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The Cross And the Curse

Matthew Harffy
Apparently this is the second book in this relatively new series by Matthew Harrfy but the story is self contained and not having read the first book does not detract from the content of this one. The story is set in the period of about 600 AD, at a time when Christianity was trying to replace the earlier religions, and the author cleverly mixes together the two beliefs with the focus of events taking place in what is to be the north of England.

The story opens with a Prologue taking place in AD 619 and involving a struggle between a Christian priest and a woman known as the local witch who speaks for the Gods already served. After some shows of strength the woman is cast out from the village while her son, Hengist who is also known as Frenzy, is allowed to stay.

The book then moves on to Beobrand, originally from the area now known as Kent, who presently serves Scand, his lord, in Northumbria. It is obvious that Beobrand is a warrior who has suffered previous injuries and is quite willing to fight for the things he holds dear, even to the point of being hotheaded at times. His advice helps King Oswald in a battle against the Waelisc at the Great Wall which had been built many hundreds of years ago. The results of his valour brings reward in the form of both land and riches, effectively making him a thegn of Bernicia (sort of lord of the manor) with an estate in a place called Ubbanford. With his new wife and those loyal to him he sets off and begins to gain the respect of those who already live there. Just one of the problems he encountered was that of the marauding Picts who lived just north of the Tuidi, a river effectively dividing north and south. This involved some fighting with arguments of revenge and vengeance by both him and Nathair the leader of the local Picts.

Beobrand and his men are some of those summoned by King Oswald to travel north to the island of Hii on the west coast as protection for a Christian priest. The priest has to convince the brothers of a monastery that a bishop must be chosen for the new monastery of Lindisfarena due to the death of the current abbot who was, until his demise, residing on the Northumbrian coast and overseeing the construction of the new complex. During the course of this and other journeys Beobrand suffers further trials and tribulations involving both the past and present together with clash of the ever present differences between the new religion and the old Gods. Once all this has been achieved the book effectively ends with the destruction of Nathair’s village but in such a way that there is to be at least a further book in this series.

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Perhaps the most difficult part with this book was the words the author had used to describe various places but this was assisted by a very short introduction to the place names used and also to the maps to be found inside the covers. The whole thing is loosely associated with certain aspects of the history of Great Britain though enhanced to make the story interesting and easy to read for those who like the fiction describing that era.

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