Book Review – Kin of Cain by Matthew Harffy

Here’s the blurb;

“630 AD. Anglo-Saxon Britain. A gripping, action-packed historical novella set in the world of The Bernicia Chronicles. Perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell. 

Winter grips the land in its icy fist. Terror stalks the hills, moors and marshes of Bernicia. Livestock and men have been found ripped asunder, their bones gnawed, flesh gorged upon. People cower in their halls in fear of the monster that prowls the night.

King Edwin sends his champion, Bassus, with a band of trusted thegns, to hunt down the beast and to rid his people of this evil.

Bassus leads the warriors into the chill wastes of the northern winter, and they soon question whether they are the hunters or the prey. Death follows them as they head deeper into the ice-rimed marshes, and there is ever only one ending for the mission: a welter of blood that will sow the seeds of a tale that will echo down through the ages.”

I received a free E-Arc from Netgalley.

Kin of Cain is a short story written in the same ‘universe’ as the Bernicia Tales. However, it is set some time previous to the first novel (I think 2 or 3 years) and this, for me is a very good thing because (spoiler ahead) it means that grumpy Beobrand has not yet made an appearance and instead the story focuses on his brother and a few of the other main characters, most notably Bassus. As such, it is much lighter in tone than the Bernician Chronicles and a far easier read. The story flows very well and if I’m slightly perplexed about where the ‘marsh’ and the ‘cliff face’ is in North Northumberland, I’m sure that someone will let me know soon enough. I do have a thing about only visiting sandy beaches for my walks and this might be my own oversight. (I’ve now been told it’s Dunstanburgh not Bamburgh area and this makes a whole lot more sense as there are massive cliffs at Dunstanburgh populated by a whole flock of seabirds).

The ‘monster’ is well portrayed as is the solving of the mystery of where it is and what it is.

I hadn’t realised that the author was offering a possible retelling of a very famous Anglo-Saxon story until the very end when it was made abundantly clear, as I think the story works very well on its own.

I’m sure fans of the Bernicia Chronicles will enjoy the story. I certainly did, and I do hope that the author considers more side-stories that focus on the other characters of his ”universe’ as opposed to Beobrand (hint hint, pretty please).

Author: M J Porter, author

I'm a writer of historical fiction (Early England/Viking and the British Isles as a whole before 1066, as well as two 20th century mysteries).

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