Category Archives: Matthew Harffy

Matthew Harffy: Kin of Cain (Guest Blog & review)

Matthew Harffy

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Matthew Harffy lived in Northumberland as a child and the area had a great impact on him. The rugged terrain, ruined castles and rocky coastline made it easy to imagine the past. Decades later, a documentary about Northumbria’s Golden Age sowed the kernel of an idea for a series of historical fiction novels. The first of them is the action-packed tale of vengeance and coming of age, THE SERPENT SWORD. The sequel is THE CROSS AND THE CURSE.

Matthew has worked in the IT industry, where he spent all day writing and editing, just not the words that most interested him. 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.

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book cover of Kin of Cain

Parmenion Books

Guest blog post

The inspiration behind the Bernicia Chronicles

 

Writers and other creative types are often asked what inspired them to create their work. In the case of my Bernicia Chronicles series of books, it’s a very difficult question to answer succinctly. I suppose sometimes a single moment in an artist’s life inspires them to paint a specific picture, or to put pen to paper, but more often than not, I would imagine that it is an accumulation of many influences that leads to somebody creating something new.

This is particularly true of the first of my novels, The Serpent Sword. I had never written anything longer than a short story or an essay at school before, so I had no real idea of how to go about writing a full-length novel. I didn’t even know how long a novel was supposed to be! When I came to the writing, I pulled on everything I had ever experienced, every movie I’d enjoyed, every book that had enthralled me, even all the great music I had listened to. I am sure that even things like video games and artwork have influenced me and provided inspiration for certain scenes or characters.

I am a firm believer that the best way to approach any new endeavour is to emulate those who have gone before and have been successful. I have heard the great author, Bernard Cornwell, tell the story of how he took his favourite Hornblower novel and then analysed its structure to create the plot for his first novel, Sharpe’s Eagle. For The Serpent Sword, I didn’t dissect any books I had liked in order to come up with the structure, but there are definitely well-loved characters and scenes that I recognise from other sources. Much of this was done subconsciously, and I didn’t even realise it at the time of writing. Some of the inspiration and influences for parts of the novel have only become clear to me years after completing the writing. There are even clearly autobiographical sections that I didn’t spot until quite recently.

A few weeks ago, I listened to the audio book of David Gemmell’s great debut novel, Legend. I first read Legend when it was published in the 80s. I was a fantasy-loving teenager and I just lapped it up. I enjoyed it just as much on this recent listen, but what surprised me were the number of sections where I thought to myself, “Wow! That’s just like a scene from The Serpent Sword!” Clearly Gemmell’s novel had soaked so deeply into my psyche that I was not even aware of how it had inspired parts of my writing.

There are some parts of my writing where I have knowingly used something I have read, seen or heard as inspiration. I love westerns and the whole section in The Serpent Sword where Beobrand and some other warriors chase miscreants across the wilderness of Northumbria is an homage of sorts to the western genre, in particular to a section of one of my all-time favourite novels, Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry.

I’m not going to give away all of the nods and mentions of other books and popular culture in the series, but if you look carefully you might well find quotes or references to science fiction movies and rock songs, along with more homages to famous westerns.

Of course, another massive inspiration for the books is the land of Northumbria itself. As a child I lived in a small village call Norham on the banks of the Tweed, which you may well recognise if you’ve read the series. I love the north-east coast of England. The cliffs, castles and islands dotting the slate-grey North Sea, all serve to make the past spring to life. It is easy to imagine the men and women of 1,400 years ago on those same windswept bluffs with the guillemots and gannets wheeling and diving into the sea. They too would have seen the heads of seals bobbing in the waves in the mouth of the river Tweed. The chill spray from the breaking waves would have felt the same to our forebears as to us. I find nature a great inspiration and a wonderful way to get close to the characters from my books. In fact, I think the weather and nature almost become another character in my writing.

Finally, another strong inspiration for me came from all those hours playing good old fashioned role playing games, like Dungeons and Dragons. You know, the ones with all the weird shaped dice? I loved creating epic stories with friends. Tales of heroes facing unimaginable odds against terrible foes. Unlike in my books, which are firmly grounded in historical fact, in the games I played there were monsters and magic. But even as a teenager I knew it was very important to maintain a consistent and believable reality within the story. And real jeopardy. Many kids at school would never allow beloved characters to get killed. In my games, if the dice didn’t go your way, or you made a rash decision, you were dead.

