Matthew Harffy The Serpent Sword (Bernicia Chronicles Book 1) Review


Matthew Harffy is currently writing a series of novels set in seventh century Northumbria. The first book isThe Serpent Sword. The sequel is The Cross and The Curse.

In his day job he is a manager of fifteen technical writers, so spends all day writing and editing, just not the words he’s most interested in! Prior to that he worked in Spain as an English teacher and translator. He has co-authored seven published academic articles, ranging in topic from the ecological impact of mining to the construction of a marble pipe organ.

Matthew is outnumbered at home by his wife and their two daughters.

When not writing, or spending time with his family, Matthew sings in a band called Rock Dog.

The Serpent Sword (Bernicia Chronicles Book 1)

Author Web site



Certain that his brother’s death is murder, young farmhand Beobrand embarks on a quest for revenge in war-torn Northumbria. When he witnesses barbaric acts at the hands of warriors he considers his friends, Beobrand questions his chosen path and vows to bring the men to justice.

Relentless in pursuit of his enemies, Beobrand faces challenges that change him irrevocably. Just as a great sword is forged by beating together rods of iron, so his adversities transform him from a farm boy to a man who stands strong in the clamour and gore of the shieldwall.

As he closes in on his kin’s slayer and the bodies begin to pile up, can Beobrand mete out the vengeance he craves without sacrificing his own honour … or even his soul?

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Once again its been one of those occasions where i feel privileged to be asked to read and review a book by a debut author, anytime someone trusts you with something which has been their passion and that has consumed hours, days weeks and months of their life is something you should and i do cherish. At the same time it does not earn you a free pass to a good review.

What does earn you praise is something new, something set in a period where many others have not gone before, when you can couple together plot, great characters, scene setting and action packed fight scenes. This is just what you get with Serpent Sword.

Beobrand is a well thought out totally rounded character, the author builds his personality slowly and carefully and provides lots of depth and emotion to really tie the reader to his fate. He then couples this with something many authors fail at, which is bringing the supporting cast to life, spending as much time bringing to life the characters who are destined to die. Its this level of commitment to characters that pays off with a powerful rich story that sucks you in and drives you to turn the next page and the next until you suddenly notice its 2am.

The antagonist in the plot Hengist is the perfect foil for our protagonist Beobrand, someone who impacts multiple aspects of his life, someone truly nasty that the reader can dislike and wish to see destroyed. The author plays out that inevitable conclusion with care and precision, taking you to the edge and back more than once, until you are champing at the bit to see him gutted on the end of Beobrand’s sword.

The time period being Dark Ages allows the author a large amount of scope to round his plot using history as a guide and not a restriction. As someone who reads a lot of Roman fiction its fun seeing the Romans viewed as giants of the past, people of myth almost. with an incredulity towards the structures they left behind. At the same time there is a rich culture of sights sounds smells and society that the author draws you into and makes you a part of.

this is an excellent debut… and i can promise an better follow up (I’ve been fortunate enough to see that also) so add this to the list of an excellent new voice who will be a fast riser.







Filed under Matthew Harffy

6 responses to “Matthew Harffy The Serpent Sword (Bernicia Chronicles Book 1) Review

  1. You sold me on this one, Parm. I’m eager to read it!

  2. Aniruddha

    Dear Parmenion,
    For quite some time, I have been relying on your reviews to find authors I haven’t read before. I am about eighty pages into “The Serpent Sword.” I must say it has been a revelation. I don’t mean to imply that self-published authors are necessarily inferior – S.J.A. Turney, for example, stands as a glaring refutation of that idiocy; but with such luminaries as Angus Donald and M.C. Scott being so appreciative of the book, I would have thought any major publisher of historical fiction would have jumped at the chance to publish it. Of course, this could be quite naive on my part – I know nothing about the publishing industry. In any case, I wanted to thank you for the stellar service you’ve done me over the years.

    Take care,


    • Hi Aniruddha,

      Thanks for your kind words about THE SERPENT SWORD. I hope you enjoy the rest of it as much, or more, than the first eighty pages!

      I have to say that the glimpse I’ve had into the publishing industry has been an eye-opener. I was naive too! Let’s just say, it is not easy to get a publishing deal, even with a great agent.

      Anyway, onwards and upwards. I’m really happy that you are enjoying the book. When you finish it, please take a moment to leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. It makes all the difference to get truthful, honest reviews from readers.

      All the best,


    • Really do appreciate the very kind words, thank you.

  3. Pingback: Matthew Harffy: Cross and the Curse (Review) | parmenionbooks

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