Here’s the blurb:
AD 652. Beobrand has been ordered to lead a group of pilgrims to the holy city of Rome. Chief among them is Wilfrid, a novice of the church with some surprisingly important connections. Taking only Cynan and some of his best men, Beobrand hopes to make the journey through Frankia quickly and return to Northumbria without delay, though the road is long and perilous.
But where Beobrand treads, menace is never far behind. The lands of the Merovingian kings are rife with intrigue. The queen of Frankia is unpopular and her ambitious schemes, though benevolent, have made her powerful enemies. Soon Wilfrid, and Beobrand, are caught up in sinister plots against the royal house.
After interrupting a brutal ambush in a forest, Beobrand and his trusted gesithas find their lives on the line. Dark forces will stop at nothing to seize control of the Frankish throne, and Beobrand is thrown into a deadly race for survival through foreign lands where he cannot be sure who is friend and who is foe.
The only certainty is that if he is to save his men, thwart the plots, and unmask his enemies, blood will flow.
Forest of Foes by Matthew Harffy is the 9th book in the Bernicia Chronicles. I’ve read nearly all of the books to date, but I know I’ve missed one or two out, and in this book, there are a few scenes where that comes home to roost – but not enough that I didn’t get a general idea and neither did it distract from the rest of the story.
Forest of Foes starts with a really exciting fight scene, in which Beobrand and Cynan are thrust into the heart of a skirmish. This very much sets the scene for the rest of the book, with a great deal of added political intrigue until our hero finally manages to exact revenge at the end of the book.
This book takes our characters to Merovingian France, and as readers of the series will know this isn’t Beobrand’s first trip there. As such, we meet new and old characters as Beobrand endeavours to fulfil his promise to Queen Eanflæd that he’ll get the monks Wilfrid and Baducing to Roma. Sadly, Beobrand hasn’t quite factored in the weather or the strong will of Wilfrid, or indeed the conniving members of the nobility in Merovingian France, or indeed, the queen, Bathilde.
Forest of Foes is an entertaining addition to the Bernicia Chronicles. I enjoyed the split narrative between Beobrand and Cynan, although it is a little unevenly done. There are also occasions where Wilfrid is our narrator, perhaps pointing to future developments for this character, who, historically, is a bit of a wildfire. Time will tell. The beginning of the book is particularly exciting, and the ending is satisfying. I enjoyed my trip to Merovingian France. The characters there are well drawn, and the peril to Beobrand is genuine and resolved particularly well.
I’m intrigued to see just how much trouble Beobrand and Cynan can get into as they finally resume their journey towards Roma, which I think they probably need to do quite quickly because there are forewarnings of trouble back home. We all know (I hope) that war is coming.
Meet the author
Matthew Harffy lived in Northumberland as a child and the area had a great impact on him. The rugged terrain, ruined castles and rocky coastline made it easy to imagine the past. Decades later, a documentary about Northumbria’s Golden Age sowed the kernel of an idea for a series of historical fiction novels. The first of them is the action-packed tale of vengeance and coming of age, THE SERPENT SWORD.
Matthew has worked in the IT industry, where he spent all day writing and editing, just not the words that most interested him. Prior to that he worked in Spain as an English teacher and translator. Matthew lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife and their two daughters.
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