The official blog of Historical Fiction author, Mary Anne Yarde, and home to The Coffee Pot Book Club and Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots. Come and join Mary Anne on the hunt for everything historical, as well as mythological. Oh, and let's not forget the odd book or two! Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy...
#BookReview — Pit of Vipers: Sons of Kings #2 by Millie Thom #HistoricalFiction #Vikings #AngloSaxon @MillieThom
Pit of Vipers
(Sons of Kings #2) By Millie Thom
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
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 baited breath for them
to set their sights on Wessex.
By 869 their worst fear is realised.
In the meantime, Eadwulf pursues the objects of
great leaders would grieve to see their kingdom so assailed…”
men die with a weapon in their hands and such deaths are to be celebrated
for those warriors will sit in Oden’s Great Hall in Valhalla. For Ragnar
Lothbrok there was no sword, no axe, just a pit filled with venomous vipers. As
the venom seeped into his veins, Ragnar yelled these words:
“How the little pigs
would grunt if they knew how the old boar suffered.”
Aelle and his men laughed at Ragnar’s words, but Eadwulf did not. Eadwulf knew
that the sons of Ragnar would seek their revenge and when they did, they would
wipe that smile from King Aelle’s face. The sons of Ragnar would turn Aelle’s
kingdom into something that resembled the Christian Hell. King Aelle had not conquered
an enemy. He had started a war.
was said that God favoured the younger son of the late King Aethelwulf. Alfred
of Wessex wasn’t so sure because if God truly favoured him then why was he so
inflicted by excruciating pain? Moreover, why had God chosen to make the reign
of his brothers so short? Now everyone looked to Alfred’s beloved brother,
Aethelred, to lead and protect the Kingdom of Wessex. However, there were
rumours of a great Danish army led by Ivar, son of Ragnar, marching on
Northumbria. Alfred can only hope and pray that once Ivar has had his revenge,
he will leave the rest of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in peace. But, if Ivar
chooses to stay, then may the Lord have mercy on their souls.
the cold and harrowing death of a Norse hero in a Northumbrian pit of snakes to
the desperate battle on the plains of Salisbury, Pit of Vipers: Sons of Kings
#2 by Millie Thom is an exemplary work of historical fiction.
Thom certainly deserves praise for her enthralling narrative and her authentic
historical background. Thom has skilfully embroidered together the known
history of this time along with the Old Norse poetry and sagas, which makes Pit
of Vipers not only an incredibly powerful tale but also a compellingly epic
is a little of everything in this book — heroes, villains, hate, love, wit and
a good dose of irony — which keeps the reader not only engaged but enthralled.
Thom is a born storyteller, and her masterful style pulls you right in. I
found myself back in the Dark Ages with these fascinating characters during
which can only be described as a very turbulent and uncertain time.
of Vipers is the story of the almost desperate but incredibly heroic Prince
Alfred (who would later become known as Alfred the Great) against the seemingly
invincible Ivar and his Great Army. Running alongside Alfred’s tale is the
equally mesmerising story of Eadwulf, who seeks vengeance for the murder of his
parents, in particular, his mother. I adored Alfred. He is such a gentle soul.
However, he is not afraid to fight for his kingdom, and there are hints of the
King that he will become. Likewise, Eadwulf has come a long way from his
desperate situation in Shadow of the Raven: Sons of Kings #1. Eadwulf has his
freedom, and now he is a husband and a father, and yet, his desire for revenge
will not be quashed. His relationship with Bjorn Ironside continued to
fascinate, and his story was utterly compelling.
in this harsh landscape of betrayal and mistrust, our heroes have to fight to
stay alive. However, it is not all bloody battles and retribution. Thom paints
a vivid portrait of what it was like to live during these times. The roles of
women were explored in this book, along with the perils of childbirth. The
suffering of the peasants under a Viking warlord was represented in all its
terrible agony. All of which helps to gives Pit of Vipers legitimacy. This is a
very believable presentation of this period in history.
There were times when I was left wondering who the real antagonist was — King Aelle, or Ivar the Boneless. If King Aelle had not executed Ragnar, then Ivar would not have brought his army across the sea seeking revenge. It is King Aelle’s actions which lead to terrible consequences for all, so does that make him an antagonist or just terribly naïve? It is quite a conundrum. Aelle’s treatment of Ragnar is deplorable, but then Ragnar was no hero to the Northumbrians. If only hindsight were a king, history, no doubt, would be very different! Ivar, in comparison, is a fierce and ruthless man, but he is also a shrewd strategist, and everything he does has a coldly calculated purpose, which makes his character all the more chilling to read about. I thought Ivar’s portrayal was wonderful.
was fascinated by Ivar’s relationship with Halfdan. Halfdan is a warrior in his
own right, but like everyone else, he lives in fear of his brother. It is only
later on in the story that Halfdan comes into his own. Likewise, Bjorn’s
relationship with his brothers is equally intriguing, as is his continuous
relationship with Eadwulf. Of all the sons of Ragnar, it is Bjorn who comes across
as the most honourable and certainly the most likeable!
of Vipers: Sons of Kings #2 is an absolute must-read for fans of Michael Hirst’s fabulous Vikings series.
This book hooks you in and leaves you wanting more. The pages practically turn
Millie Thom is a former
geography and history teacher with a degree in geology and a particular passion
for the Anglo-Saxon and Viking period. Originally from Lancashire she is a
mother of six grown up children and now lives with her husband in a small
village in Nottinghamshire, midway between the town of Newark and the lovely
old city of Lincoln. When not writing, Millie enjoys long walks and is a
serious fossil hunter. She is also an avid traveller, swimmer and baker of