This is a rousing historical fiction set in northern England in AD793. On June 8, AD793 Vikings pillage the monastery on Lindisfarne, and the Viking Age has begun. While Vikings kill and rape monks and villagers as they try to run from danger, a young monk named Hunlaf runs toward danger. Despite never swinging a sword before, he takes up a weapon and kills his first man. And so begins Hunlaf’s journey from monk to warrior, and his quest for vengeance.
After the Vikings leave Lindisfarne, Hunlaf is one of only a few survivors. He is tasked with communicating with a Viking that has been captured. Through a series of events, Hunlaf convinces the King that the Vikings are coming back and that the monasteries along the coast need protection. The King allows Hunlaf to raise his own warrior band, but offers no aid to do so. Despite long odds, Hunlaf gathers a rag tag group of soldiers committed to training the villagers and monks in defense of his monastery.
If you like a book with war, tactics, fighting, blood and guts set in early England, this is the one for you. The book is unevenly paced, with the first one-fourth limping slowly along. Once Hunlaf gets the go-ahead to defend his monastery, the pace begins to pick up and stays steady from there on. I really liked Hunlaf, and enjoyed seeing the relationships with his fellow soldiers develop. The author did a great job of writing about Hunlaf’s path from being a pious monk and his urge, and even enjoyment, of fighting in battle. He is clearly torn and thinks himself evil for wanting to fight, but can’t allow the Vikings to destroy more of his country without a fight.
The book ends on an interesting cliffhanger. I look forward to reading the next book if this is going to be a series.
Thank you to NetGalley and Head of Zeus for a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.