In my writing, I like to think I bring that same element of epic adventure and heroism that can be found in role playing games, but also the true sense of danger I found so appealing. Just because a character is well-loved, does not mean he or she will live forever. Sometimes their very death can be a tale of greatness.

Everything and anything acts as inspiration for my writing. Some of it knowingly, much of it unwitting. I plan my novels around a loose structure and synopsis, but the details of each scene and chapter are always undecided until I sit down to write. Then I just try to picture the scene in my mind and write as fast as I can. Where the ideas come from, well, we can call that an accumulation of life experience coupled with a vivid imagination.

But surely it is more poetic to call it that most elusive of things at a writer’s disposal — the muse.

 

Author info:

Matthew Harffy is the author of the Bernicia Chronicles, a series of novels set in seventh century Britain. The first three books in the series, The Serpent Sword, The Cross and the Curse and Blood and Blade are available on Amazon, Kobo, Google Play, and all good online bookstores.

Kin of Cain, a standalone prequel novella set in the same world as the Bernicia Chronicles was published on Amazon and all good online bookstores on March 1st 2017.

Killer of Kings , the fourth of the Bernicia Chronicles, is available for pre-order now on Amazon and all good online bookstores.

Website: www.matthewharffy.com

Twitter: @MatthewHarffy

Facebook: MatthewHarffyAuthor

Review

Kin of Cain, is a brilliant look at the world of Bernicia Chronicles, where we can meet the younger and deceased members of the authors series, the building blocks for his world. More importantly the way he achieves this weaving in a saga that is known to so  many. As always Matthew does all of this with such subtle skill and passion for the era, immersing himself and then you the reader in his world. The more i read of Matthews work the more i find i can see influences of writers like Bernard Cornwell, the pace and characterization that has matured with each and every book the tighter sparse prose not wasting the readers time with flowery over descriptive, yet conveying all about the characters, making him one of the emerging quality names on the genre.

If you have not read Matthews work then this is a fantastic way to have a peek before committing to one of the full novels… and im positive you will love the clever way he has woven this around an old tale.

(Parm)

Series
Bernicia Chronicles
1. The Serpent Sword (2015)
2. The Cross and the Curse (2016)
3. Blood and Blade (2016)
4. Killer of Kings (2017)
Kin of Cain (2017)
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Matthew Harffy: Blood and Blade (Review)

Matthew Harffy's picture

Matthew Harffy lived in Northumberland as a child and the area had a great impact on him. The rugged terrain, ruined castles and rocky coastline made it easy to imagine the past. Decades later, a documentary about Northumbria’s Golden Age sowed the kernel of an idea for a series of historical fiction novels. The first of them is the action-packed tale of vengeance and coming of age, THE SERPENT SWORD. The sequel is THE CROSS AND THE CURSE.

Matthew has worked in the IT industry, where he spent all day writing and editing, just not the words that most interested him. 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.

book cover of Blood and Blade

Buy the book on Kindle

635AD. Anglo-Saxon Britain. A gripping, action-packed historical thriller and third instalment in The Bernicia Chronicles. Perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell.

Oswald is now King of Northumbria. However, his plans for further alliances and conquests are quickly thrown into disarray when his wedding to a princess of Wessex is interrupted by news of a Pictish uprising.

Rushing north, Oswald leaves Beobrand to escort the young queen to her new home. Their path is fraught with danger and uncertainty, Beobrand must try to unravel secrets and lies if they are to survive.

Meanwhile, old enemies are closing in, seeking brutal revenge. Beobrand will give his blood and blade in service to his king, but will that be enough to avert disaster and save his kith and kin from the evil forces that surround them?

Review

In previous reviews i have stated that The Bernicia Chronicles was the gritty reality that Bernard Cornwell wished his Uthred series was. Matthew Harffy with impeccable research into the period, but also into insight into human nature weaves a tale of a troubled man, facing his past, and building a future.

Set in a period of history with limited known hard facts, there is still much for the author to call upon, the ruins and awe of the Roman world, the power and mystery of the new religion, Christianity, and the slow death of the old religions. The author has immersed himself in the known works of the time and absorbed the facts and suppositions, and blended them with his passion for the subject. All of this then told with a powerful set of characters woven into the path of the key players of the time provides an action packed story that is utterly engrossing.

