(Sons of Kings Book 2)
Anglo Saxon 9th Century
“In Pit of Vipers, the second book in the Sons of Kings trilogy, the lives of Alfred of Wessex and Eadwulf of Mercia continue to unfold against the ever increasing threat of Danish raids. Now back in his homeland, Eadwulf sets out on his determined quest for revenge, whilst Alfred’s leadership skills develop at the courts of his successive brothers. Before long, those skills will be put to the test . . . The Danish invasion of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in 865 is merciless and relentless. Every year more Norse ships come to join their comrades in a quest to plunder for wealth and gain domination over the people. The Wessex king is now Aethelred, Alfred’s last surviving brother, and Alfred becomes his trusted second-in-command. Whilst the Danes take kingdom after kingdom, the brothers wait with bated breath for them to set their sights on Wessex. By 869 their worst fear is realised.
In the meantime, Eadwulf pursues the objects of his revenge.”
As with most trilogies, it is best to start at the beginning, although I admit I have not (yet) read Book One but plunged straight in at this second part of the saga.
We have the young Alfred, the brother of the King, hordes of rampaging Vikings and Eadwulf, who was a slave to the Danish Vikings but is now a free man. Alfred is a young man, desperate to learn how to lead and rule, Eadwulf, living in Mercia with his wife and family, is determined to seek revenge for wrongs done to him in the past, and the Vikings do what Vikings do best where looting, fighting and pillaging is concerned.
I liked the way that Ms Thom has blended real characters from the past with her made-up ones – the blend is seamless so the reader, unless familiar with this period, does not know who is real or who is invented, which is excellent for a historical novel. The author also knows her subject for she has written a fascinating narrative that encapsulates the way of life in this turbulent period of the ninth century, a period dominated by the conflict of Christian against heathen, of hardship, battles, triumphs and tragedy.
But this is where the ‘but’ comes in: I did feel there was a little too much history, especially during the first part of the book which did read a tad slow, but to be fair this might be because I did not know the characters or background story, perhaps had I been more familiar with book one I would have been immersed right from the beginning. That said, for readers who enjoy delving into the facts that create the background to fiction, exploring the narrative of writers like Ms Thom is probably one of the best ways of discovering history.
No spoilers but book three will be looked-forward to by Ms Thom’s readers who have become engrossed with these intriguing characters who are striving to survive the upheaval of the Viking invasion of England. Meanwhile, I'm going back to Book One...
© Ellen Hill
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