Saturday 1 June 2019

Book Review — Blood and Destiny (The Shadow of the Raven #1) by Chris Bishop #HistoricalFiction #AngloSaxon @CBishop_author

Blood and Destiny
(The Shadow of the Raven #1)
By Chris Bishop

It is 878 and Wessex stands alone against Guthrum's Viking hordes as all England cowers beneath their raven banner.

With most of his army destroyed following a surprise attack at Chippenham, Alfred King of Wessex, retreats to the desolate marshes at Athelney. Whilst few believe he can ever restore the kingdom, he remains determined – no matter the cost.

Among the small band of weary survivors is Matthew, a novice monk who must learn to fight like a warrior if he, along with his brother and fellow Saxons, are to have any chance of defeating the Vikings. As the impending battle looms, Matthew is charged with a vital role that means he must face danger and betrayal, and undertake a hazardous journey during which his faith will face the ultimate test.

“The day is lost, but whilst yet a single Saxon warrior survives the war is not yet over.”

Alfred may well have been caught unawares in his Vill in Chippenham, but he will not relinquish his crown without one more fight and nor will he abandon his beloved Wessex. And if he has to hold his royal court in the wild marshes at Athelney, then he will do so. He will not bow down to Guthrum and his Great Army. Alfred will fight until the very bitter end. May God have mercy on their souls.

Matthew, a young novice monk, had not walked in the shadow of death until now. He is a long way from the Abbey in Winchester, and sometimes it feels like he is a world away from God. He is no warrior. Matthew had never thought he would be in a position where he would witness a battle, let alone steal a life. And yet, the invading Vikings demand that he takes up the sword and defend his country and his King, no matter what that means for him.

Alfred may command loyalty, but there is a traitor in his camp. Matthew has his suspicions, but how do you accuse a great man, a great warrior, who is reverently respected by all he meets, of disloyalty and, worse still, murder. Matthew must tread carefully and keep his wits about him. If he does not, then the only thing that awaits him is a quick death.

Blood and Destiny (The Shadow of the Raven #1) by Chris Bishop is the captivating tale, told from the viewpoint of a young novice monk, about the desperately heroic struggle of Alfred the Great against the Great Heathen Army led by Guthrum.

If you have been looking for a book that is filled with not only personal but political conflict, set in a vividly drawn ninth-century England, then consider your search well and truly over! Blood and Destiny is everything you could want in a story about King Alfred and then some. 

Alfred is on the brink of losing everything, including his life. Thrown into this bitter war for supremacy and survival is a young unworldly novice monk, who sees things he wishes he had never seen and who has done things that makes him question everything he thought he knew about himself. Matthew is an unlikely hero in this battle-heavy tale. He is a character that is deeply torn between duty to his King and his love for God. Matthew is a very gentle soul who is forced to fight for not only his own survival but for those who he cares about as well. He struggles terrible with his own guilt about the blood he has shed, and also the distance he feels from God. He is incredibly conflicted, which made his character not only very believable but very real in the telling. I liked him very much, and the journey he goes on, not only in the physical but in the spiritual as well, made this book exceedingly compelling.

Bishop’s masterful style pulled me into the story from the very first sentence. His impressive narrative and his authentic historical detailing has to be commended. Bishop lavishly evokes the land in which his story is set — it really did feel like I had stepped back in time and was witnessing the battle for Wessex first hand. Every aspect of this book has been thoroughly researched – there are no glaring inaccuracies, nor is there any out-of-place vocabulary. Blood and Destiny is a real treat for lovers of quality Historical Fiction.

I thought the comparison between the Saxon Army and the Viking one, is also worthy of note. Although Bishop has portrayed the Vikings as raiding savages, which from the Saxon viewpoint they were, he does not shy away from some of the less noble Saxon decisions, and he makes the reader stop and ask, were the two armies really that different to begin with? Alfred is an honourable man, but there was an incident with a slave, changing the course of her life, that made me question his honour, which I thought was very cleverly done. Alfred was not portrayed as a saintly king, but one who is fighting a war and will do anything, even if it is against his better judgment, to make sure his men stay loyal to him. Matthew’s reaction to this incident was very interesting and, if anything, it made me like this young novice monk even more.

I have read many historical fiction books set during the reign of Alfred the Great, but as of yet, I have never read one which depicted the defeat of Ubba and his Viking fleet so well.The battle is brought vividly to life by Bishop’s intuitive understanding of battle strategy and his dramatic sweeping narrative. The battle is bloody, ruthless, and brilliantly executed. Kudos, Mr Bishop.

I thoroughly enjoyed Blood and Destiny. Mr Bishop is one to watch, and I cannot wait to get my hands on book 2 of The Shadow of the Raven series.

Blood and Destiny will undoubtedly appeal to fans of Bernard Cornwall’s The Last Kingdom series.

I Highly Recommend.

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

Pick up your copy of
Blood and Destiny
(The Shadow of the Raven #1)

Chris Bishop

Chris Bishop was born in London in 1951.  After a successful career as a Chartered Surveyor, he retired to concentrate on writing, combining this with his lifelong interest in history.  His first Novel, Blood and Destiny, was published in 2017 and his second, The Warrior with the Pierced Heart was released in July 2018.  Both form part of a series entitled The Shadow of the Raven.

Chris is a member of the Historical Writers’ Association as well as the Historical Novel Society.

Connect with Chris: WebsiteBlogTwitterGoodreads.

1 comment:

  1. Beatrice Rivers4 June 2019 at 15:00

    Congratulations on your award. Your book sounds amazing!!


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Mary Anne xxx