Book: Shadow of the Raven (Sons of Kings Book 1) by Millie Thomcategories: Book, Vikings, Alfred the Great, Anglo Saxons, Adventure, Viking Raids, Historical Fiction
Millie Thomabout this book: Shadow of the Raven is an historical adventure tale, the first of a trilogy entitled, Sons of Kings. Set in the mid-ninth century, Book 1 takes us from the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms to the lands of the Danes and Charles the Bald's kingdom of West Francia. It is a tale of the earlier Viking raids and the threat they posed to the kingdoms of Western Europe. The title of the book stems from this threat, since ravens were the symbol of mighty Odin, the highest of the Norse gods.
The main protagonists are Alfred of Wessex (later known as Alfred the Great) and the fictional Eadwulf of Mercia. Both destined to become great leaders of their people, Book 1 focuses on their early lives and their rocky road to manhood, set against the escalating threat of Viking raids. The two boys' lives follow vastly different routes - Alfred at the successive courts of his father and elder brothers and Eadwulf as a thrall at the hands of the Danes. Since Alfred is a very young child for much of the book, the story focuses most on the misfortunes and exploits of Eadwulf, son of King Beorhtwulf of Mercia. Yet both boys very soon learn the same lesson - that treachery can come from sources very close to home.
I was initially inspired to write this story in the 1970's, when I lived in Wantage (then in the county of Berkshire, now in Oxfordshire). Wantage is known as 'Alfred's Town' - the place of his birth. The statue of him in the little market place intrigued me and I've been interested in his life and fight against the Danes ever since.
Due to spending many years teaching, in addition to bringing up six children, the first book did not start to take shape until I retired five years ago. Books 1 and 2 are now on Amazon and I am currently writing Book 3. I spent several weeks in Denmark doing research at various historical sites and museums and attending wonderful 'Viking Moots' for this book, in addition to visiting numerous sites and museums in England. Naturally, I also have a number of excellent texts on the period, two of them purchased in Denmark.
Perhaps the most interesting thing I learned whilst writing the book was just how far afield the 'Vikings' travelled and how incredibly successful they were. Their seamanship was to be envied, as was their navigational skills. What we hear about their totally savage nature is to be taken with a pinch of salt. They were undoubtedly feared as raiders but much of that was in keeping with the violence of the times. The Amglo Saxons had been little different in their behaviour during their years of conquering Britain - as tales of King Arthur well illustrate.
I believe my book will appeal to people who enjoy an adventure story set in the past, with plenty of action and Viking daring. It is labelled as adult but would equally suit young adult readers. The underlying theme is of betrayal - and the overwhelming desire for revenge. But friendship and love also play their part, as, indeed, they have done in everyday life throughout time.
Shadow of the Raven will also appeal to those interested in the early life of Alfred the Great. Most works of fiction tend to focus on Alfred's years as king, whereas I have chosen to start my story earlier. Books 2 and 3 have been devoted to his later life and achievements, as well as Eadwuif's continued exploits in his quest for revenge.
Perhaps the hardest thing about writing Book 1 was organising my life to fit in with the hours necessary to devote to writing. I had the bulk of my research done before I started, but I needed self-discipline to actually sit down and really work out the plot. Oddly enough, my initial idea was to write the story as a fantasy, so I wasted valuable time on a dalliance with that! I soon realised that the life of Alfred the Great simply did not lend itself to fantasy. Besides, the sections relating to Norse mythology and pagan practices satisfied my liking for things 'a little unnatural'.
The cover for Book 1 is a new one. Until I had the cover made for Book 2, Pit of Vipers, it was completely different - and, in my opinion, not very impressive. When I saw the cover a different illustrator had created for me for Book 2, I realised that all three books should display covers of a similar style. For Book 1, of course, a raven had to be a key feature. But so did Eadwulf - who did not feature on the original cover. All rectified now, I think!
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