Review: A Time for Swords by Matthew Harffy

I'm thrilled to share my review of A Time for Swords by acclaimed historical fiction author, Matthew Harffy. My thanks goes to his publisher, Aries / Head of Zeus, for an ARC.

A Time for Swords is not the first novel I read by this author, and it definitely won't be the last. I read Wolf of Wessex, which is brilliant, and I'm slowly catching up with the Bernicia Chronicles series. 

A Time for Swords is a gripping historical adventure set at the end of what used to be called the Dark Ages – a term describing the post-Roman centuries across the British Isles before the Middle Ages arrived. In fact, you could call the period early medieval, which I think fits much better with the plot. 

The Vikings arrive on the north-eastern shores of England, amidst much destruction, pillage, rape, and killing. When they attack the holy island of Lindisfarne, with its established – and rich – monastery, young novice monk Hunlaf's life is thrown into turmoil. As he watches his brethren and inhabitants of his town die, the attack triggers something in him that has not much to do with the word of God, but more with realising his chance for survival is not meekly praying – but fighting. Killing is a sin, but surviving is a human instinct he can't go against.

Hunlaf is thrown together with an unlikely band of men keen to defend their shores from yet another attack. They anticipate it will arrive, but no one knows when. Hunlaf learns to fight, to wield a sword with deadly skill, and he discovers a new calling. His internal struggles make up for much of the story, though, adding a sense of realism.

Harffy's characters are always flawed, yet the learning curve he sets them, and the challenges they face, make them into the characters they need to be. In Hunlaf, the author has created another fascinating character whose coming-of-age years, after an era of relative peace, are influenced by vicious attacks.

Often grim in its description, A Time for Swords shows the merciless fury of the invaders. I like the way Harffy describes it. It adds a gritty realism that is often underplayed in historical fiction. Whilst computer games revel in gory details, historical fiction novels tend not to show the cruellest side of these kinds of attacks. But whilst there is much carnage, none of it is gratuitous, and the description sits well within the plot.

This is a great new series in the making, and I'm looking forward to more. But first, I must catch up on the adventures in Bernicia.

Another highly recommended read from Matthew Harffy!



When the Vikings attack, a novice monk's life is changed forever in Matthew Harffy's new historical adventure.

Lindisfarne, AD793.

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.

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About the author:

Matthew Harffy grew up in Northumberland where the rugged terrain, ruined castles and rocky coastline had a huge impact on him. 

He now lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife and their two daughters. 

Follow Matthew:

Twitter: @MatthewHarffy



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