Raven: Blood Eye by Giles Kristian

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Raven: Blood Eye by Giles Kristian

Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A vivid and energetic story set in a Britain just coming out of the Dark Ages and facing waves of Scandinavian raids. It's a vital and visual book, combining romance, violence and adventure as it goes a-viking. Fans of historical fiction will love it.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: February 2009
Publisher: Bantam Press
ISBN: 0593061624

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Osric has been apprenticed to Ealhstan the carpenter for two years, ever since he was found, abandoned, with a heathen knife around his neck. The other Abbotsend villagers shun him, both for his uncertain origins and his left eye, with its white marked red by a bleed. But when Norsemen arrive in their longships and burn his village, their leader, Sigurd, believes Osric has been sent by Odin and marked with his favour, and at last Osric feels that there is somewhere he could perhaps belong.

And so, renamed Raven, he sets off with Sigurd and the Fellowship on a dangerous incursion into Mercia to steal the Holy Gospels of St Jerome and earn a hoard of silver from Ealdred of Wessex. Cue sacrifices, betrayals, unattainable women, the inevitable whining Christian priest and the excitement of the shield wall...

I really enjoy a good historical adventure epic. And this is one. There's plenty of scope in a Britain emerging from the Dark Ages: warring kingdoms before Alfred began the process of unification, glamorously bloodthirsty Norsemen and Danes a-viking, religious conflict - those days had it all, and Kristian captures them well. The book is very much in the vein of Bernard Cornwell, and there are fights aplenty. The writing is vivid and energetic and there's always plenty going on.

The central character, Raven, is a foundling child, and while his origins are ostensibly a mystery, there are strong hints that he is himself a Norseman. He's immediately at home with Sigurd and his band and as soon as he is aboard a longship, he feels the addictive pull that the traveller feels for the sea. However, he is conflicted. He's a natural fighter, just like the Norsemen, but there's something more, and it's not only his ravaged eye. Raven can and does kill, but not for fun, and as soon as he sees Cynethryth, he knows that other women will never interest him. Rape and pillage is not for him.

It's going to be a great saga - vital and visual and with all the boxes ticked. Fans of the genre will love it. There is gore aplenty - including a rape scene and a graphic description of the famous blood eagle dismemberment - so particularly nervous parents of the many younger readers who go for this kind of historical epic as their first foray into adult books have been warned. Roll on book two!

My thanks to the nice people at Bantam for sending the book.

The obvious comparison both in time and style is Bernard Cornwell's books about Uhtred but they're shamefully unreviewed by Bookbag. Those who enjoy all things Norse and Viking might like Ice Land by Betsy Tobin. Teen readers will love the picture of Dark Ages Britain in Bloodline by Katy Moran.

Booklists.jpg Raven: Blood Eye by Giles Kristian is in the Top Ten Adult Books That Teens Should Read.
Buy Raven: Blood Eye by Giles Kristian at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Raven: Blood Eye by Giles Kristian at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Raven: Blood Eye by Giles Kristian at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Raven: Blood Eye by Giles Kristian at Amazon.com.


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