I read lots of books. Too many, too quickly and in too narrow a genre (spears and sandals or Napoleonic fiction, much to the disgust of my wife !). As a result I am often left to scour self published 'pound shop' works on Amazon that invariably disappoint and are self-published for a reason. This, however, is a very notably exception, being well written, extremely well researched and admirably achieves the authors aim of writing a novel "inspired by historical authors such as Bernard Cornwell and C.S. Forester".
I give it 5 stars although I see most other reviewers have elected for 4 stars. By its nature any review will be subjective but for my money (and I parted with very little of it in this case) this is a very good first novel that deserves a main stream publisher and has impressed me enough to write my first review.
A great introduction to the character Redgar and the darkness of England in the seventh century AD.
Firstly, Webb-Davies manages to convey his passion for the events and language of the period successfully into his novel. The Author's note at the beginning of the book, as well as the Historical Note in the rear, serve to expand on both of these elements and furnish the reader with a little more knowledge to appreciate the situation in which the story unfolds. Being familiar with UK geography is an advantage in forming a mental image of the larger political situation and the novel could have benefitted by including a map of the isles showing the borders as portrayed within. Such approaches have worked well in other works with unfamiliar place names such as those by Tolkien and George R.R. Martin.
This gripe, however, is perhaps born of my personal desire to link these towns of old with their current counterparts to gain a sense of scale and placement. This is not to say that this is a historical or educational text, or necessary to enjoy the story at face value. Indeed, Webb-Davies keeps the events personal and the action intense throughout the book, the lulls between encounters ramping up the tension towards the anticipated climax. Much like the writings of Bernard Cornwell in the Sharpe novels, we view the campaign from a soldier's level, aware of the greater battles, negotiations and campaign moves, without being burdened by them. For Redgar and the reader, it starts and ends "At a sword's edge."
The Red Saxon features graphic, bloody descriptions of the battles faced by Redgar and his companions and these are well written. In fact, throughout the book there is evidence of a passion for description, and between the bloodshed, the lives, homes, tools and clothes of the Saxons are described with equal attention to detail.
Throughout the book, I was occasionally reminded of Eaters of the Dead and Beowulf, as well as the Sharpe novels, and any reader who enjoyed these titles would be recommended to read this novel. I really enjoyed this book and feel that it has the potential for a series as hoped by the author.
I wondered initially if I would find it awkward to read because I know who the author is. Actually, I stopped reading it in his voice a few pages in (well, after the 'lecturey' bit on Old English (OE) pronunciation finished), which is to me the mark of a good author!
I thought the plot was fast-paced, and flowed excellently - and I also think it was remarkably polished seeing as this is essentially self-published. I enjoyed all the gruesome fight scenes, and I'm pretty glad I am not squeamish at all otherwise I'd have struggled, I think. I managed to get thoroughly engrossed in the book and as mentioned above this can be difficult when one knows the writer, so in my view definitely a top-notch writing style from Webb-Davies!
I agree with the reviewer who said that maps would've been handy. I think if the book were to be published in print, this would be vital, as a lack of orientation might dissuade some international readers who are unfamiliar with modern British geography - and therefore have little chance of mentally transposing the old Kingdom divisions onto it.
My only other wish was that there was more OE included. Webb-Davies goes to such trouble to introduce OE in the preamble, consequently I found it surprising that it was not more prevalent within the story itself. However on the flipside I suppose that too much OE might detract from the overall plot if those readers without an interest in the language were to try and follow it. I guess this really is a personal preference!
I am looking forward to more 'Redgar' books, and also hope that Webb-Davies might publish other historial novels set in the same era, but with lead characters from other Kingdoms and areas of as-was Britain.
Also, when is the 'Red Saxon' TV series going to premiere?
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I highly recommend it to anyone interested in adventure fiction in a historical setting.
This book manages to perfectly describe the gritty, coarse life that people would have lived in Saxon times. The constant threat of bandits and raiders, the inevitable loss of life in battle and the impact the loss of just one soul would have on a small community.
The book doesn't claim to give a historically accurate account of events, but the Old English pronunciation guide given as a preamble as well as the historical notes at the end manage to give it meaning beyond simple fiction.
This novel is set in the 7th century Dark Ages, and I enjoyed the detail relating to the time - having to spit out millstone while eating bread, wakening damp while sleeping in a wattle and daub hut on a wet night, wooden shields that splinter.
The ominous expectation of a violent death hangs over this novel like a mushroom cloud, for warriors and peasants alike. I didn't particularly enjoy the detailed depictions of combat (I am a bit of a wuss), but I suspect the chaotic murder and mutilation depicted is unfortunately realistic.
If you like historically accurate swashbuckling adventures, you'll like this.
I hope the author wouldn't be offended by a favourable comparison with Bernard Cornwell. This first novel has a captivating plot, and gripping, cinematic fight scenes. I hope I'll get to spend more time in the company of Redgar and his men!
No shortage of action here. Greater than gruesome fight descriptions, certainly I'm liking all the gore. Good straight forward story with plenty of macho dressing on top. Read it to see how a hero develops and how the arch-rival does proper nasty better than any. Nice mix of conflict and camaraderie with the struggle to gain leadership. Fast enough to read and not too long. Da iawn. I like historical fantasy, and this is right up my street. Like the fact that there's scope for a sequel. Now I'm off to sharpen my axes, and throw a gare.
What an excellent story.Not usually my era of choice but this was a warm welcome.Characters were fantastic and storyline was great.I found it hard to put down and had it read within two days.The plot was well thought out ,some swashbuckling violence e and a little tenderness running side by side.I am now officially a Redgar fan.Enjoy