Saxon: The Book of Dreams
The Saxon of the title is Sigwulf, a minor Saxon prince. The novel opens with the slaughter of his family in AD 780, but he escapes execution, instead exiled to the court of King Carolus (the future Charlemagne). Sigwulf is spared because he bears the Devil’s Mark, denoted by differently coloured eyes. Unfortunately, he also experiences disturbing prophetic dreams. Exiled with him is his crippled slave, Osric, his long-serving protector and guardian.
Sigwulf is befriended by Count Hroudland, Carolus’s nephew, and is quickly drawn into political intrigue at the highest level in which attempts are made on his life by an unknown assassin. What follows is a lively and carefully constructed plot, interweaving Carolus’ plans to defeat the Saracens with the main plotline, and keeping the reader guessing as to who the enemy within could be.
Severin’s battle/fight scenes are impeccable. He has a particular strength in bringing the landscapes of AD 780 to life, obviously drawing on his experiences as a seasoned explorer. Likewise, his characters are engaging and memorable. Sigwulf himself is a conflicted hero, often torn between loyalties, and Osric is equally intriguing. In his portrayal of Hroudland, however, Severin really excels. Hroudland can be arrogant, vain and self-serving, but the author balances this with a man who is also brave, talented and charismatic.
Book of Dreams is the first in the new Saxon series, and I look forward to Sigwulf’s next adventure. Highly recommended.