Saxon England was a brutal, dangerous place and a time when the ever present danger of a Viking invasion was real. Life was tough, men did not expect to live long and warfare could be a daily event: dependent on what the Vikings were planning and how well the defenses, particularly along the Wessex coast, had been built and maintained.
In the fourth book in the Shadow of the Raven series from Chris Bishop, Bloodlines he chooses the birth of twins to begin the next chapter in the history of Alfred the Great, at a time when Wessex stands alone against the might of the Viking invasions.
Although this is book four in the series, it can be read as a sand-alone very successfully, as it is well constructed and researched, written with great knowledge and with a very entertaining flow of words.
Bishop says he has been fascinated with this time is history for most of his life, which is apparent as the pages turn in this gripping and most enjoyable story. Edward is introduced in a very careful manner, which encourages you to take particular note of the hapless boy, who has a wonderful way with horses, but his size makes him an ideal victim for the bully Coenred.
As his character develops, so too does the highly complex situation in Wessex, as far as Edward is concerned. Alfred, along with Governor Oscric and Lord Ethelnorth believe Edward may be the son of Matthew, a monk turned warrior, killed in Battle in the last book. If so he will inherit great wealth and lands, but first they have to be very sure and guard him from harm until he is older, more adapt as a fighter and has proven himself as a man of virtue.
The characters have been so well-crafted they become very real, so much so you find yourself worrying about Edward, cheering when the Viking invaders are sent packing in a very innovative, bloodthirsty manner and as Edwards’ character evolves, a sense of pride in the fine young man he is becoming.
It is very easy to understand how a three book series has moved to be four, with a fifth out later in the year. There is so much rich material to be garnered from this little known period of history. Chris Bishop does it with a definite flair and passion which utterly engrosses as the story unfolds.