- File Size: 990 KB
- Print Length: 429 pages
- Publisher: Head of Zeus -- an Aries Book (August 1, 2016)
- Publication Date: August 1, 2016
- Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B01DBZ51CM
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,741 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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The Cross and the Curse (The Bernicia Chronicles Book 2) Kindle Edition
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GILES KRISTIAN (Author of God of Vengeance and the Raven series)
"The Cross and the Curse is a terrific novel that strikes just the right balance between fact and fiction, the plausible and the romantic, and it illuminates the Dark Ages like the bolt of lightning in its first few pages: in rare and unexpected ways. Top stuff."
TOBY CLEMENTS (Author of the Kingmaker trilogy)
"The best historical fiction enables the reader to simultaneously live in the here and now and the then and there. Matthew Harffy has this skill in abundance. He is one of the most accomplished and exciting voices in the field today. I love his novels."
MARTIN LAKE (Author of A Love Most Dangerous and The Lost King series)
"Harffy allows the reader to peel back the layers of Dark Age society beyond the implicit violence. His wordage is skilful and beautifully wrought, rather like a perfect damascened sword."
PRUE BATTEN (Author of The Gisborne Saga and The Triptych Chronicle)
"Matthew Harffy has created a gritty, authentic world, home to a hero who shows us the complexity of what it means to be human - the darkness and the delight. The Cross and the Curse is historical fiction at its finest."
STEPHANIE CHURCHILL (Author of The Scribe's Daughter) --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
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This book earned 5 stars from me for a variety of reasons. First, the plot is highly entertaining but also believable and unpredictable. Second, new characters are introduced that add to the depth of perspective throughout the story. Third, Beobrand is seeing the world in a time that many have not learned about and Harffy's research into making a true setting are clearly well developed.
I do wish the book spent a bit more time on the landscape. As a reader from the United States who has been to Europe, but not this portion of England, I struggle at times to picture what the setting really looks like, especially when Beobrand travels to various parts of northern England and Scotland throughout the book.
All in all this is a very well done book. It was better than the first, in my opinion, and I enjoyed the first quite a bit. I found that I learned new things, was entertained, and am considerably more attached to characters now than I was going into book two.
If you are reading this review I hope you find it helpful. I tried to keep spoilers out of the review. Truely, you won't regret reading this book. It is available in many forms as well as Audible. The audio version was great, too, and the performer did a great job with the text.
A gritty, realistic tale of a war torn land, The Cross and the Curse is a page turner. Beobrand is well written with depth and humanity. We feel for him as he deals with his new responsilbilities, his new riches, and his new losses. Harffy makes the reader root for Beobrand to overcome his difficulties, beat his enemies and succeed in his life goals.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes a story taking place in pre-Conquest Britain and seeing the young country of England as it emerges from strife and war. I look forward to book 3 to see the rest of Beobrand's journey and where his wyrd will take him.
I enjoyed Mr Harffy's first book, "The Serpent Sword" so much that I placed an advance order for "The Cross and the Curse" and I was not disappointed. This is an exciting, very well written novel that weaves real historical figures and events into the continuing story of Beobrand of Ubbanford. It's obvious that Mr Harffy did considerable research into the period and the locations, and the payoff for the reader comes in his vivid descriptions of daily life, political events and the tensions and conflicts that existed between the native Britons and the Saxons who had come to dominate most of England by the late 7th century. His descriptions of the savagery and blood-lust of battle have stayed with me and made me very glad that I live in the 21st century. That said, i'll be back for more, and I'm very much looking forward to Book 3 of "The Bernicia Chronicles".
Top international reviews
At the beginning we have a prologue set in 619AD, which shows how King Edwin was trying to introduce Christianity to Bernicia with the aid of Paulinius, effectively highlighting the battle for hearts and minds between the 'Old Gods' and the 'New Christ God' during this period of history. This section also has bearing on what comes later.
We then move forward to 634AD, a few months after the end of the previous tale. Beobrand, oathsworn to Scand, is waiting with the masses at Bebbanburg, preparing to march out with King Oswald, newly returned from exile, to do battle with Cadwallon, who is ravaging the surrounding countryside. I read 'The Serpent Sword' about six months ago and, although I am sure this book can be read in isolation, Matthew cleverly intersperses in the opening chapters enough snippets of information to jog ones memory on the action that had come before.
We are soon thrown into the thick of it with a breathtaking battle in which Beobrand assists the King with some inspirational tactics, fights well and is rewarded with a beautiful horse and some land to call his own.
