Book Review: The Serpent Sword by Matthew Harffy

The Serpent Sword Cover

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? 

My thoughts:

Seventh Century Britain has been a deep fascination for me of late and there are few authors who write about this period-in my opinion-that really draws me in. Three comes to mind and Matthew Harffy is one of them. The setting in this story is Northumbria and it is made up of two Kingdoms, Berninia and Deira. I really like those names for some reason. To give you a picture of how small these Kingdoms were, Deira was probably smaller than the county I live in the USA. Civilization at this time was so untamed, wild and dangerous. Savagery was not uncommon. While reading through this book, I couldn’t help but keep thinking that just to survive in a single day in the Dark Ages was a challenge to put it mildly.

In this story, you will find Beobrand’s challenges greater still. What he came against is-what’s the word I’m looking for-brutality more times than not it seemed like. His will to survive and find his brothers killers were extremely courageous and admirable. Especially during those times. You saw him become stronger not only in his resolve to bring justice for his brother but he had to grow up quickly. He really didn’t have a choice. He was a man of conscious and that is often put to the test in this story. One example is when he witnessed violence towards women. Those scenes were hard to read but I felt in this story it was relevant and I was able to get through it. Maybe I was little scathed…

There was a battle in the story that was a significant time in Britain and I really enjoyed reading about it. Matthew has a knack for writing historical events with such imagery and clarity. One can only think he portrayed this as if he was actually there. A sign of a good historical fiction writer is to take the reader to the setting, period and have them believe they’re actually witnessing it for themselves.

This story is a great achievement for a debut and it was well worth investing my time reading. Harffy pursues his writing endeavors with zeal, passion and creativity. So much so, you will be swept away to Dark Ages. A powerful story, rich with history, conflict, politics, religions of that time, intense situations, danger, powerful characters and historical figures. If you are interested in the Dark Ages or looking for a first read in this period, this book is for you.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

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