Review: Eagle of Mercia by MJ Porter

I'm delighted to share my review of Eagle of Mercia, the latest adventure in the gripping series about a young healer-turned-warrior in ancient Mercia, by MJ Porter.

Eagle of Mercia is currently on blog tour with Rachel's Random Resources. My thanks to Rachel and the publisher, Boldwood Books, for a copy of the novel.

Eagle of Mercia

The Eagle of Mercia Chronicles

MJ Porter

I'm a fan of this brilliant series, so I couldn't wait to read about Icel's latest adventures. A veritable anti-hero, Icel does not hanker after power or glory. He really wanted to be a healer, but fate had other plans for him. Now, Icel is a warrior in Ealdorman Ælfstan's retinue, in the service of King Wiglaf, and quite content with his lot.

Eagle of Mercia begins with an intriguing claim. When on a visit to the lands he inherited from his late uncle, he is followed by a Mercian-turned-East-Anglian, Godwulf. All Icel wanted to do is have a chance to speak to the Lady Ælflæd who has arrived to show her respects at his uncle's grave, but it's in vain. The lady ignores him. When Godwulf insists that Icel should be commander of the king's warriors, one of Ælflæd's men challenge him, and a fight ensues. Icel is reluctant to stop it, uncertain how to react as the new lord of the manor. This seemed a little weak to me, especially when Ælflæd then intervenes, stopping the men. Icel must still learn how to be the owner of his own hall.

When Godwulf follows him on to Tamworth, the capital of Mercia, others hear of the man's claims. As Icel knows nothing of his birthright, because no one would tell him, he feels uncomfortable with it all – until he firmly and publicly insists that he has no plans of becoming commander. But the man's words stay with him, and he's even more desperate now to know who his father was. Why on earth is no one telling him? 

When Ealdorman Ælfstan's men are tasked with crushing a Viking approach in the east, Icel is keen to be away from Tamworth and his thoughts. Yet a raid leads to disaster, and our young hero must think on his feet. But in its aftermath, Icel makes a discovery that may change everything.

Eagle of Mercia is another exciting adventure featuring young Icel. I always think of him as the anti-hero. He is not a mindless fighting machine, like so many around him. His real strength lies in healing, which he still practices when his co-warriors are injured. He is no longer ridiculed for his skill, but appreciated.

I found the beginning a little too slow as he mulls over Godwulf's words at great length. There are quite a few repetitions of his thoughts, which slow the pace of the early chapters. Some tension still exists, mainly because of Godwulf's stubborn, inexplicable insistence, and you do wonder about the man's real objectives, as does Icel. But our young hero also ponders a lot about the Lady Ælflæd, and there are sadly also quite a few cases of repetitions which the editor should have picked up on. I found myself skipping some paragraphs here and there, to get to the actual action. 

In my view, the plot of Eagle of Mercia is more about Icel's continuing internal conflict, at least in the first part of the novel, then turns to the renewed threat from the Vikings. The pace picks up rapidly then, and we are offered brilliant visual scenes of skirmishes, actions, and gripping plots the author so excels in. The research is, as always, impeccable, and throughout, the novel maintains a strong sense of place and time.

Icel is a thoroughly nice guy, keen to avoid conflict at his home and with his friends. He is not an aggressive character, but one who tries to think things through. His strength is saved for fighting when needed, and he is content with that. Part of him still misses being a healer, and we can sense a restlessness in him. But he's happy with his fate – for the moment.

There is a great twist near the end, which promises much intrigue for the next novel in the series. What will Icel do next? Can't wait to see!

Eagle of Mercia continues to reveal more of young Icel's exciting path, peppered with new discoveries, friendships, and losses. Well worth reading!


A mercy mission in the heart of Wessex is beset with deadly, bloody dangers.

Tamworth AD831

Icel's profile continues to rise. Lord of Budworth and warrior of Mercia, he's acknowledged by King Wiglaf and his comrades to keep Mercia safe from the ravages of Wessex, the king-slayer of the East Angles, and the Viking raiders.

But, danger looms. Alongside Spring's arrival comes the almost certain threat of the Viking raiders return.

When Lord Coenwulf of Kingsholm is apprehended by a Viking and held captive on the Isle of Sheppey in Wessex held Kent, Icel is implored by Lady Cynehild to rescue her husband.

To rescue Lord Coenwulf, Icel and his fellow warriors must risk themselves twice over, for not only must they overpower the Viking raiders, they must also counter the threat of Mercia’s ancient enemy, the kingdom of Wessex as they travel through their lands.

Far from home and threatened on all sides, have Icel and his fellow warriors sworn to carry out an impossible duty?

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About the Author:

MJ Porter

MJ Porter is the author of many historical novels set predominantly in Seventh to Eleventh-Century England, and in Viking Age Denmark. They were raised in the shadow of a building that they believed housed the bones of long-dead Kings of Mercia – so their writing destiny was set. 

The first novel in their new Anglo-Saxon series for Boldwood, Son of Mercia, was published in February 2022.

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