The Serpent Sword – Review

Author – Matthew Harffy
Pages – 346

A really fast paced and immersive historical fiction that throws you into the shield wall and doesn’t let you go!

The Serpent Sword was such a fast paced, thrilling read, that I listened to on audiobook.

Our main character is Beobrand, who is easy to love and root for, and his coming of age story is a fast tracked one which helps us get to the action faster.

Matthew Harffy brings edge of your seat action and an eye for historical detail, expertly capturing the atmosphere and setting. I liked the fact at the end of the book, Harffy explains his thought processes behind many of the historical references, where creative liberties were taken etc. and it really puts into perspective how much work went into making the book as true to the time period as possible whilst maintaining the excitement and action that makes Beobrand’s tale particularly engaging.

There isn’t a reliance on adrenaline alone to propel the story though and I really liked Beobrand’s honest internal strife and the inner turmoil he goes through, weighing up the man he wants to be and questioning his own ethics.

This links into what is probably the heart of the book, which is revenge. It’s tricky to make a reader care enough to share the character’s passion for vengeance and this is another aspect that makes this such a page turner in that you do share these feelings and each encounter has you willing Beobrand on. There are some despicable characters, and there are those that commit despicable acts that are otherwise portrayed as good people. It serves as a good reminder that when taken out of ‘normal’ stress free circumstances, there is a primal, animalistic nature within some humans – yet this should not serve as an excuse for heinous actions.

There is one scene in which Beobrand has to weigh up whether to seek justice against one such character, and it is satisfying to see justice served and actions having consequences rather than our protagonist taking the easy route. Beobrand is definitely in the Goldilocks zone in terms of not being too cold or barbaric to relate to, whilst also being real enough not to develop into a shining hero of chivalry – he can be brutal and there is a level of fear he invokes in other men at times, but there are moments we see his softer side. This is a theme that runs through the book and is done very well; characters are human, with flaws, layers to their personalities, loyalties and betrayals, grabs for power and acts of both kindness and evil when you might not expect them.

The Serpent Sword is a real page turner, full of entertainment, brutality, emotive moments and well researched history. If you like historical fiction and a good dose of action, I’m confident you’ll love this.


Certain that his brother’s death is murder, young farmhand Beobrand embarks on a quest for revenge in war-torn Northumbria. When he witnesses barbaric acts at the hands of warriors he considers his friends, Beobrand questions his chosen path and vows to bring the men to justice.

Relentless in pursuit of his enemies, Beobrand faces challenges that change him irrevocably. Just as a great sword is forged by beating together rods of iron, so his adversities transform him from a farm boy to a man who stands strong in the clamour and gore of the shieldwall.

As he closes in on his kin’s slayer and the bodies begin to pile up, can Beobrand mete out the vengeance he craves without sacrificing his own honour … or even his soul?

The Serpent Sword is the first novel of the Bernicia Chronicles.


3 thoughts on “The Serpent Sword – Review

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