With the lead character you can sense and feel the anger, confusion and passions that he is struggling with. Matthew draws on as many emotions as possible, but also the insecurities and angst of the young man thrust into a position of power, one coupled with extreme violence.

This is a series that gets better and better and one i highly enjoy.

(Parm)

Series

Bernicia Chronicles
1. The Serpent Sword (2015)
2. The Cross and the Curse (2016)
3. Blood and Blade (2016)
4. Killer of Kings (2017)
Kin of Cain (2017)

 

 

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Matthew Harffy: Blood and Blade Blog Tour inc Extract.

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Author info:

harffy_matthew

 

Matthew Harffy is the author of the Bernicia Chronicles, a series of novels set in seventh century Britain. The first of the series, The Serpent Sword, was published by Aria/Head of Zeus on 1st June 2016. The sequel, The Cross and The Curse was released on 1st August 2016. Book three, Blood and Blade, was released on 1st December 2016.

 

Book info and links:

book cover of 

The Serpent Sword 

book cover of 

The Cross and the Curse 

book cover of 

Blood and Blade

 

The Serpent Sword, The Cross and the Curse and Blood and Blade are available on Amazon, Kobo, Google Play, and all good online bookstores.

Killer of Kings and Kin of Cain are available for pre-order on Amazon and all good online bookstores.

 book cover of 

Killer of Kings 

book cover of 

Kin of Cain

Contact links:

Website: www.matthewharffy.com

Twitter: @MatthewHarffy

Facebook: MatthewHarffyAuthor

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Blurb:

635AD. Anglo-Saxon Britain. A gripping, action-packed historical thriller and third instalment in The Bernicia Chronicles. Perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell.

Oswald is now King of Northumbria. However, his plans for further alliances and conquests are quickly thrown into disarray when his wedding to a princess of Wessex is interrupted by news of a Pictish uprising.

Rushing north, Oswald leaves Beobrand to escort the young queen to her new home. Their path is fraught with danger and uncertainty, Beobrand must try to unravel secrets and lies if they are to survive.

Meanwhile, old enemies are closing in, seeking brutal revenge. Beobrand will give his blood and blade in service to his king, but will that be enough to avert disaster and save his kith and kin from the evil forces that surround them?

 

Extract

Chapter 2

“This mead is good,” roared the huge warrior who had arrived that dawn. He slammed down the horn he had just emptied, pushing the bench back and standing up. He staggered towards the door, almost losing his balance.

“Good and strong,” said Beobrand, smiling. “Watch yourself, Bassus. I wouldn’t want you tripping and hurting yourself, old man.”

“Who are you calling old?” bellowed Bassus. He spun around to face the high table, arms lifted in mock fighting pose. Losing his balance, he reached out and grabbed hold of one of the hall’s wooden pillars. “I’m not old,” he said, shaking his head to clear it. “Drunk, yes, but not old!” He pushed himself away from the beam and walked unsteadily out of the hall.

The men gathered there, most as drunk as Bassus, filled the warm, smoke-filled space with laughter. Bassus, erstwhile hearth-warrior and champion to King Edwin, was known to them. He and Beobrand had fought shoulder-to-shoulder in the battle of Elmet. The older warrior was their lord’s friend and had stood with them against the Picts in the darkness, and so they welcomed him.

Reaghan started at the raucous noise of the men in the great hall. They were full of cheer. Glad to be alive. Flushed with the morning’s victory over the Picts. The air of celebration was clear in the expressions of men and women alike. They all felt it. Revelled in it. It was a warm day and the food and drink was plentiful.

And yet, the happiness did not reach Reaghan. She had been so afraid in the black stillness of the night, cowering with the other women and the bairns. Waiting for the sound of battle. For the flash of fire in the darkness.

Beobrand, sitting at the head of the room, waved to her, beckoning her to his side. She lowered her head and made her way past the men who lined the boards. She felt their eyes upon her as she approached her lord. She knew what they wanted. What all men wanted.

“More mead, my lord?” she asked in a soft tone.

He grinned and raised his cup.

It was the first time she had seen him smile since before lady Sunniva’s death. Even when he looked upon Octa, his infant son, he displayed no emotion, save perhaps a brooding anxiety.