Hence, Beobrand begins the next chapter of his life, a life with a wife, responsibilities and some oathsworn men. Once more, we are treated to the authors thoroughly researched knowledge of the period with another full-on tale. Beobrand is still fighting his inner demons whilst adding to his list of enemies. We learn more about some well loved characters from the first book, particularly developing Beobrands complicated friendship with Acennan and seeing the cracks appearing in the faith of the young monk, Coenred. The newly introduced characters are varied, colourful and strong and Beobrands new and at times difficultly conflicting circumstances are wonderfully portrayed. This time we are also introduced to a touch of the mystical, hence 'the curse'.
All in all, Matthews 'difficult second book' is in my opinion a resounding success and, although this instalment has a definite conclusion, it is easy to see boundless possibilities for the direction of the next in the series, 'By Blood and Blade', already pre-ordered. I can't wait!
I was really sorry to come to the end of this book and I look forward keenly to the third of the chronicles. I will definitely buy it.
Although I liked this very much, I can't give it 5 stars or what would I reserve for the masters - such as Bernard Cornwell?
(Sorry Matthew, you are getting close but Cornwell still has the upper hand.)
Just like the first book, the author has carefully researched his topic. Again, his historical note is both interesting and meticulous in listing where he had deviated from what little is known of the historical events. Also like the first book, the hero, despite his fighting prowess and his valorous deeds, is no “superhuman”. He is both superstitious and quite unsecure. In fact, one of the main themes running through the book and explaining part of its title is his belief that he is cursed. The other characters are also believable.
Another interesting feature is the role played by the monastery of Iona in re-Christianising Northumbria, and the influence that its bishop had on the very religious Oswald. The circumstances of the foundation of Lindisfarne are historical. So is the fact that King Oswald seems to have got rid rather quickly of the first candidate that was sent to him, although probably not for the reasons shown in the book, as the author freely admits. Here again, however, and even if fictional, these reasons (which I will just about manage to not mention) make the religious characters that much more human and credible.
The circumstances surrounding the defeat of Cadwallon may have been largely invented by the author although we know little about the battle itself, except that it took place somewhere near Hadrian’s Wall, that Oswald won supposedly against the odds and that the enemy King was heavily defeated and killed. King Oswald might have been outnumbered and won thanks to the unusual tactics shown in the book. Anyway, regardless of whether this was the case or not, the author’s choices and the description of the battle itself are rather superb, exciting, griping and plausible, with the hero – of course - playing a sufficiently critical role to earn a very significant reward from his Lord and King.
The political context is also well shown. The defeat of Cadwallon was certainly not easy and King Oswald’s forces, even after uniting Deira with Bernicia, must have been weakened by both these losses and those sustained by Northumbrian warriors during previous defeats under both Oswald’s brother and King Edwin before him. Even if the meeting that produced the truce described in the book never took place, there does seem to have been such an agreement with Penda and this suited both leaders because both needed time to consolidate their rule.
A related point is the character and ambitions of King Oswald and his brother Oswiu. The later was a warrior’s warrior. The former, although pious and perhaps more of a statesman than his younger brother and successor, seems to have been no mean warrior himself. This is perhaps something that the book does not show sufficiently. What it does show rather well, however, is Oswald’s ambition to become the Bretwalda and be recognised as supreme. It also shows how one of the ways to achieve this was to strike alliances with the somewhat weaker Kingdoms of East Anglia, Kent and Wessex in order to contain Mercia, the remaining rival after Cadwallon’s death.
I could go on and on but by now it should be rather clear that I “loved” this book, to use Amazon’s terminology. I will therefore recommend this one just as much as I did for volume 1, and rate it accordingly. Also, and for those wanting to read more about this period, but something non-fictional, I can also warmly recommend “King of the North” by Max Adams, which is very readable and covers the whole period.
Set in 7th century Northumbria, a period where historical records are sufficiently sparse to allow the author considerable freedom in weaving the story of Beobrand onto the framework of known historical events, places and persons. However, the story is credible and Matthew Harffy's writing displays an evolving maturity to realistically convey the harsh realities of life and death in early Anglo-Saxon Britain.
Dare I say it, but I actually think he conveys human emotion more sensitively than the Master of the genre Cornwell does in his Uhtred books, bringing an additional dimension to the complex central character of the story.
Can't wait for the next instalment!
This book, is second in series set in the time of the early Saxons and fairly early in regard to Christianity in England.
Set very roughly to recorded historical events and real locations, I find it very interesting.
Following the advance of our central warrior character, who is now advanced to a lord and granted land, property and his own group of followers.
Superstition, battle, shield to shield it comes over as what must have been a truely hard and barbaric way of life
More books follow but this one has started to get repetitive
Overall though, an entertaining read
The author builds on the high quality of his debut, The Serpent Sword, and really finds his voice. The writing is confident, the charcters believable, and the action intense.
If you liked The Serpent Sword, you'll love The Cross and The Curse. Highly recommended!