Tag Archives: Matthew Harffy

Blood and Blade by Matthew Harffy (@MatthewHarffy)- Review

Title – Blood and Blade (Bernicia Chronicles #3)
Author – Matthew Harffy
Genre –  Historical Fiction
Publication – 1st December 2016
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

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?

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.

The book is available now for pre-order here .

The Cross and the Curse (Bernicia Chronicles Book 2) by Matthew Harffy – Review

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Title – The Cross and the Curse (Bernicia Chronicles Book 2)
Author – Matthew Harffy
Genre –  Historical Fiction
Length –  397 Pages
Publication – January 2016
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

BRITAIN 634 A.D.
Before The Battle of Hastings.
Before Alfred fought the Danes.
Even before England.

Warlords battled across Britain to become the first King of the English.

When Beobrand’s valour brings about a stunning victory against the native Waelisc, the King of Northumbria rewards him with riches and land. Beobrand wishes for nothing more than to settle on his new estate with his bride. But he soon finds himself beset with enemies old and new. He even fears that the power of a curse has him in its grip, as he begins to lose all he holds dear.

With treachery and death surrounding him, Beobrand confronts his foes with cold iron and bitter fury. On his quest for revenge and redemption, he grudgingly accepts the mantle of lord, leading his men into the darkest of nights and the bloodiest of battles.

The Cross and the Curse is the second novel of the Bernicia Chronicles.

Review

If you’ve read my review of The Serpent Sword you will know I’m a fan of Matthew already, I was blown away by his debut novel. If you want to remind yourself of the review click here

This is by far the best sequel I’ve read to date, the brutal theme from The Serpent Sword continues and we see our hero Beobrand faced with even more trouble and strife.

I felt for Beobrand, my heart was in my mouth a lot while reading this book. Harffy has no trouble at all kicking a man while he’s down and it made for an excellent read but at times it was heart wrenching.

Harffy does a brilliant job developing the characters we know from the first book while also introducing new characters to the reader. We see Beobrand’s relationship with Sunniva grow and we also see his friendship with Acennan tested at times. All these troubles just make the story feel real. Life isn’t easy and the path our hero is on is clearly has a lot of hurdles for him to jump through.

I thought Beobrand as a character developed well throughout the first book but Harffy manages to bring more depth to him in this novel with the underlying struggle he has with regards to his father and the furiousness he knows lies within himself. The past really does haunt him..and I’m not talking about his father.. I won’t say too much on this.. you need to read it 🙂

Throughout the book I could feel there was something different about it compared to the first book which I couldn’t put my finger on but looking back I feel it’s Beobrand.. he feels much more grown up in this book, the undertone is darker. In the first book I felt most of his troubles were external when in this book in feels internal, like he’s fighting himself. He’s become a very complex and enjoyable character for me.. or maybe I’m reading too much in to things ha ha

One character I was glad to see back was Coenred and in this book he too has his own problems to deal with but you can see he has more strength in him now, a bit of Beobrand seems to have rubbed off on him.

There are other characters I really enjoyed during this book namely, Wybert, Corman & Anhaga. To tell you why would ruin it.. please I implore you.. read it.. you won’t be disappointed.

Harffy did a really good job of making the surroundings come to life, the way he described places made it easy to imagine. The balance between detail and story were spot on for me and the tale that plays out knocked me for six and I was left furiously swiping my kindle screen for more.

In conclusion this book is well worth buying, it’s full of detail and character, love and sorrow, life and death. Harffy clearly knows what a reader wants and gives it to them and he’s paved the way for book 3 which I can’t wait to get my hands on

Pre-order is available now at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com!!

10 Questions with… Matthew Harffy

Today i bring to you a new feature on my blog called “10 Questions with”. It is my hope over the next few months i can bring you some interesting Q&A’s with some of the authors whose work I’ve recently read/reviewed.

I’m very pleased to say the first of which is a Q&A with Matthew Harffy! Author of The Serpent Sword. If you’ve not had a look at my review yet take a look here

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Ok.. lets get on with the questions.. 🙂

Q1 – For anyone who’s read my review of The Serpent Sword I’m sure they will be aware how awesome your book is but for those who’ve not read it yet what would you say to convince them to read your book next?

Rather than me tell you why my book is awesome (although this is a subject I enjoy!), how about I let Angus Donald, bestselling author of the Outlaw series explain why it is worth reading. He said the following:

“A gripping and credible tale of Dark Ages Britain, well researched, with rounded, convincing characters and a strong plot-line … the battle scenes [are] gut-clenching encounters in which you could almost smell the blood and feel the sweat trickling down your spine. A very good read! Recommended for all fans of Bernard Cornwell. Historical fiction doesn’t get much better than this.”

Q2 – After reading the first book you’ve left me wanting more. When can we expect the next book to be out and can you give us any juicy info on it?

The sequel is THE CROSS AND THE CURSE.

