Seventh-century England, Edwin rules in Northumbria, Cadwallon in Gwynedd, and Penda is an ambitious lord looking to carve himself a kingdom of his own. Cadwallon is still smarting from defeat at Edwin’s hands and enlists Penda and other petty kings to his cause. Each has his own agenda. Not to mention the involvement of sons and nephews of Edwin and various other brothers and sons of different characters. It’s complicated.
M. J. Porter has written a story of one battle – Haedfeld – which will change the face of England. And written it very well indeed, for the dialogue is sharp and whilst the day-to-day descriptions are fairly sparse, the telling of the battle is gripping.
Porter has chosen to write his book in the present tense and also in the first person – not through the eyes of one man, but all of the major characters have their say, revealing their thoughts and secrets. At first, this is confusing and somewhat annoying as names are, necessarily, similar and relationships as well as alignments need to be firmly established in the reader’s eyes. The author attempts to help by placing symbols at each chapter heading (i.e each character) but, to be honest, I didn’t find it useful. There is also a list of characters and their allegiances at the back of the book and I would have preferred this at the beginning for easier reference. A list of places is added but a map might have served a better choice.
There were a handful of typographical errors and some issues with formatting which need to be addressed; however, recommended to anyone interested in the period.