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The Serpent Sword (The Bernicia Chronicles Book 1) by Matthew Harffy

Amusingly enough, just after this book arrived I had an email from Amazon suggesting I might be interested in it. – Serendipity?

It’s been a couple of days since I finished the book as I sit to write this review, and to be perfectly honest, I’m struggling to remember the finer details of the story. I think that actually speaks volumes about it: it was enjoyable enough whilst I was reading it; but once finished, that was it.

I think one reason for this might be because there were lots of characters supporting the ‘star’ but few were developed enough or ‘fleshed out’ to my satisfaction. They remained thin ghostly characters rather than fully formed beings, which is a shame as there were some potentially very strong support characters.

It’s an ancient history fictional story that centres on a character called Beobrand who leaves behind a dark secret to follow in his older brother’s footsteps and become a warrior. Unfortunately for Beo’, his brother has been murdered before he catches up with him. As a mark of respect for his dead brother he not only swears revenge on those responsible for his murder, but also enlists with the king his brother fought for in order to turn himself into a warrior.

Much of the story is given over to Beo’s painful conversion from being a youth to being a warrior. There is plenty of violence and gore as battles are won and lost in this incredibly violent age. Beo’s learning is swift and not without mishap.

The story itself is rather linear and very predictable: the ending to the final battle is one of the most hackneyed and corny that I’ve read in a long time.

I did find some of the words and expressions used rather odd and unfamiliar: many times I found myself booting up the laptop in order to understand what was meant. One of these oddities being ‘elf-shot fever’ which I had no clue about and even now am not completely certain that there was not a better expression that might have been used in this case. However, old-time words and expressions aside, the author has thoughtfully provided a few pages of a gazetteer to explain the locations and some notes to explain the historic context of the story.

All said though, the book entertained me over many evenings as a lightweight bedtime read, so it can’t be all bad. Apart from the ending, the book did generally improve as the page count increased.

Openly admitting that the book wasn’t really ‘my style’ I’ll be fair and rate it at 3 1/2 anchors and state that it’d make a good holiday or long flight read.