Here is some blurb about it:

Beobrand stands with the King of Northumbria in battles of great portent and continues his rise to prominence. He wants nothing more than to settle down, but he soon finds himself beset with enemies old and new. He even fears that the power of a curse has him in its grip.

Fated to become a famed warlord, Beobrand confronts his foes with cold iron and bitter fury. On his quest for revenge and redemption, Beobrand grudgingly accepts the mantle of lord, leading his men into the darkest of nights and the bloodiest of battles.

THE CROSS AND THE CURSE is already written and should be available in the next few months. Probably early 2016.

Q3 – To give your readers some insight into your life as a writer how long did it take you to write the book? Including the editing process and any re-writes you made

I actually started writing it back in 2001! I saw a documentary about the Castle of Bamburgh in Northumberland and how it had been the seat of the kings of a long-forgotten kingdom called Bernicia. I had a vision of men pulling their ships up onto the beach below the crag of Bamburgh Castle and I just sat down and started writing.

I had been working on the book on and off for a couple of years when one day, Bernard Cornwell released his first Uhtred novel. It was set a couple of hundred years later, but began in Bamburgh and featured a similar young man who would become a great warlord.

I was despondent. I gave up and stuck my book in a drawer for about ten years! It then became clear to me that Amazon and e-books made it possible to self-publish and make money through writing in a way that had never before been possible.

So I set myself weekly writing targets and a goal for completing the book and finished the first draft in about eight months.

Rework and clean-up of the manuscript took another couple of months and then I gave it to several friends and family for their feedback. The test readers caught lots of errors and gave me some great ideas for how to make the book better.

I did some more work on the book and then sent it to my dad to edit. He has a great eye for detail and grammar and caught almost everything else that had slipped through.

The next year went by with THE SERPENT SWORD getting pitched to publishers by my agent, while I worked on book 2.

In the end though, I didn’t sign a deal with any publishing house and so I decided to self-publish.

Formatting and cover design took a month or so.

Q4 – What made you decide to become a historical fiction writer in the first place?

I’m not really sure. I have always loved historical fiction, and for some reason when I started writing this story, I couldn’t let it go. I had started many stories in the past but never got beyond five or ten pages. Starting is actually the easiest thing. Finishing a complete novel is where the difficulty lies.

Anyway, it sounds like a cliché, but in some ways the story of Beobrand and The Serpent Sword found me!

Q5 – What are your views on historical accuracy when writing fiction? I note from other books I’ve read in the same genre some reviewers can be quite negative to any inaccuracies.

As you say, some readers and writers, believe that the historical accuracy is the most important thing in historical fiction. I look at it a slightly different way. I will never knowingly include anything historically inaccurate without informing the reader in a historical note, but I believe that the story is more important than the history. If the setting and events have the feeling of authenticity, and the story entertains the reader, then I think my job is done.

Several readers have commented about how much they feel they have learnt of the history of Northumbria from reading The Serpent Sword, but it was never my intention to be didactic. If a story is compelling and exciting, and you come away learning some history, that’s a bonus!

Q6 – Would you contemplate writing a book in any other genre?

I grew up reading fantasy and science fiction, so I wouldn’t rule out writing something in those genres. Particularly fantasy. George R.R. Martin said in an interview with Bernard Cornwell: “It has long been my contention that the historical novel and the epic fantasy are sisters under the skin, that the two genres have much in common.” I agree with him and can easily see myself writing an epic fantasy, but for some reason, having a story grounded in reality feels more natural to me now than perhaps it would have if I’d taken up writing seriously when I was younger.

I’m also a huge fan of westerns and have seriously considered writing in that genre. I guess it is still historical fiction, just in a different period.

Q7 – Who have been your biggest influences within the writing community?

In terms of which writers have been the biggest influence over a long period, I would have to say Bernard Cornwell. His Warlord Chronicles are what got me to consider writing The Serpent Sword and its sequels.

If we are talking about which writers have been the greatest influence in the journey to publication over the last couple of years, I’d have to say Steven A. McKay and Justin Hill. Steven is self-published and has been extremely successful with his Forest Lord series. He is a couple of years ahead of me in the process of being a published author, and I have shamelessly tried to emulate the way he handles the marketing side of the business. He has been nothing less than helpful and supportive since we first “spoke” online a couple of years ago.

I read Justin Hill’s book, Shieldwall, while writing the first draft of The Serpent Sword and fell in love with the prose and the authentic feel of the writing. I was overjoyed to have Justin reply to emails and requests for information, and later to read my manuscript and offer me an endorsement for the cover.

I was lucky enough to get endorsements from many other writers too, including hugely successful authors such as Angus Donald and Manda Scott, and I cannot count the number of times different writers have helped by retweeting or sharing stuff about my work, or writing nice reviews on Amazon or their blogs.

