Shadow of the Raven: Book Review

Shadow of the Raven: Book One, Sons of Kings
Shadow of the Raven: Book One, Sons of Kings

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.

512px-England_Great_Army_map.svgBy Hel-hama (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons   (Based on Stenton ‘Anglo-Saxon England’ chapter 8 and Hill ‘ An Atlas of Anglo-Saxon England’ p40-1)

Shadow of the Raven: Book One, Sons of Kings
Shadow of the Raven: Sons of Kings, Book One
Pit of Vipers Sons Of Kings, Book Two

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.

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13 Comments Add yours

  1. An excellent review, Christine. Unfamiliar names keep me stumbling but with your recommendation, this sounds a great read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ChristineR says:

      Thanks Tess. I don’t like fantasy novels with weird names but these ones are for real, but and you get used to them after awhile. A terrific read.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. milliethom says:

    A brilliant review, for which I sincerely thank you, Christine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ChristineR says:

      It’s easy to write about a book one really loves. I’ll do the Amazon ones today.

      Like

      1. milliethom says:

        What can I say? I didn’t know you were going to put it on Amazon – but I’m over the moon that you are! A million thank yous.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. bkpyett says:

    Sounds as if it takes you into another existence! I’m totally in the twenty first century at present reading, ‘The Rosie Effect’, but shall keep this in mind for another time.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sue says:

    From your review it sounds as if it would make a great movie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ChristineR says:

      Umm, wouldn’t be surprised if that era hasn’t already been done, but yes, Sue, it certainly turns into a movie in your head!

      Like

  5. eLPy says:

    Interesting… Is she a self-published author btw? I applaud you in supporting her efforts, reader support is always wonderful. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Goodreads but that would also be a good place to put your review. Not sure it’s my cup of tea but I appreciate your review nonetheless! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. eLPy says:

    I have to follow up my last comment and say I’m sure you well know how important reader support is! And another place to check out if you’re not already familiar is LibraryThing. There’s been a lot of debate on Goodreads about self-published authors and plenty of people looking for quality work, which unfortunately there are a lot of self-pubs who are putting out half-hearted, half-finished pieces. To make matters worse some of these people get angry when anyone comments on the nature/quality of their work. … … …

    I digress. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ChristineR says:

      I wasn’t familiar with LibraryThing and will sign up now (before I read your other comments!). I’ve only just started being active on Goodreads, though I signed up some time ago.

      Yes, Millie is self-published, and that’s the reason I made sure to note the presentation of the novel. I’m new at reviewing and, after 56 years of reading, story comes before everything that I’ve since learned about the writing craft.

      I’m also new to getting ebooks and am astounded at what is passing for a novel these days. Some are barely prologues. Some sound great until you read a page or two, and no way I’d spend .99c on it, let alone $2.99.

      Thanks for your input, eLPy. I’m working on thickening my skin as I cannot possibly afford professional editing. I’ll do my best at polishing before publishing. I’m being a bit tongue-in-cheek in the widget when I say ‘ready or not’. 😀

      Like

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