Its been ages since I've read a Matthew Harffy book. His Bernicia Chronicles are excellent and hugely popular, so I was interested to see what he would come up with when given the chance to break away.
This book is, in short - superb! The world building is immersive, the forests of old Wessex seep out from the page, bringing with them the smell of rain on the leaves, the crunch of tinder underfoot. The devil is in the detail, as they say, and the details here spot on. Matthew has a skill of putting just enough in to get you hooked, and also knows when to leave it sparse to keep driving the plot forwards.
Dunston, our protagonist, is a warrior of old. Feared and respected by many, he had retired to the forest long ago, thinking of seeing his days out in peace. But, as with any good story, things don't quite go to plan for him. He is a wonderful character, there really is something endearing about the gruff old soldier, defying age and a run down body to better men half his age. My one quibble with him is that he is a bit clean cut, I thought he would come with a darker back story, to give him more of an edge. But having said that, I found I connected with him quickly and was rooting for him all the way.
Aedwen too is a great creation. A young girl trying to find her place in the world. Parents both dead, you can feel the conflict in her, the longing to have a place to call home.
Overall a terrific read. An immersive thriller with a plot as sharp as the axe on the cover. Loved it