Shadow of the Raven is beautifully written, edited and formatted. I received a free kindle copy of this historical novel from the author, Millie Thom, in return for a review . Shadow of the Raven is Book One of the Sons of Kings trilogy.
The story follows the early years of Alfred of Wessex and the fictitious Eadwulf of Mercia – the sons of kings.
The unfamiliar names are hard to grip at first, but ring with charm – Morwenna, Ocea, Aethelnoth, Thrydwulf, Burgred, Sigehelm, Beorhtwulf, Beornred, Aethelbald, Osbuh, and Aethelswith! The Old English for Alfred is Aelfred or Aefraed. I’m happy the author stuck with Alfred. A handy cast of Characters helps you keep track.
The story opens in 851, at a time when the fierce Danes (Vikings) routinely plundered Western Europe. Betrayed by one of their own, the Mercians fall to the Danes. His father slain, young Eadwulf is taken away as a slave. Morwenna, his mother, is also captured. Much later, their brief reunion is one of the most poignant scenes in this tale.
We are given a glimpse of Alfred the Great’s early life. When we leave him, he is barely nine years old but we see how a trip to the Holy City when he was only four shaped his beliefs. Two years after his mother dies, young Alfred accompanies his father on a second voyage to Rome. Before they leave, King Aethelwulf splits Wessex in two, setting a son to rule each part in his absence. This abdication makes things difficult on his return in 856.
Earlier, in May 853, Alfred’s sister Aethelswith marries Burgred, now King of Mercia, sealing the liaison between the two kingdoms.
It is difficult to believe that Eadwulf of Mercia isn’t a real person telling his own tale – his new life of slavery in a bewildering Danish culture is so richly portrayed. Reviled by his first master’s wife, he finds himself befriended by a new master until he falls in love with the wrong girl. To save his life, Eadwulf must leave, and find his way home to Mercia. But first, there is a matter of revenge to be sorted. I wonder if his savage upbringing will have consequences on his return.
I loved Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Tales, and looked forward to Millie Thom’s Book Two, beginning in 864, confident she will give a stirring account of the next few years as portrayed in this map of the time.
Fortunately I did not have to wait long for Book Two! The Pit of Vipers has just been released. I could have asked for a review copy, but I hold the standard of the author’s research and her writing in high regard and was only too happy to buy myself a copy as soon as I saw it available.
Millie Thom’s blog gives the prices and links to Amazon UK and Amazon US.
Both books are available on Amazon Australia Kindle.