Kristian, Giles - 'Raven Blood Eye'
This debut novel by Giles Kristian is every bit as good as the glowing reviews on its back cover. It is well written, well researched and well developed. The plot is gripping and contains such vivid descriptions of the battles that you can almost hear and smell the warriors as they clash swords with the enemy and cut them down ruthlessly. It is also a fairly fast read, but simply because it is so good that you can't put it down.
Osric (or Raven as he is later called) has been living with a small English community for the last two years. He is still very much an outsider and has no memory of his life before. One of eyes is dark red, due to a large blood clot within it. This is a continual source of suspicion and hatred - first amongst the god-fearing villagers and then with the other people he meets as the story unfolds.
After a chance meeting with a Norse war party while he is fishing for his master's breakfast, Osric discovers that his life is about to change forever. His adopted village is completely destroyed by the Norsemen and Osric is captured by them. The warriors take him to their longboats and set sail for home but bad weather hampers their journey and they are forced to land in England. They are surrounded and ambushed when they attempt to trade with locals but the head of the village promises them riches beyond compare if they will help him steal a valuable religious book. This they agree to do and set out for more adventures and battles that take them from southern England, over the border and into Wales.
Some of the Norsemen accept Osric into their band and teach him to fight. They are convinced his eye is a sign that he is marked by the gods. Others in the group are more suspicious and see him as a source of bad luck. He is eventually betrayed by some of his new "friends" and ends up having to fight for his life.
RAVEN BLOOD EYE is the first book of, hopefully, many about this brave young man with the mysterious background. Kristian obviously has a great deal of knowledge about this period in history and his debut novel is definitely going to be a success. I for one have become rather fond of young Raven and will be eagerly watching out for book two.
Amanda C M Gillies, Scotland