I lived in a troubled time when the shores of this land were ravaged by fierce, blood-crazed raiders who feared nothing, not even death itself.
It is 878 and Wessex stands alone against Guthrum’s Viking hordes as all England cowers beneath their raven banner.
With most of his army destroyed following a surprise attack at Chippenham, Alfred, King of Wessex, retreats to the desolate marshes at Athelney. Whilst few believe he can ever restore the kingdom, he remains determined no matter the cost.
Among the small band of weary survivors is Matthew, a novice monk who must learn to fight like a warrior if he, along with his brother and fellow Saxons, are to have any chance of defeating the Vikings.
As the impending battle looms, Matthew is charged with a vital role that means he must face danger and betrayal, and undertake a hazardous journey during which his faith will face the ultimate test.
Guest Review By J A Warnock
As a reviewer, I get handed a lot of books and whilst I am by no means complaining (who wouldn’t like an unending stream of stuff to read?) I am sometimes asked to review books that I wouldn’t necessarily choose. That can be a challenge and often calls upon my reserves of caffeine and diplomacy. On the grounds of politeness, I will not transcribe my first thought when I found out I was to review a historical work set in the year 878 amid clashing Vikings and Saxons. My second thought wasn’t much better as I read the opening lines of heightened prose bemoaning the unsettling of bones. As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about for ‘Blood and Destiny’ by Chris Bishop is an entirely accessible and understandable read even for a complete novice like me.
Speaking of a novice, the narrative is written from the perspective of a novice monk who, in addition to being in the midst of physical upheaval, is dealing with his own personal misgivings about his path and place in the world. It is this use of a character that makes the book so accessible as we journey with him through unfamiliar surroundings and learn with him as we go. Using the premise that Mathew or rather Edward (stay with me it makes perfect sense and you get used to it) is talking to the hapless archaeologist who disturbed his resting place, the story is pitched at an outsider who is unaware of Saxon ways. It is conversational in tone and has a relatively straightforward structure making it easy to get caught up in its forward momentum.
In simplistic terms, Edward’s life is torn apart by war. Invading Viking troops have taken a Saxon stronghold and are after the king. Edward is drawn into the action, however reluctantly, and becomes a key player in the battles and exploits that follow. There is enough historical context to make events and customs understandable without dulling the action or getting bogged down in the detail. It is a testament to Bishop’s skill as a writer that this balance is so successfully struck. This is a well written and enjoyable novel which ends with the words ‘to be continued’ meaning there is more in store for our protagonist. I look forward to the next installment.
Buy your copy here ~ AMAZON UK
Thank you to Chris Bishop and Anna Burt @RedDoorBooks for this wonderful read.