This review is in response to a serendipitous call by Millie Thom (my view) for reviews. Her book fulfilled both my wishes: to review another genre by a woman writer, and to review a non-traditional author. I therefore contacted Millie in the hopes of reviewing her work. Millie is known to me via our Learning To Surf Publishing blog on WordPress where she’s a regular contributor to the Monday Flash Fiction Challenge along with NVaughn7.
I was supplied a free e-copy of this book for review purposes, and this is my honest opinion of the novel.
Book Review: Shadow of the Raven
Author: Millie Thom
Series: Book One of Sons of Kings Trilogy
Once past Chapter One, this book truly held my attention. I found it well-paced, totally intriguing and easy to follow despite the difficult names of some of the characters. Millie Thom surprised me with her ability to take two such broad histories and meld them into one cohesive, well-structured story. I highly recommend this book to lovers of English and Norse histories and culture.
The Whole story:
The old British kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex have just joined forces to combat the growing summer raids by the Danes. Eadwulf, Prince of Mercia, is not yet twelve when his home is destroyed by treachery and violence. Captured and enslaved by Danish raiders, Eadwulf vows revenge on those responsible. At the same time, Alfred, youngest son of the king of Wessex at only five-years old, shows an understanding and piousness which are far more mature than his age. He too, fears the loss of his family as events take away both his mother and older sister from him. He is always at his father’s side, learning the politics and religious duties of Christian kingship. The story is set over a period of about seven years, shifting between Eadwulf’s life in Denmark and Alfred’s life in Wessex.
What elevates this story:
I really liked the way the two conflicting cultures and religions are portrayed. Well-researched, each scene is easy to imagine. Characterisation is good and constant. Violence is never dwelled upon or sensationalised. There’s no time to get bored as the story follows the action and politics of the time. I had intended to slowly read the story a chapter at a time, but found myself racing through to see what happened next.
What I personally really liked about this book:
I must admit to being a fan of Viking–the History Channel TV series. Having missed Series 3, this book really filled in that void. I loved being able to read more about Ragnar Lothbrok and his family, especially his son Bjorn–a central character. I also really enjoyed the themes of family bonds and duties which are explored. I admired Millie Thom’s ability to balance both the descriptive elements and action. Even more, I admired her ability to weave such an engaging book in a genre that is difficult to bring to life without resorting to popular myths and expectations.
What could have been better:
Chapter One was difficult for me to get through. While it sets the scene and the period, I found it really slow. For me, Chapter One is not a true reflection of the rest of the book. I’d liken it to pastels or the muddy colours of an old painting. By Chapter Five, the true colours of this book are revealed to be vibrant jeweled tones. Then again, that’s when the story moves on to Denmark and engaged my real interest:-D
So what did I learn from this whole experience?
I learnt a lot about the Danish viking history, culture, everyday life and food. It was interesting to read what Vikings had for desert! I learnt more about Bjorn Lothbrok and his family. I learnt more about the Mercian Kings and about pilgrimages to Rome. I learned that Ireland wasn’t the only place for slave-trading in the North. I learnt more about how your true identity and personality will always be your constant companions.
Recommended to: Fans of Vikings (TV Series), lovers of Mary Stewart’s Merlin series, readers who prefer well-researched, unbiased views of historical events and personages in their stories.
Millie’s second book in the Sons of Kings Trilogy is Pit of Vipers, now available at Amazon. She is currently working on the third book in the series.
So this marks the end of my focus on women writers and the reviewing of their works for now. I hope you’ve enjoyed discovering or rediscovering these books, and that you’ve found my reviews entertaining and useful. In future, I shall only review one book every month to six weeks or so.