"A robust story that will appeal to fans of this later Anglo-Saxon period in England."
The Byrhtnoth Chronicles: Book 2
Anglo Saxon 10th century
"AD 947: Byrhtnoth has received his father’s sword. But his hall is burnt and the sword stolen. Learning that his father still lives, he swears a solemn vow to find him.
Torn between his quest and duty to Lord Athelstan of East Anglia, friends are hurt when an old enemy unexpectedly reappears. Despised by his best friend for his failure, he is sent deep into Northumbria, to Bebbanburg.
Winter closes in and wolves prowl the hills. Who is the mysterious woman he encounters there? She offers him news of his father – and more.
Will Byrhtnoth remain with her, or return home to discover the fate of the friends he abandoned?"
I felt I should have read the previous volume - Bright Sword – before attempting this volume. Byrhtnoth, the 10th-century Saxon Ealdorman of Essex, features in the Anglo-Saxon poem The Battle of Maldon which took place against the Danes in 991, but little else is known of him. He is introduced as an orphan aged seven and the book follows his adventures for a decade.
When Book two opens it is AD 947 and Byrhtnoth is named as the new lord of the village and heir to a beautiful sword. Still not knowing the whereabouts of his parents, his new hall is burnt out and the sword stolen. Learning that his father still lives, he swears a solemn vow to find him. The quest takes him north to Bebbanburg in Northumbria, where winter closes in and wolves prowl the hills. He encounters a mysterious woman who offers him news of his father, but he doubts he can trust her or her information.
Much of this second book details the adventures of the would-be shield-maiden, Saewynn, who has the misfortune to be captured by one of Byrhtnoth’s enemies while he is in the north and several harrowing scenes describe her misadventures.
The writing style is plain, using modern English, and while this avoids anachronisms and is easy to follow, I hankered for a little allusion to the literary style of Anglo-Saxon poems; a small alliterative phrase or a kenning or two, perhaps even a quotation would have made my day. My feeling is that the book could have been tightened somewhat, but the novel is a robust story that will appeal to fans of this later Anglo-Saxon period in England.
© Jen Black