Shadow of the Raven by Mille Thom
Shadow of the Raven is the first book of the Sons of Kings historical fiction trilogy by Millie Thom.
In the turbulent and violent world of the mid ninth century, two sons of kings must learn to survive. One of those boys is Alfred, son of the powerful Wessex king. The other is Eadwulf, whose father is king of the neighbouring kingdom of Mercia.
Ten- year-old Eadwulf’s life is turned upside down when his family is betrayed to the Viking Danes. His father is killed and his mother raped and taken by the brutal Jarl Rorik. Eadwulf is also captured and taken to the Danish lands to be sold as a slave.
As a slave in Jarl Ragnar’s village, Eadwulf’s unbearable loss is worsened by the unfair and callous treatment he receives from Ragnar’s wife, and the lies and taunts of her two vindictive sons. He also soon learns that things are very different in this pagan land, including barbaric sacrificial rites. But on the return of the jovial Bjorn, the jarl’s firstborn, Eadwulf’s life unexpectedly improves.
Eadwulf’s story plays out against the backdrop of events unfolding in Wessex in the face of escalating Danish raids. Alfred, the youngest son of the Wessex king, faces family tragedies from an early age, losing first his mother, then his beloved sister when she is married to the new Mercian king – Eadwulf’s treacherous uncle. At his father’s court and the successive courts of his elder brothers, he learns the weighty art of kingship. And, like Eadwulf, he learns the harshest lesson of all … that a trusted kinsman can so easily turn traitor.
A Word from the Author
Shadow of the Raven is the first book in the Sons of Kings trilogy. Book Two, Pit of Vipers, has also been published and I am presently completing Book 3. The books are set in the Anglo Saxon and Danish kingdoms at a time when Viking raids throughout Western Europe are beginning to escalate. Book One starts in the year 851 when Eadwulf is a boy of ten and Alfred a mere two-years-old. The story alternates between the two stories over the following eight years and ends in 859, by which time Eadwulf is a young man of eighteen and Alfred is ten.
Pit of Vipers continues their stories and Book Three, Wyvern of Wessex will complete them.
On writing the books
I first became interested in King Alfred’s story in the 1970s when my husband and I moved down to Wantage in Oxfordshire, the place where Alfred was born. The idea of writing a book about him stayed ‘on hold’ for many years due to bringing up six children and having a teaching career. So, unlike many authors, I started writing quite late in life – not something I would particularly recommend, unless it is necessary, as in my case.
On the positive side, writing after retirement gave me the freedom to travel in order to do research. For my Viking trilogy, I’ve dragged my long-suffering husband not only around many British sites to find out more about King Alfred, but also around Scandinavia (mostly Denmark). For Book Three, we spent a week in Andalucia in southern Spain, as part of the story is set there.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the journey through the lives of my two protagonists – the historical character of King Alfred the Great and the fictional Eadwulf of Mercia. I’ve laughed and cried with them and even fought battles with them … and I don’t regret a day of it.
(Millie Thom, November 2016)