by Giles Kristian
In a thrilling adventure of brotherhood, warfare, and treachery, Giles Kristian takes us into ninth-century England, a world of darkness, epic conflict, and an unforgiving God served by powerful priests. On ships shaped like dragons, bristling with oars and armor, Jarl Sigurd and his fierce Norsemen have come in search of riches. And riches they are promised, by an English ruler who sends Sigurd and his wolves to steal a holy manuscript from another kingdom. Osric, an orphan boy, sees beyond the terror of these warriors, and somehow knows the heathens’ tongue. Renamed Raven, rechristened in blood, he will join them. They are his people. And they will be his fate.
The Story …
Set in England during the late 800s, “Blood Eye” is the story of Osric, a fifteen-year-old carpenter’s apprentice in the village of Abbotsend. Osric has no memory of anything before the Saxon villagers found him left for dead near a burial mound with a bone-handled pagan knife hanging around his neck. To make matters worse, Osri’s left eye is blood red (probably from an injury), so the Christian priest accuse him of being a servant of the devil. This makes Osric’s life in Abbotsend difficult. Things change dramatically when two Viking long-ships arrive on shore.
The Vikings are led by Jarl Sigurd who claims to have come peace to trade, However, the village priest attempts to poison Sigurd with mead laced with hemlock. Osric cannot simply standby and let this happen, so he warns Sigurd about the priest’s treachery. The Vikings take their revenge, and leave, taking Osric and the old carpenter with them. Sigurd believes Osric’s “blood eye” is a sign from Odin. Osric soon discovers he has much more in common with Sigurd and his men than with the English who adopted him.
Sigurd renames Osric “Raven,” and the boy finds himself admiring the Norseman and their way of life. He has discovered he can speak their language, and with the pagan knife, this presents a clue to his forgotten past.
The story begins to take off when a Wessex Ealdorman offers Sigurd a fortune in silver to steal a book, a bejeweled Gospel of Saint Jerome, kept in the fortress of the king of Merica. The Norseman agree and set off on this mission accompanied by a fierce Wessexman named Mauger and an Christian priest named Father Egfrith.
In Mercia, Raven helps save a young woman named Cynethryth, who becomes Raven’s love interest for the remainder of the tale. While there exists a thread of romance, this is not a romance novel. It is a Viking saga of honor, courage, battle, and blood. It is the story of Raven and his return to his origins, and discovering himself in the company of Viking warriors.
My thoughts …
The story moves at a fast pace from one exciting battle scene to the next. It includes several good plot twists and a large dose of a betrayal and comeuppance.
Giles Kristian ends his tale in a way that sets up the sequel, Sons of Thunder perfectly, and I look forward to reading that tale next.
The interesting thing for me is that I read the Rise of Sigurd series previously, which is clearly a prequel to this Raven series, and was written a few years later.
As a new author myself, it was interesting to see how Giles Kristian has grown as an author over time. It looks like there were about three years between the release of Blood Eye (Raven 1) and God of Vengeance (Sigurd 1). The growth of Kristian as a writer between the two works is readily apparent. God of Vengeance is much smoother and better written.
I find that inspirational because it means there may actually be hope for me as a writer. And, indeed, I learned a great deal writing my first novel, Serpents Underfoot and already see differences as I continue working on its sequel, Montagnard.
I found “Blood Eye” to be a very worthy read, and I do recommend it (with the understandings mentioned above) as a very good read. It think it would be interesting to re-read them in the order they were released, and enjoy the great stories while seeing Kristian’s evolution from good new author to excellent seasoned author unfold.
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