and children to safety.”
Now, in the pre-dawn gloom of the summer night Beobrand watched as the shadows of men flitted between the buildings. They made their way towards the hill where the new hall commanded the valley. He straightened his right leg, tensing his calf muscle, testing it. He cursed silently. The arrow wound was still stiff, not fully healed. He could not run. He would have to spring the ambush sooner than he would have liked, or else he feared he would not be able to close with the enemy. Beobrand felt the throb of the leg wound and wondered whether Torran was amongst the Picts who crept through his settlement. Torran, son of Nathair, had loosed the arrow that had skewered Beobrand’s leg. But not before Beobrand had slain his brother. He flexed his left arm, wincing. The skin pulled at recent scabbing where Broden’s axe had bit deeply into his flesh. He bared his teeth in the blackness. The pain and memories of the battle at Nathair’s hall only weeks before brought whispers of the battle fury into his thoughts. He had felt little these last few weeks. His lack of feelings frightened him more than the thought of bloodshed.
He signalled to Acennan who stood in the star-shadow of the smithy’s forge. He could barely make out his friend’s form in the darkness, but there was the slightest of movements in the gloom and then a piercing blast on a horn, as Acennan announced the moment of the ambush to the defenders who hid in the night.
Light flared suddenly as men uncovered torches and thrust them into prepared piles of kindling. Beobrand’s gesithas burst from the shadows, their weapons and armour shining red in the sudden firelight. Beobrand too leapt forward, drawing his fine sword, Hrunting, from its fur-lined scabbard. He hurried towards one intruder, whose back was turned to him. He limped forward as quickly as he could, clumsy on the wounded leg. His arm felt naked without a shield, but he had decided before the fight that a linden board would hinder him in his current state. Both his arm and leg would heal, in time, but for now, he would need to fight without a shield, and hope that the Picts did not run away before they could be slaughtered.
The man who was the focus of his attention turned towards him at the last moment. His face was pallid. He was young, probably less than twenty years, perhaps the same age as Beobrand himself. But he was no warrior. He held a long knife, but had barely raised it to defend himself when Hrunting’s blade sliced into his throat, splashing warmth over Beobrand’s forearm and face. The young Pict fell back silently, his eyes wide, mouth opening and closing like a beached salmon.
With the first kill of the night, battle lust descended upon Beobrand. After the weeks of inaction, the numbness after Sunniva’s death and the events at Dor, Beobrand embraced the battle-ire, welcoming the familiar rush of power as a cold man clutches to a warm cloak in a blizzard.
What did i think of the book? Well in case you missed it here’s my review –
I’m so glad to be back in Beobrand’s world..it’s not been that long since the last book but I’ve been chomping at the bits and boy did Harffy use the time well!
Straight from the off the book just felt tighter, more defined. Beobrand has been wonderfully developed over the last two tales in the series that he’s grown and I felt this growth allowed for the plot of this tale to become the best one yet of the series.
Fans of Harffy won’t be disappointed with this one, Beobrand is haunted by his past more than ever and this time things are taking more of a toll on our hero. Beo isn’t fully healed after the injuries he received in the last book..he’s getting older but he’s as sharp and deadly as ever.
Harffy easily brings you back into the world he’s created. The first few chapters are written so well to hook you in but also remind the reader of some of the main characters in the tale. I won’t spoil it for you but these early chapters stood out for me.. it set the tone of the tale and included some very moving moments with Beo’s closest. We really see how much the events in the past have changed Brobrand..he’s one death away from a complete breakdown.
Beo is a man torn. He misses his wife and the events surrounding her death still haunt him, although there’s a potential love on the cards for him in this tale. You can really tell how hard this must be for him.. he loves his wife.. but he yearns for physical love..I feel he’s lost so much he just needs someone by his side, to keep him warm, to make him feel alive..and to give him something to live for.
While performing his duties for King Oswald Beo still has his own issues to deal with.. namely Nelda and Torran who don’t seem to want to give up on the idea of vengeance any time soon.
The plot for this one really was brilliant, there are lots of strands to the tale to make it wonderfully full and complex but so well written it’s effortless to follow and understand.
One of the highlights for me was how well the author dealt with changing attitudes towards religion and medicine. There are some really great scenes with one of my favourites Coenred but if I say any more it will really ruin the enjoyment for you.
The major thing I really like is Harffy’s ability to remind you of the events of the previous books..even just mentioning the name Cathryn brings me back to the first book in the series.. the emotions I felt at the time flowing back.
This is the best yet from Harffy, who has put so much time into crafting and developing such a rich and invigorating tale.. more than once I gritted my teeth and shouted obscenities in my head (I don’t like to swear while on public transport 🙂 ). I’ve really been taken into the series and credit to the author I really care about how things play out.. from the moment I open the book the world around me shuts off and the only thing that exists is this wonderfully brutal and harsh world Beo lives in.
I must admit towards the end of the tale I wasn’t sure if Beo could make it out alive or not..there’s some brilliant twists to this tale and fans of Harffy will know anything is possible…I had my hand over my mouth a number of times thinking it was the end for Beobrand.
I’m excited to see what the author comes up with next but at the same time I’m truly scared. I don’t want this series to end..
Overall this is a whopper of a book, Harffy builds on his well-developed characters and throws in a super plot. It’s the brutal dark gloomy tale we expect for Beo but the author always leaves you with that feeling that Beo can right the wrongs that have been done and that although he can’t change the past there is always hope.. Things can in time.. hopefully..get better..
Let’s wait and see.
Matthew Harffy is the author of the Bernicia Chronicles, a series of novels set in seventh century Britain. The first of the series, The Serpent Sword, was published by Aria/Head of Zeus on 1st June 2016. The sequel, The Cross and The Curse was released on 1st August 2016. Book three, Blood and Blade, was released on 1st December 2016.
Book info and links:
The Serpent Sword, The Cross and the Curse and Blood and Blade are available on Amazon, Kobo, Google Play, and all good online bookstores.
Killer of Kings and Kin of Cain are available for pre-order on Amazon and all good online bookstores.