Musketry and Mayhem
The Bleeding Land is the first in a new trilogy from the author of the popular Viking saga Raven (Blood Eye; Sons of Thunder; Odin’s Wolves). The setting this time is 1642 England - a country on the brink of disaster. Growing parliamentarian forces are threatening to overthrow the King, and the novel’s two protagonists - brothers Edmund and Tom Rivers - find themselves on opposite sides of the battlefield, each with his own reasons for fighting and each willing to lay down his life for what he believes in. But can blood ties ever truly be severed? Which allegiance will prove the strongest?
From the very first page, I was immersed not only in 1642, but in the drama of the Rivers family. Though the novel is lush with factual descriptions and period detail, Kristian manages to distribute it in such a way that the characters and their situations are always the main focus. Readers are introduced to a range of weaponry, clothing and customs without any slowing of the action or resemblances to matter-of-fact, non-fiction history books.
Each sight and sound comes alive. Each grips you and pulls you into the action. At times, it’s hard to remember that you are not on a horse yourself, riding swiftly into battle. There are moments of elation, and moments of despair. Kristian not only captures these moments well, but releases them to the readers, who cannot help but share in the excitements and disappointments the characters are feeling.
As a writer, I also love to look beyond the storyline and discover the author’s style. I noticed whilst reading The Bleeding Land that Kristian uses a number of techniques to pack a solid punch at pivotal plot points - for one, a lot of alliteration. He also alters the rhythm and length of sentences depending on what’s happening, using shorter, punchier sentences after a few longer ones when the action is heightened, or when a character is affected in some profound way. Which can be quite effective. Crows, rooks and ravens often appear as ominous foreshadowing devices, and a few other allusions to the Raven trilogy might just be spotted by those who look closely enough…
Giles Kristian plunges readers back to a time in our nation’s history that is largely neglected in the world of historical fiction. After reading The Bleeding Land, I imagine that interest in the English Civil War will blossom from the literary seeds Kristian has planted.
Overall, The Bleeding Land’s first installment is a vivid, compelling tale with an epic span. Bring on book two!
[Review originally published in What The Dickens? magazine, Issue 4, June 2012; Page 70]