In this novel we meet Lord Coelwulf, Mercian Warlord, relentless killer, future king.
Mercia is overrun, the Northmen have come in their dreaded dragon ships and forced the king to flee. Four Jarl's now hold power, and there is only one man that stands in their way. Coelwulf and his warriors patrol the western borders, their main priority keeping the Welsh at bay. But now they must face a new threat, the Jarl's have sent three hundred men to bring Coelwulf down, and they must fight their way through Mercia to survive.
And by the gods do they fight - A LOT! This book is blood drenched, saturated in a mire of dead Northmen. Coelwulf and his small band of warriors take on every Warband that comes their way and through either cunning or sheer force they overcome the odds and by the end of the tale they are knocking at their enmy's door. It is not a story for the feint hearted. The Action is full on and the story is told from a soldier's perspective, with more than a fair share of foul language.
Each battle scene is well written, has its own unique aspect which differentiates from the one before. The story propels forwards at a relentless pace, not a chapter wasted. I did think at times it moved so quickly that I didn't have time to really get to know Coelwulf, his character is quite vague and we don't learn much about his backstory. On reflection the plot can read like a road map at times, Coelwulf has little in terms of options and his headstrong nature keeps him moving in one direction.
His band of warriors are well thought out, each bringing their own aspect and point of view to the story. The brotherhood they share feels real and when they clash in the shieldwall I could picture them vividly in my mind.
Overall an excellent read, entertaining and packed with action.