Today I am delighted that History … the Interesting Bits‘ is hosting Matthew Harffy‘s blog tour for his latest release, Kin of Cain, with my review of this marvelous, nail-biting novella.
AD 630. Anglo-Saxon Britain. A gripping, action-packed historical tale set in the world of The Bernicia Chronicles. Perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell.
Winter grips the land in its icy fist. Terror stalks the hills, moors and marshes of Bernicia. Livestock and men have been found ripped asunder, their bones gnawed, flesh gorged upon. People cower in their halls in fear of the monster that prowls the night.
King Edwin sends his champions, Bassus, Octa and band of trusted thegns, to hunt down the beast and to rid his people of this evil.
Bassus leads the warriors into the chill wastes of the northern winter, and they soon question whether they are the hunters or the prey. Death follows them as they head deeper into the ice-rimed marshes, and there is ever only one ending for the mission: a welter of blood that will sow the seeds of a tale that will echo down through the ages.
Matthew Harrfy is fast becoming a seasoned novelist. He has now written three full-length novels in his Bernicia series, with a fourth one due out in the summer. Kin of Cain is a novella which takes us back to before the very beginning.
Set before we meet Beobrand in The Serpent Sword, this novella, Kin of Cain introduces us to Beobrand’s older brother, Octa. It’s a wonderful story of five warriors who set out in search of a terrifying beast, who could be a giant, a descendant of the biblical Cain. What they know, is that the beast feeds on its victims, takes trophies and is practically unstoppable. It makes even the bravest of warriors freeze in fear; and is a story from which legends are born…
Kin of Cain lives up to Matthew Harffy’s usual high standard of story-telling. Fast-paced and full of suspense, it keeps you gripped to the very end. Full of action and with an atmosphere that transports the reader back five hundred years, it is a thoroughly enjoyable book which I devoured in two sittings.
Matthew Harffy is a master at transporting the reader back in time, to the Seventh century, where fighting for your life didn’t just mean fighting men, but also fighting your own fears and the supernatural. The five men selected to track down and defeat the Nihtgenga, are the bravest of the brave.
“Is it true that no blade can hurt it?” Edwin asked.
“I do not know,” said Paulinus.
“So far, this thing has killed women and boys,” Bassus growled. “Shepherds, thralls, ceorls. We shall see how it fares against a warrior.”
The men hoomed in the back of their throats. Bassus was huge and skilled in the arts of battle. It would take a lot to kill him.
“I cannot have this thing harm more of my people. I took Bernicia and Deira from Æthelfrith and promised the people – my people – protection. If they are unsafe, I am not a good king.”
The image of his father, Grimgundi, came into Octa’s mind then. His mother, sisters and younger brother cowering from the brute. Should he have stayed in Cantware to protect them from Grimgundi? He had known that he had to get away. His thoughts had turned dark, and he was no kin slayer. No kith of Cain.
“I will seek out this monster and slay him,” Octa said into the silence of the hall, his voice travelling beyond the small group of men, to those who lay feigning sleep.
“Will you, young Octa?” Edwin’s teeth flashed bright in the gloom. “Perhaps you will at that. But I will not send you alone. I would be sure that we are rid of this menace once and for all. Bassus, you will go with Octa.”
Octa, Bassus and their three companions have to track the monster halfway across Northumberland before the final showdown, discovering as much about each other, as about their prey, along the way; their mettle tested to its limits.
The characters are wonderfully vivid creations, each with their own histories and personalities. Octa himself is a courageous young man, while Bassus is the brave, stalwart warrior we know from all of Beobrand’s adventures. Matthew Harffy breathes life into each of his characters, as his does into the history and the landscape they have to hike through in search of the monster.
If you like action, adventure, suspense and a great story, this is the book for you. It is a great prequel to the Bernicia Chronicles. As usual, the story ends leaving you wanting more – maybe an entire series dedicated to Octa? We can only hope!
At least we only have a few months to wait for the next instalment of Beobrand’s adventures!
About the author: Matthew Harffy grew up in Northumberland where the rugged terrain, ruined castles and rocky coastline had a huge impact on him He now lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife and their two daughters.
Looking into the lives of some of the most fascinating women from medieval history, Sharon’s book, Heroines of the Medieval World, will be published by Amberley later this year and is now available for pre-order from both Amberley Publishing and Amazon.
©Sharon Bennett Connolly 2017