Saturday 11 May 2019

Book Review — Wyvern of Wessex (Sons of Kings #3) by Millie Thom #HistoricalFiction #Vikings #AngloSaxon @MillieThom

Wyvern of Wessex
(Sons of Kings #3)
By Millie Thom

Eadwulf is back in the Sea Eagle with Bjorn and his crew in a quest to discover if Eadwulf’s father, King Beorhtwulf of Mercia, is still alive after twenty years as a slave. Bjorn’s great dragonship carries them down to the searing June temperatures and strict laws in the Moorish lands of al-Andalus. But searching for Beorhtwulf proves more difficult than they’d expected, causing them more trouble than they bargained for… 

In Wessex, King Aethelred is now dead, leaving his twenty-one-year-old-brother, Alfred, to succeed to the throne. Though his succession was agreed by the witan, Alfred must now prove himself worthy of the kingship, or lose it. But Wessex is in turmoil, besieged by Viking Danes intent on subjugating the kingdom – and knowing that the new king is young and inexperienced. Alfred must use all his wiles if he is to outthink and outmanoeuvre Guthrum, the Dane who nearly becomes his nemesis. 

Alfred’s victories and defeats take him on a journey of learning, during which he gains experience and strength. We share his highs and his lows and how he rises from the depths of despair to save his beloved kingdom from total conquest. 

And at his side at his greatest time of need, is his new ally and friend, Eadwulf of Mercia.

“I have just one piece of advice for you, Alfred of Wessex… Surrender!”

On a grassy plain, thirty miles west of Winchester, Alfred’s army finds themselves face-to-face with the newly arrived Norse Summer Army led by Halfdan, son of the late Ragnar Lothbrok. To his dismay, Alfred soon realises that the Norse Army is far better equipped than he could ever hope that his army would be. The Norse are wearing mail byrnie and metal helms, whereas in Alfred’s army only the nobles wear such armour, and there is a blood lust in the Norsemen’s eyes which would have put the fear of God into even the bravest of Saxon men. However, it was said that no one could tell the difference between a brave man and one who is pretending. The Norse Army may well be intimidating, but Alfred will not let them see that he is intimidated. He is the King of Wessex, and he will lead his men bravely into battle, even if it is God’s will that the crown of Wessex would not be his to wear for much longer.

When a trusted kinsman turned traitor, Eadwulf of Mercia’s life was irrevocably changed forever. Eadwulf had been just a boy when he was sold into slavery at a Norse market. From there on in he had been brought up as a Dane. He had eventually been given his freedom by Ragnar’s eldest son, Bjorn Ironside.

It had been twelve years since last Eadwulf had sailed in a longship, and he would not be doing so now if he had not heard a whispered rumour that his father, Beorthwulf, the former King of Mercia was still alive. But 20 years is a long time, and if he had survived, what kind of broken man would he be? For foreign slaves are bought to al-Andalus to be of use in the service of Emir Muhammad, where they will spend what is left of this life in the mines or the quarries. It is a forlorn hope, but Eadwulf must discover the truth. One way or the other…

Millie Thom has once again given us an evocative and utterly compelling story of one man’s fight for his people, his kingdom and his throne. Wyvern of Wessex: Sons of King #3 was everything I wanted it to be and then some.

This is very much the story of Alfred the Great and how he came to deserve the name that was bestowed on him by others. In Thom’s adaptation, Alfred is a truly human hero, who makes mistakes that cost him many sleepless nights. Initially, Alfred is trustingly optimistic, but he soon learns that an oath, given by a victorious enemy, is worth very little, and a treaty of peace is worth even less. But Alfred is a quick study, and the mistakes he makes are not to be repeated. His ability to turn disaster into success and his dogged determination to never give up made him not only a likeable character but one in which it was easy to understand why men risked their lives to follow him, even when the odds were not in their favour.

Likewise, Eadwulf’s character continued to develop throughout this book. Eadwulf's journey, from a young fearful child to a warrior has been compellingly enthralling, and although for me in this book, I felt Alfred took centre stage, I still enjoyed reading about Eadwulf and the life he had made for himself and his family.

In the first two books, several of the antagonists are the sons of Ragnar Lothbrok. But with the death of Ivar, Halfdan now longs for domestic pleasures away from the battlefield. Guthrum happily steps into Halfdan’s shoes and leads the Norse Army. Thom has paid close attention to the historical detailing of this time and this historical character. I thought her depiction of Guthrum was spot on. He is cruel and ruthless in his determination to snatch Wessex away from Alfred. And although he comes across at times as unscrupulous and untrustworthy, his respect for Alfred is genuine. He soon learns that Alfred is a formidable foe and one to be taken extremely seriously. His characterisation certainly drove this story forward, and although I did not like him all that much, I thought his portrayal was fabulous!

In amongst the brutal strife are moments of simple domestic pleasure — a good fire, fresh bread, the joy of catching a fish for the first time. Thom has carefully balanced the savageness of warfare with everyday activities, which gave the story some much deserved moments of peace and it also reminded the reader what Alfred was fighting for.

Thom’s compelling narrative has to be commended. From the dampness and lushness of the grass to the treacherous marshes in Somerset, Thom pays attention to the little things which give this novel not only credibility but a sense of realism. Not many authors can adequately pull this off, but Thom has.

I have to mention the battles, for there are several. Thom has an intuitive knowledge of what to leave in, what to leave out, and what to leave to the readers’ imagination. The battle scenes are epic, but at the same time, Thom does not write pages and pages of continuous violence. Instead, Thom concentrates on the emotion — Alfred's fear, his despair, and his fatigue make these scenes utterly irresistible.

If you are looking for a series that contains a finely balanced mix of love, patriotism and treachery then Wyvern of Wessex: Sons of King #3 is for you. Although Wyvern of Wessex is book 3 in the series, it does work well as a standalone, but considering what happens in the first two books it would be a shame to miss out on the story of Alfred’s life.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.

Pick up your copy of
Wyvern of Wessex
(Sons of Kings #3)

Millie Thom

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 cakes!

Connect with Millie : Website • Twitter

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on your award, Millie!


See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx