Somewhere this year I came across a mention of Bloodline Rising by Katy Moran and was intrigued. Then I discovered it was a sequel to her first work Bloodline and so decided to start there. I was looking forward to this as it takes place in Anglo-Saxon Britain and is all about the complexities of warring chieftains and complex bonds between people.
Summary (from Goodreads):
Warring kingdoms, bloody feuds and a battle for survival...Step back into the Dark Ages with this riveting, epic adventure from a debut writer."Set in Dark Ages Britain", this is the powerful story of Essa, whose father Cai, a travelling bard and occasional spy, leaves him behind one night at a settlement of the Wolf Clan. Essa is a survivor and forges new allegiances and even love, but never stops wondering why his father never came back. The settlement is under threat from cruel Mercian bands across the forests, and Essa is caught up in a heart-stopping journey to avert disaster. A battle is inevitable, but Essa finds he can influence its outcome in a way nobody but his father would understand...
This story begins when Essa is nine years old and has just been abandoned by his father. I felt an immediate liking and sympathy for Essa that never abated as the story moved forward. He has a short temper, and sometimes makes ridiculously stupid decisions, but I liked him all the more for those weaknesses. He finds himself caught up in a war he wants no part of and at the center of a political struggle he was not prepared to face. No matter what choices he makes he is going to have to betray someone he likes. The complexities involved in all of his decisions made for a riveting story. The setting is wonderful and the time period depicted exactly right. The author did a good job conveying the harsh realities and the simple joys the people would have experienced. The tension in the story between the old ways and the new Christianity was also pitch perfect.
I only had one issue with the book, which other people might not find as annoying. There was a supernatural element in the story that detracted from my enjoyment. Essa is able to commune with animal spirits. He can calm them, send them where he wants them to go, and see what they see. I am all for fantastical elements in stories, but here I felt that it detracted from, rather than added to the plot. It seemed like a convenient way of turning events in Essa's favor and nothing more. It is a major part of the story and plays a rather large role in the outcome so I was annoyed a great deal. Otherwise, this would have been a good solid work of historical fiction.
I can see fans of Rosemary Sutcliff enjoying this, particularly if they can overlook the issue I had. It's not as good as her stuff but will do if you are looking for something similar.