I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour to celebrate the launch of Aries, the brand new imprint of Head of Zeus dedicated to international thrillers, speculative fiction and tales of adventure. Today’s stop is all about Fortress of Fury by Matthew Harffy, the seventh book in The Bernicia Chronicles series. Already available as an ebook, the hardback edition is due to be published in October and is available to pre-order now.
My thanks to Vicky and Jade at Head of Zeus for inviting me to take part in the tour and for my digital review copy of Fortress of Fury via NetGalley.
About the Book
Beobrand is besieged in the action-packed instalment in the Bernicia Chronicles set in AD 647 Anglo-Saxon Britain.
War hangs heavy in the hot summer air as Penda of Mercia and his allies march into the north. Caught unawares, the Bernician forces are besieged within the great fortress of Bebbanburg. It falls to Beobrand to mount the defence of the stronghold, but even while the battle rages, old and powerful enemies have mobilised against him, seeking vengeance for past events.
As the Mercian forces tighten their grip and unknown killers close in, Beobrand finds himself in a struggle with conflicting oaths and the dreadful pull of a forbidden love that threatens to destroy everything he holds dear.
With the future of Northumbria in jeopardy, will Beobrand be able to withstand the powers that beset him and find a path to victory against all the odds?
Format: ebook (374 pages) Publisher: Aries
Publication date: 6th August 2020 Genre: Historical fiction, action
Find Fortress of Fury (The Bernicia Chronicles, #7) on Goodreads
I promise that, at some point, I will read this series from the beginning. So far I’ve only read the previous book in the series, Storm of Steel, which I loved. I also very much enjoyed Wolf of Wessex, Matthew’s standalone historical mystery published in November 2019. Links from the titles will take you to my reviews. You can also read my Q&As with Matthew about two earlier books in the series – Warrior of Woden and Killer of Kings.
Although Fortress of Fury is the seventh book in the series it can definitely be enjoyed as a standalone. The book has brief references to events and characters in previous books but this is done in a such a way that it certainly won’t stop me going back and reading earlier books.
As fans of the series have come to expect, there are thrilling battle scenes with vivid descriptions of blood-splattered, bone-crunching encounters between Beobrand’s loyal Black Shields and their enemies, in this case the marauding Mercians. Beobrand himself is a fearsome warrior. “He was born to this… Now there was nothing but the night, cold steel and the hot blood of his enemies. This was the dance of death, and Beobrand knew every step.” For Beobrand though, each victory comes at a price, as the faces of the men he has killed often haunt his nightmares.
Without in any way intruding on the story or the pace of events, the book has a mass of fascinating detail about domestic life in a noble house of the period, weaponry and the political landscape of 7th century Anglo-Saxon Britain, with its different tribes and factions. I loved the scenes set within the beseiged fortress of Bebbanburg as its inhabitants and those who have sought refuge behind its supposedly impregnable walls prepare to withstand the enemy onslaught. I really felt I was there manning the barricades alongside them.
As well as his prowess with a sword and seax, Beobrand possesses numerous other qualities. I confess the references to the broadness of his chest, his powerful arms and the shape of his muscled legs made me think it might not be such a burden to be stuck in a besieged castle alongside him. However, since I’d have a much more well-connected and alluring rival it would definitely make it a fortress of fury!
I liked how the author explored the responsibilities that come with leadership. As Beobrand confides, “a man’s promise to his lord is both a treasure and a burden“. His gesithas are not just men sworn to serve him, they are his ‘shield-brothers’ whom he has a duty to protect. “He was their leader and must be stronger than any of them. That was his wyrd, the destiny of a lord.”
From time to time, the reader gets to see events from the point of view of Cynan, one of Beobrand’s loyal gesithas. Despite proving himself on an important mission and earning the trust of a group of men, Cynan underestimates his own leadership ability. “He knew they were not truly his men, they were but ceorls who had turned to a warrior with a horse, helm and sword in a moment of need.” The inclusion of this different point of view also provides another perspective on Beobrand’s character and the way his brooding silences and sudden changes of mood affect his men.
In the tense final chapters, Beobrand finds himself “trapped between two oaths“. He is faced with a terrible choice: to carry out the command of the king he has sworn to obey which will involve betraying his own code of honour; or to break his oath of allegiance with all the consequences that will follow both for him and those who stand with him. Which course will he choose? You’ll have to read the book to find out.
As the prospect of war looms, Beobrand and the people of Bernicia are entitled to wonder how events will play out “on the great tafl board of kings“. Beobrand has a reputation for being lucky but, as the author confides in his historical note, “The future looks uncertain, with intrigues and danger lurking over every hill and in every shadow”. That seems a pretty enticing prospect to me.
In three words: Action-packed, immersive, thrilling
Try something similar: The Smile of the Wolf by Tim Leach
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.