Wulfric, a Saxon thegn who served in Britannia under Rome at the dusk of empire, is returning twenty years later with his son, Wulfgar, to reunite those who went back to Germania with those who stayed in the island that has become Bryton. As his ship approaches land, he is edging nearer to his dream of reuniting the two halves of his tribe, the Wulfsuna.
But an erstwhile ally betrays this dream in a murderous attack. The mantle now falls on Wulfgar, an untested young man, maimed by self-doubt and anger.
The discovery of a young seer disturbs and divides them. With the bad luck that has dogged them so far, they would rather cut her throat and be on their way. But somehow nobody can kill her. Wulfgar refuses to believe an ancient saga that weaves the seer’s destiny into his own. But when a treacherous rival threatens them, Wulfgar must accept the seer’s power – it may be all that can save them.
This is a good story with many intriguing plot turns in the journey not only across Bryton, but also in life. The author handles a large cast of characters well, but a few peripheral ones could be dispensed with. Morwyneth, the seer, is very well drawn and an engaging character. Wulfric’s angst is portrayed sympathetically; if I have a criticism, his moods swing a little too quickly. But his relationship with his brother in arms is very well written.
The author knows and loves her research – this is plain – and introduces rich detailed description throughout; she evokes the mysticism that clung to those times with skill. The dialogue flows well and I could see the characters in their settings as they spoke and went about their campsites, battles and journey.
Top marks for an excellent cover with menacing tones and rich colours; the title font is perfect. One niggle: I was jolted out of an absorbing story by anachronisms in speech or internal thoughts. It’s extremely difficult for a historical novelist writing in this period to know how people spoke. The last thing a reader needs is the ‘prithee varlet, quoth he’ type of speech. The safest course is to keep it as neutral as possible. But ‘she made a deal with herself’ should have been picked up by the editor. I feel the female protagonist would have rather ‘made a bargain with herself’.
That said, this was an enjoyable read and I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in Late Antiquity/Early Medieval fiction.