Review published on June 23, 2017.
The Serpent Sword is the first book in the Bernicia Chronicles and it introduces readers to Beobrand, a Saxon, who becomes a fighting follower of various kings of Bernicia. It charts his discovery of the harsh life for men who do not fight and the difficult political situation of warlords vying to take over Northern England while showing how he learns the skills to survive in battle.
I found it difficult to become involved in the early chapters of this book; it was not clear which way the story would develop as the protagonist, Beobrand, seemed to have no depth or purpose. I also found the inclusion of certain Old English terms a little forced; not the place names but the use of such words as “gesitha”. However, I soon warmed to the story as Beobrand began to learn the art of war and the need for exacting revenge against the murderer of his brother. The different characters were well drawn and felt real to the point where one could feel interest in their fate. The landscape and weather make the reader aware of the conditions of life in 7th century England, such as the lack of medicines, drinking ale as an everyday thirst-quencher, and rain seeping through roofs.
I’m am glad I stuck with the book as it turned out to be a good page-turner with plenty of action and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for Beobrand.
Carolyn Saunders 3/4
The Serpent Sword by Matthew Harffy
Aria 9781786692405 hbk May 2017
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