Review: Pagan Warrior by MJ Porter

Today, I'm thrilled to share my review for Pagan Warrior, book 1 in The Seventh Century series, by bestselling historical fiction author, MJ Porter. Prepare for a decisive battle in this gripping tale about Penda of Mercia!

Pagan Warrior is currently on blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club. Find all the other stops with fascinating posts about the book here.

Pagan Warrior

The Seventh Century

MJ Porter

Pagan Warrior is the first book in MJ Porter's The Seventh Century series that I've read, and it is a riveting start to the series. Although the series focuses on Penda, a mighty warrior king from Mercia, the chapters are divided into different points of view by a range of major characters who all played their role in either supporting self-proclaimed King Edwin of Northumbria – or plotting against him.

Apart from Penda, we have the voice of Edwin himself. A ruthless warrior, he killed the rightful king and usurped the throne. Seeing plots against his life everywhere, he's keen to forge alliances, by negotiation or by force. He sets his sights on the lands of Bernicia, the Picts, and even Dal Riata. But conquest sounds easier than it is. 

We also hear from Edwin's sons by his first, Pagan, wife, who both hate their father and his new, Christian, wife. They fear Edwin wants to leave his kingdom to a son by his second wife. So they're seeking alliances with his enemies.

Penda and his brother, Eowa, forge their own alliances, with the Welsh kings, and Edwin's half-brother, Cadwallon, whom he defeated in battle. Cadwallon has his own ambitions, but first and foremost he's seeking revenge.

There are other players we hear of, leaders of minor kingdoms, and their support for Cadwallon and Penda just tips the scales against Edwin.

The ultimate fate of all is the famous battle of Hædfeld. 

Pagan Warrior is not only a story about political plots, personal ambitions, greed, and revenge – it also shows a battle of the Gods. With Christianity spreading, and more and more rulers joining the new religion of the one true God, the Pagan rulers are fighting for the continuity of the old ways, the old Gods. 

MJ Porter portrays this struggle for power – and for souls – incredibly well. In the unique way the author tells this story, from varying points of view clearly marked in each chapter, we learn the different aspects we'd usually only read about through a third party. As in the brilliant King of Kings (find my review here), we discover plots, fears, and ambitions from each major player's 1st person point of view. Through that, we learn that not all is as it seems to the outside world.

The only issue with these varying points of view is that we often hear the same information repeatedly. It is unavoidable in a context such as this, and it does slow down the pace at times. 

Pagan Warrior is a rough novel. It contains much swearing, and is far earthier than King of Kings. Men's ambitions are laid bare on a more base level, and with it their hatred of each other, culminating in that bloody battle at Hædfeld. 

MJ Porter has deftly spun a fascinating tale of political intrigues and personal vendettas. None of the characters are likeable, but they are true to their times, and the author cleverly plays them off against each other. Set against the uncertainties of that century, the changing environment both politically and spiritually, Pagan Warrior is a gripping novel that takes you back to the end of the Dark Ages. 

I'm looking forward to reading more books in the series...

Another highly recommended read by MJ Porter!



From bestselling author, MJ Porter comes the tale of the mighty pagan king, Penda of Mercia.

Britain. AD632.

Penda, a warrior of immense renown, has much to prove if he is to rule the Mercian kingdom of his dead father and prevent the neighbouring king of Northumbria from claiming it.

Unexpectedly allying with the British kings, Penda races to battle the alliance of the Northumbrian king, unsure if his brother stands with him or against him as they seek battle glory for themselves, and the right to rule gained through bloody conquest.

There will be a victor and a bloody loser, and a king will rise from the ashes of the great and terrible battle of Hædfeld.

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About the Author

M J Porter

MJ Porter is the author of many historical novels set predominantly in Seventh to Eleventh-Century England, as well as three twentieth-century mysteries. Raised in the shadow of a building that was believed to house the bones of long-dead Kings of Mercia, meant that the author’s writing destiny was set.

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