Britain, 996 A.D. Christian Mercian troops are invading Saxon villages, led by the fanatical Brother Cedric. The story focuses on one Saxon family: Andrea, her daughter Ayla, both priestesses, and her son, Kheelan, who fights the Mercians.
The village captures a Viking raider boat and ends up with seven Viking POWs. The village bully, Aldrik, is captured by Cedric, converts to Christianity, and helps destroy Saxon villages. He captures and tortures Ayla, who is rescued by Sven the Viking.
The author (South African, lives in New Zealand), served in the French Foreign Legion. He captures perfectly the tensions between soldiers on patrol, between trained and untrained soldiers, and between a real fighter and a psychopath like Aldrik. The Mercians are stereotyped villains, but the scenes of cultural collision when the Vikings teach the Saxons their fighting methods or when a Viking and a Saxon marry are humorous and wonderful.
Balona uses an omniscient form of narration and changes points of view from one paragraph to another, which makes for confusing reading. The book is filled with typos, names are spelled differently, and there are long run-on sentences. Still, this is a new author who shows a great deal of promise.