Beobrand is Back! Review for Warrior of Woden by Matthew Harffy.
March 30, 2018
Matthew Harffy’s brilliant Bernicia Chronicles set during the Seventh Century return with a stunning new instalment: Beobrand is back and he’s more badass than ever!
Warrior of Woden opens with a great example of Harffy’s skill at writing battle scenes. We see Beobrand fighting and winning the Battle of Tatecaester. In the process, he takes up the wounded King Oswald’s battle helm to inspire the victory, and swears an oath that he will serve the King’s brother Oswiu. Oswald survives and the battle is won, but the oath remains sworn.
Three years later, war is coming to Northumbria and Beobrand of Ubbanford is going to need all of his skill to survive. Penda of Mercia is gathering a great host to come north for a final showdown with King Oswald. Not all of Beobrand’s enemies are fighting for Penda, of course – old enemies are the best enemies - Fordraed is spreading his bile wherever he goes; he and the atheling Oswiu despise Beobrand and our poor hero is oathsworn to the latter. That is not a great situation to be in... If you know the history, you know Oswald has got a rather gruesome end coming to him. Shit’s about to get real!
Beobrand’s humanity is always a plus point to the series. He is instantly sympathetic as a character and very distinct from the motley bands of sociopaths, narcissists and brutes that inhabit the world. Haunted by his past, Beobrand’s empathy and emotional intelligence are well portrayed. He is a killer, yes, but a clever killer, and a killer with integrity. Harffy is very clever in the way he structures the novel breaking away from the main narrative to give us Cynan’s tale, or to break to Reaghan’s domestic struggles (that are not necessarily any less deadly) and their different points of view and stories are just as gripping. About halfway through the book is a massive blood-drenched close-combat slaughter of epic scale, which breaks away to Reaghan (one of my favourite characters) in the next chapter to allow the reader to catch their breath. This is quality writing.
It’s no secret I love this series of books. Frankly, any author that inspires me to pick up my copies of the Anglo Saxon Chronicle and Bede has to be applauded. The history is well researched, of course, and there are enough gaps in the political narrative for the author to fill in, but the seventh century world that Harffy’s fabulous characters romp through is beautifully constructed. Social conditions and ranks, the economy, the conflict of religion and race all provide a stunning backdrop to Beobrand’s adventures. A fast paced gripping tale with great characters and a fabulous hero; I devoured it in a just a few sittings. At some point in the summer holidays I am going to go back to the start and read the series in one go and really savour how the books have developed.
Warrior of Woden is released on April 1st 2018 and available to pre-order on AMAZON