Anyone who is a regular reader of this here blog will know that "historic fiction" is pretty much an ever present on my reading list. My favourites include Bernard Cornwell, Simon Scarrow, Conn Igulden etc. So not surprisingly given my purchase history this novel has been "suggested" to me more than once by the robots that scour my previous purchases at the most well known of on-line bookstores. I read a quick synopsis and downloaded it.
So this is set in deepest darkest Wessex in the Dark Ages - the bit from when the Romans tired after 400 years of building roads and palaces etc. in England and withdrew back to a crumbling Rome and before the dashing French Normans arrived to instill civility once again on the heathen pagan Celts of England. However it wasn't really like that was it? I've always been fascinated by that period of our history largely since so little is known as there wasn't much written down but you look at finds like The Sutton Hoo ship burial and the recently unearthed Shropshire hoard and you realise that this was a culture with stunning craftsmanship and global international trade. You can't have that if it was just a violent, chaotic and anarchic place. Oh and anyway the Normans weren't dashing Frenchmen, they were rampaging, colonising Vikings who had only conquered the French lands they invaded us from a 100 or so years before 1066.
Back to the book in question. Our hero is a young lad who has a blood clot in his eye which makes people fear him - we know little of his background since he himself does not having a memory only back a couple of years when he was taken in by a carpenter in a village on the southern coast of Wessex. He is the carpenters help but his life is shattered when Norsemen arrive in longships ostensibly to trade with his fellow villagers. He discovers to his amazement that he can understand their language. There is treachery and he ends up with the band of Vikings leaving behind the village.
So good set up... not a bad book but I found it a bit slow to get going and then when I thought I'd grasped what the true real mystery plot would be which seemed to be about half way in that wasn't it either. There is treachery at every turn - literally to the point you just are waiting for the next double cross to happen on the next page almost. Lots of blood and gore etc. but I was frankly a bit disappointed, by the end the lad has grown quickly into a feared warrior but you still know nothing of his past, nor does he, there wasn't some all encompassing plot line - well there is but it is a bit pointless really and the level of treachery and barbarism just doesn't ring for me - I know it was a violent time but honestly if the dealings between the kingdoms and within them were dealt with as this book portrays England would never have had the Anglo-Saxon treasures we've seen, there had to be a level of stability and trust not portrayed in here for craftsman and trade to exist.
So we end this book with a second part beckoning - I think up to part 3 has been published. Will I read the others? Have to say I'm not dashing out and lining them up... shame I thought I'd really like this but it just wasn't multi-dimensional enough for me.
At best a one thumbs up - more like two thumbs just beneath the horizontal I think. Aren't you loving the Furtheron thumbs up book quality indexation system? I've submitted an outline to the International Standards Organisation in the hope I can make this the universally adopted standard for half-arsed non-literary non-qualified book reviews.