It’s my turn on the blog tour for A Time for Swords by Matthew Harffy! My thanks to Jade Gwilliam at publisher Head of Zeus for my copy of this ebook. A Time for Swords is the latest historical thriller from Matthew Harffy and is set in North East England at the end of the 8th Century. It’s a compelling thriller with a beginning which instantly draws in the reader. There is a good mixture of action and character and plot development. The story, whilst ficticious feels very well researched and like an accurate depiction of the time. Multilayered and with a variety of enjoyable aspects. It’s out now in ebook and available to pre-order in hardback and paperback.
My Thoughts on A Time for Swords
I don’t read a lot of historial thrillers but I enjoyed Pharoah by Wilbur Smith so thought I’d try A Time for Swords. What swung it for me was the novel’s location in north east England where I’ve lived for several years. Also, I knew there’d be vikings (I love the tv series) so that was a big draw too!
The book opens with monk Hunlaf deciding to transcribe the story of his life rather than the religious text he was supposed to. The story draws the reader in quite quickly and maintains their attention. Hunlaf describes how he set off to Lindisfarne with Brother Leofstan (the monk equivalent of his line manager).
On arrival the first thing they see is a forbidden text in a beautiful bejewelled cover. The story progresses well and the Norsemen arrive to plunder and pillage. Hunlaf finds himself in a quandry does he run and hide or stay and fight? As a religious man, violence does not come to him naturally and he has a humble, simple past. The title is reference to the biblical passage about there being a season for everything (Ecclesiastes); this being a time of swords, so obviously Hunlaf chooses to fight.
He has a band of brothers in arms and I enjoy both the development of Hunlaf’s character and learning more about the others. There is a good balance of action packed scenes and the more philosophical internal struggle which Hunlaf experiences. The battle scenes are quite graphic, but nothing worse than I’d watch on TV. They are very well written! There is a lot going on in battle and to capture that successfully without confusing the reader is quite a skill. I can empathise with Hunlaf’s feelings regarding God’s plan in reference to the attack by the Norsemen. Also him being out of his depth or unqualified to engage in battle; I too have felt a touch of imposter syndrome. I have a little less patience for the extent (or duration) of Hunlaf’s personal crisis; but that probably says more about me than it does the book!
Harffy creates a fantastic sense of place. I’ve lived in the north east of England and enjoy reading about places I recognise. I can accurately picture in my mind’s eye Hunlaf and Leofstan make the crossing to Lindisfarne; a journey I’ve made myself.
This is an enjoyable read with great story and character development. It took a little while to familiarise myself with the old names for familiar places. Helpfully though there is a glossary and map at the start to refer back to. The novel works well as a stand-alone, but I believe it’s actually the start of a new series. I’m intrigued to know more about Hunlaf’s life and of some of the other characters so I will keep an eye out for the next installment.
Do visit the other stops on this blog tour for more reviews and insights, see the poster below for dates and blog names.
Cover Blurb for A Time for Swords
There had been portents – famine, whirlwinds, lightning from clear skies, serpents seen flying through the air. But when the raiders came, no one was prepared.
They came from the North, their dragon-prowed longships gliding out of the dawn mist as they descended on the kingdom’s most sacred site.
It is 8th June AD793, and with the pillage of the monastery on Lindisfarne, the Viking Age has begun.
While his fellow monks flee before the Norse onslaught, one young novice stands his ground. He has been taught to turn the other cheek, but faced with the slaughter of his brothers and the pagan desecration of his church, forgiveness is impossible.
Hunlaf soon learns that there is a time for faith and prayer . . . and there is a time for swords.