Raven: Blood Eye by Giles Kristian
Review by Floresiensis
Raven: Blood Eye is a Viking adventure, set in ninth-century England and marks the debut of English / Norwegian author Giles Kristian.
For two years Osric has lived a simple life, apprentice to the mute old carpenter who took him in when others would have cast him out. But when Norsemen from across the sea burn his village, Osric finds himself a prisoner of these marauders. Their chief, Sigurd the Lucky, believes the Norns have woven this strange boy's fate together with his own, and Osric begins to sense glorious purpose among this fellowship of warriors.
Immersed in the Norsemen's world and driven by their lust for adventure, Osric proves a natural warrior and forges a blood bond with Sigurd, who renames him Raven. But the Norsemen's world is a savage one, where loyalty is often repaid in blood and where a young man must become a killer to survive.
When the Fellowship faces annihilation from Ealdred of Wessex, Raven chooses a bloody and dangerous path, accepting the mission of raiding deep into hostile lands to steal a holy book from the King of Mercia. There he will find much more than the Holy Gospels of St Jerome. He will find Cynethryth, an English girl with a soul to match his own. And he will find betrayal at the hands of cruel men, some of whom he regarded as friends...
Raven: Blood Eye is an historical fantasy novel told in the first person; a riveting tale of quest and conflict recounted in memoir style by Raven (Osric); a boy who is feared and shunned by all he meets, a boy whose memory only stretches back two years. Living in ninth-century England, the blood clot that makes his left eye appear red makes him a pariah in his local community. The book’s prologue sets up Raven’s character nicely and throws up questions that we hope this book and its sequels will answer:
“I know nothing of my childhood, of my parents, or if I had brothers and sisters. I do not even know my birth name. And yet, perhaps it says much about my life that my earliest memories are stained red. They are written in the blood that marks my left eye, for which men have always feared me.”
Raven: Blood Eye - Prologue
This is an action-packed tale that fortunately also spends time on characterisation; the English and the Norse are both given their own identities and are shown to be a flawed and bloodthirsty bunch. The savagery and barbarity of the times is clearly shown by Giles Kristian; the Norse live for battle and death follows them wherever they go. One of the most vivid and descriptive passages featured the enactment of the blood eagle, a Norse method of torture and execution that is used in this instance to honour a defeated enemy warrior (not for the squeamish):
“But I did watch. I watched as the old godi used his hand axe to hack into Griffin’s back. Again and again he smashed the ribs away from the spine and my world was filled with a proud man’s screams. The two Norsemen holding Griffin down were spattered with his blood as he writhed in agony. Then the heathen godi hooked clear the last of the ribs, exposing meat within, and his hands plunged into the gore and pulled out Griffin’s lungs, laying one on each side of his ruined back like glistening red wings.
Raven: Blood Eye – Chapter Two
There can be no denying that this is a highly enjoyable read, the pages pass by in a blur and the skilled narrative give a real sense of time and place. There are great characters, vividly described battles, a quest, a beautiful maiden – all the elements that make a fantasy tale what it should be. The only negative is that sometimes the pieces seem to fall into place too easily; especially the ease in which Raven is accepted as part of the Norsemen. This aside, Raven: Blood Eye, is an historical fantasy that will delight fans of Bernard Cromwell, Massimo Manfredi and David Gemmell.
This is Giles Kristian’s debut novel and it has already received an incredible amount of positive critical acclaim from some very important names in the historical fantasy genre:
“A powerful, lightning-paced tale of the Norsemen in England; an astonishing and riveting debut.” Bernard Cornwell
“A gripping tale of action and treachery which splendidly conjures up the sounds, sights and smells of Dark Age Britain. It creates a believable world of men fighting, feasting and braving the sea, a time when the Christian and Norse gods were very real and very close in the thoughts of mankind. It leaves the reader keen for the sequel.” Harry Sidebottom, author of Warrior of Rome
“An excellent book. If I ever thought of writing a prequel concerning The Oathsworn, I could not better this.” Robert Low, author of The Whale Road
“Kristian’s first novel is a rip-roaring Viking saga in the glorious, blood-soaked tradition of Low’s “The Whale Road” and the Severin ‘Viking’ trilogy. Raven is a complex, engaging hero, trying to carve a path through a world that is satisfyingly confusing while still retaining the bedrock of all good sagas: a woman to fight for, a church treasure and a duplicitous priest. Fine, powerful, thrilling stuff!” Manda Scott
Charlie from England
This is the best Viking adventure ever. It shows, in an excellent way, the brutality of the people of those violent times. The characters and the places are easy to imagine, the action sequences are bloody and detailed, just like a good action book should be. If only there could be a movie...
Dave from Hull
From start to finish this tale of brotherhood, guts, bravery and the savagery of the time excels. The detail and the development of the characters is very well done. The scene setting puts you in the boat or in the sheild wall with the men. A truly enjoyable reading experience. I can't wait for the next offering from this young author.
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