I’ll be honest from the start and say this was sent to me for free – an “Advance Review Copy” as it’s called in the business. I have enjoyed Matthew’s writing since his first book and been hugely impressed (and inspired) by his writing career so far. So, when he asked if I wanted to take a look at Wolf of Wessex I agreed. I don’t normally read books by other authors, simply because I don’t have time and I’m always a bit wary in case I don’t like it! You see, if I think something is rubbish, I might not come out and say so because I want to SUPPORT people, not put them down. However, if I thought a book wasn’t good I would simply not review it.
The fact I AM reviewing Wolf of Wessex should be an indicator of its quality right off the bat.
So, what have we got then? Well, a dark age adventure that sees a man helping a young girl? Hmm, that sounds familiar…The similarities to my own The Druid end there though, particularly as Wolf of Wessex only really has a cast of those two characters. There are others supporting the action of course, but we only ever see the story from the point-of-view of either Dunston, our grizzled warrior, or Aedwen, the child fallen on tough times. Some might see this as a flaw – if you like epic tales filled with dozens of characters, then this may seem a bit linear. Me? I thought it worked perfectly and I was so invested in what happened to these two, living in their own little bubble almost, that I didn’t want to stop reading until I got to the end.
The near non-stop action helped too. The book starts with a bang and pretty much continues in the same vein until the final page. Now, that’s not to say it’s a constant stream of fighting and chase scenes, there are enough moments of introspection and “catching one’s breath” to keep the pacing just right. I don’t know about you, but I get drained when a story just goes from one action scene to the next, so I think the author did well to avoid that here, especially with only two characters to follow.
There are a few sections where someone turns up at the very last moment to save the day, which, if I’m being critical, might not be very realistic. But if you take this novel as almost an action movie, meant to provide some top-class entertainment and escapism for a while, this kind of thing is forgivable.
I think this works very well as a standalone novel, but it looks like it might be the start of a new series. As I say, the characters are strong enough, and interesting enough, to continue with, but Dunston is an old man here, so I’m wondering where things will go next (BTW, he reminds me a LOT of a certain other elderly warrior who fights with a battle axe, and I had to smile when he called someone “lassie”).
Overall, this is a genuinely superb novel if you are looking for a fast-paced adventure that goes from point A to point B without a lot of messing about and wordy descriptions of places and people that really don’t matter. That’s not to say the characters don’t develop – they do, particularly the girl, and the ending is satisfying for both our heroes.
I highly recommend Wolf of Wessex to all fans of ancient/ early-medieval/ Viking fiction, you will love it I’m sure. You’ve probably seen endorsements for historical fiction books that say things like, “As good as Bernard Cornwell” – well, that’s not really the case here. Wolf of Wessex is better than the recent Uhtred outings, and I think Harffy has a real winner on his hands.
BUY it here – getbook.at/WolfOfWessex
Just to add – I wrote this review months ago. Matthew tells me he changed some of it in line with some of the comments from myself and others so…it should be even better now!