The community of historical fiction writers is quite small, but almost without exception, they have been willing to offer support to a new writer with very little idea of how the business works.

Q8 – What book(s) are you looking forward to reading in the coming months?

My TBR (To Be Read) pile is huge! I am quite a slow reader and also have to find time to write, research, do my day job, spend time with the family, sing in a band, market the book and do interviews like this. I always have a book on the go, but it takes a long time to complete each one. If I like them, I write a review and post it on my blog, Amazon and Goodreads.

At the moment I am enjoying Andrew Latham’s debut, The Holy Lance. Next up is an advanced copy of The Betrothed Sister by Carol McGrath (though if I’m not careful, I won’t get around to reading it before the book is released!). I then need to get around to reading Steven McKay’s Rise of the Wolf.

A bit further in the future, I am looking forward to reading Justin Hill’s “Viking Fire”, the sequel to Shieldwall.

Q9 – You also review books? Any tips for me and any other would be reviewers out there?

I think if a book does not light your fire, move on. Life’s too short to waste precious time on books you don’t like. So I tend to only leave broadly positive reviews (if I haven’t finished a book, I won’t review it, and I tend not to finish books I don’t like).

I think reviews should be truthful and pick out a few issues (if you see them when reading the book) but without doing a hatchet job on the writer. No book is perfect, and a writer can learn from constructive criticism, but reviews are ultimately to let people know whether you enjoyed it, and why.

Q10 – Future plans? I’m sure we’d all like to know what you’ve got planned.

For now, I am sticking with Beobrand and the Bernicia Chronicles. I am 75,000 words into the first draft of book 3 in the series, BY BLOOD AND BLADE. After that, who knows? There are certainly more stories in Beobrand’s future for a couple more books at least.

Thanks for hosting the question and answer session on your blog, David. It’s been great fun and of course, thank you for the great review of THE SERPENT SWORD.

To connect with Matthew you can use the following links

 

The Serpent Sword is available now for a limited time for only £0.99/$0.99. Click the picture below to head to Amazon to buy the book!SeptemberSaleSerpentVersion2

The Serpent Sword (Bernicia Chronicles Book 1) by Matthew Harffy – Review

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Title –  The Serpent Sword (Bernicia Chronicles Book 1)
Author – Matthew Harffy
Genre – Historical Fiction
Length –  347 Pages (Kindle)
Publication – 7th April 2015
My Rating –  5/5 Stars

Synopsis

BRITAIN 633 A.D.

Certain that his brother’s death is murder, young farmhand Beobrand embarks on a quest for revenge in war-torn Northumbria. When he witnesses barbaric acts at the hands of warriors he considers his friends, Beobrand questions his chosen path and vows to bring the men to justice.

Relentless in pursuit of his enemies, Beobrand faces challenges that change him irrevocably. Just as a great sword is forged by beating together rods of iron, so his adversities transform him from a farm boy to a man who stands strong in the clamour and gore of the shieldwall.

As he closes in on his kin’s slayer and the bodies begin to pile up, can Beobrand mete out the vengeance he craves without sacrificing his own honour … or even his soul?

The Serpent Sword is the first novel of the Bernicia Chronicles.

Review

This is the debut novel from Matthew Harffy  and it’s a truly epic one at that. A word to describe this tale would be BRUTAL!

You’re immediately hooked from the prologue where we learn about the death of Octa. We soon learn the main character of the book Beobrand is Octa’s brother.

Having no family left in the world Beobrand swears allegiance to King Edwin to fight in his sheildwall against his enemies. He also learns there might have been more to his brother’s death that he first thought and this sets our hero out on a mission of vengeance.

I won’t give away too much detail but this book is brutal, we read about rape and murder along with a shed load of violence.

Matthew gives great depth to his main character, who we see struggle with his own emotions as he tries to discover what type of person he is. Is he an honourable man?? Read the book.. and find out 🙂

This is honestly the first book I’ve read where I’ve not only not wanted to put it down but at the same time felt like throwing my kindle in the freezer as I couldn’t believe what happened and I didn’t want to read what I thought/knew was going to happen next.

The other day I must have looked like a crazy person  on the bus when I was reading this book and suddenly shouted “No No No”.

Matthew managed to write some brilliant characters. You felt for them. When certain events played out I just couldn’t help hate the writer for what he’s done.. In a good way though ha.

Apart from Beobrand there are a host of characters that stood out to me, namely Dreng, Hengist, Leofwine and mostly Scand.

Who buys paperbacks these days with a kindle being able to store so many titles? I know i don’t especially since space is limited having twin girls around the house but I will definitely be purchasing this for the collection. It’s without a doubt one of the best debut novels I’ve read.

Usually I never read books more than once either but I think this will be the first.. I enjoyed it that much I already want to read it again.

I couldn’t even tell you if there are any errors in this book, I was too engrossed in the story..and that’s how a book should be.

To read more about this book head to Goodreads, Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com