Saturday 27 July 2019

#BookReview — Bright Axe: The Byrhtnoth Chronicles Book 2 by Christine Hancock #HistoricalFiction @YoungByrhtnoth

Bright Axe
The Byrhtnoth Chronicles Book 2
By Christine Hancock

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?

Or should he continue the quest for his father?

“Yesterday I lost a sword and was given another, the one I had longed for. It was my father’s sword, kept from me until I became a man…”

But, now the sword is lost and finding his father feels like an unattainable dream. Thegn Byrhtnoth has responsibilities. His people need him, more now than ever and Ealdorman Athelstan demands his loyalty. However, the vow he made to a dying man lies heavy within his soul. He must find his father. He must discover the truth.

It is hard being a slave, even more so when you are in love with someone who can never be yours. Saewynn longs for the freedom not only to love but to control her destiny. She is no good at cooking, nor does she enjoy other womanly pursuits. She wants to become a warrior — a Shield Maiden. All Saewynn has to do is convince the object of her adoration that it would be a good idea to train her in the art of warfare. If Byrhtnoth says no, then Saewynn does not know what she will do.

With war upon the horizon and his enemy closing ranks, Byrhtnoth must prepare for battle. Thoughts of his father will have to wait. However, during his time away, Byrhtnoth encounters a beautiful yet mysterious lady who claims to have news of his father. However, he must be cautious, for although the lady is a slave, men fear her.

From a terrible fire in Essex to the cold and unforgiving terrain of Bebbanburg in Northumbria, Bright Axe: The Byrhtnoth Chronicles Book 2 by Christine Hancock is a gripping account of war, betrayal, loss and love.

Hancock has plucked her hero, Byrhtnoth, out of obscurity and breathed new life into a man in which very little is known about, other than the fact that he was a 10th-century Saxon Ealdorman of Essex and he died at The Battle of Maldon. I thought her depiction of this seemingly forgotten 10th Century hero was fabulous. He is a protagonist that a reader can really get behind. Byrhtnoth is kind and generous, and seemingly blind to what is staring him in the face! Byrhtnoth is a flawed character, and he makes mistakes which I think made him all the more human in the telling.

The other protagonist in this beautiful tale is Saewynn. I adored her. She is such a brave young woman who finds herself in a very precarious situation. It is pride that tears Saewynn and Byrhtnoth apart, which leads to some very dire consequences for Saewynn. At times Saewynn’s plight made for very difficult reading, but it was Saewynn’s emotional reaction to the events after they had happened where Hancock really showed what an excellent storyteller she is. Brilliantly written and totally absorbing. Kudos, Ms Hancock.

There are several antagonists in this story, and they are, as expected, vile and cruel. However, the most despicable of them has to be Egbert. His actions are as deplorable as they are vicious. Egbert’s portrayal was very chilling indeed, and yet it drove this story forward. There were times when I did not want to read on for fear of what he was going to do next, but at the same time, I needed to know. Talk about compulsive reading!

There is one other character I would like to mention, and that is Wulfstan. I found myself torn between Byrhtnoth and Wulfstan. I wanted both of these wonderful characters to get what they deserved. Wulfstan is the constant in Byrhtnoth’s life. He is also unwittingly Byrhtnoth’s conscience. When Wulfstan rebukes him, Byrhtnoth listens and takes stock of what Wulfstan says. I loved Wulfstan. He really helped to give this book depth. Superbly written and masterfully portrayed.

Although the narrative sometimes came across as very modern, this did not take anything away from the story itself. Hancock has presented her readers with an authentic historical backdrop, and the hours of research that Hancock has dedicated to this book certainly shines through. I have not read book 1 in The Byrhtnoth Chronicles, but this did not hamper my enjoyment of Bright Axe at all. This book works very well as a stand-alone. However, I now want to go back and read Book 1!

If you fancy dipping your toes into the Dark Ages, then Bright Axe: The Byrhtnoth Chronicles: Book 2 may just be the book for you.

I Highly Recommend.

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

Pick up your copy of
Bright Axe

Christine Hancock

I was born in Essex and moved to Rugby, Warwickshire when I married. I have a husband, two sons and two lovely grandchildren.

I am a long-term family historian, leader of the local history group and town guide.

I had never thought of becoming an author – I just wanted to write about some of my ancestors. In 2013 I joined a writing class. The class turned out to be about writing fiction. Before I knew it, I was writing a novel.

Byrhtnoth was a real warrior who died in the 991 Battle of Maldon, made famous by the Anglo-Saxon poem of that name. Growing up in Essex, I visited Maldon often, and attended the 1000 year anniversary of the battle in 1991.
I wanted to find out what made Byrhtnoth such a famous warrior.

I finished the book but found it had become a series – how long, I have yet to find out.

Connect with Christine: Blog • Facebook • Twitter

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Mary Anne for the wonderful review. Your readers might like to know that the third book in the series, Bright Blade, will, hopefully, be out later this year.


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