Reaghan poured amber liquid for him and stepped back, away from Beobrand. The fear of the previous night clung to her like a rain-soaked fleece. She shuddered.

The screams of the fighting, the clash of sword on shield and the crackle of fires had brought back to her the night she had been taken by Torran and his brother. She had not been as afraid since she was a child, when the Angelfolc had come on that autumn day, killing her family. But that was many years past and the memories had lost their edges, stones rubbed smooth in the stream of time. Her capture by the sons of Nathair had been recent, the wounds still fresh.

They had treated her hard. She was no stranger to the ways of warriors. She was a thrall. The property of Lord Ubba until his death, along with his two sons, the year before. All three of them had lain with her. Panting and pushing, grunting into her long auburn hair. Yet she had never feared they would truly hurt her. She had pitied them. Despised them. But she never believed they wished her harm.

The Picts were different. They had beaten her, slapping and punching her tiny frame. She had been powerless to prevent it, so had done the only thing she knew. Before they could knock her senseless, she had lifted up her dress, opening her legs, offering herself to them. They had stopped hitting her then.

What followed had been little better. The memories of that dark night threatened to engulf her with their black wings. She had passed out before they had finished with her.

She had awoken, battered and aching as the night erupted in flames and terror. The hall had filled with thick smoke and all about her men shouted. She recalled her own village all those years before, and the acrid smoke as her home was consumed. Her mother’s screams. The Angelfolc, descended from warriors who had come from across the Whale Road, had murdered her family and enslaved her. And yet, these Picts, people who had long shared this island of Albion with her folk, had forced themselves upon her. They had kicked and hit her. For years she had dreamt of running away from Ubbanford. Escaping her life of thralldom. To leave the accursed Angelfolc behind and return to her people in the west.

 

 

 

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Matthew Harffy: Cross and the Curse (Review)

Matthew Harffy at Gefrin

Matthew Harffy lived in Northumberland as a child and the area had a great impact on him. The rugged terrain, ruined castles and rocky coastline made it easy to imagine the past. Decades later, a documentary about Northumbria’s Golden Age sowed the kernel of an idea for a series of historical fiction novels. The first of them is the action-packed tale of vengeance and coming of age, THE SERPENT SWORD. The sequel is THE CROSS AND THE CURSE.

Matthew has worked in the IT industry, where he spent all day writing and editing, just not the words that most interested him. 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 lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife and their two daughters.

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

Author Web site

Bernicia Chronicles

The Bernicia Chronicles is a series of action-packed historical fiction books set against the backdrop of the clash between peoples and religions in Dark Ages Britain.

THE CROSS AND THE CURSE

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BRITAIN 634 A.D.

Before The Battle of Hastings.

Before Alfred fought the Danes.

Even before England.

Warlords battled across Britain to become the first King of the English.

When Beobrand’s valour brings about a stunning victory against the native Waelisc, the King of Northumbria rewards him with riches and land. Beobrand wishes for nothing more than to settle on his new estate with his bride. But he soon finds himself beset with enemies old and new. He even fears that the power of a curse has him in its grip, as he begins to lose all he holds dear.

With treachery and death surrounding him, Beobrand confronts his foes with cold iron and bitter fury. On his quest for revenge and redemption, he grudgingly accepts the mantle of lord, leading his men into the darkest of nights and the bloodiest of battles.

Release data: 22nd January 2016

Review:

Matthew Harffy and The Cross and the Curse, what can i say? Simply its great, Matthew has the potential to match SJA Turney in the realms of Independent Publishing. The first book in the series “The Serpent Sword” was a resounding success and deservedly so.

The hard part as always for any author is the second book, having to repeat that effort and pull together the magic that makes a great novel. Matthew managed this with his dark gritty characters and explosive plot lines. For me Harffy breaks ground that Cornwell attempted with Uthred of Bebbanburg but dragged out too long and set in the middle ground of mass appeal.

Set slightly earlier than Cornwell’s series Harffy’s series contains all the grit that Uthred lacks, Matthew Harffy doesn’t try to walk the middle ground with Beobrand, instead he delivers a no holds barred book that is an immersive historic epic.

although this book is not out until the end of Jan 2016 im already highly looking forward to book 3.

(Parm)

Book 1 Art:

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

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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

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BRITAIN 633 A.D.

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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Review

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.

(Parm)

 

 

 

 

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