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Matt

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  • The Serpent Sword

  • The Bernicia Chronicles, Book 1
  • By: Matthew Harffy
  • Narrated by: Barnaby Edwards
  • Length: 12 hrs and 9 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 175
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 162
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 160

Beobrand is compelled by his brother's almost-certain murder to embark on a quest for revenge in the war-ravaged kingdoms of Northumbria. The land is rife with danger, as warlords vie for supremacy and dominion. In the battles for control of the region, new oaths are made and broken, and loyalties are tested to the limits. With no patronage and no experience, Beobrand must form his own allegiances and learn to fight with sword and shield. Relentless in pursuit of his enemies, he faces challenges which transform him from a boy to a man.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Almost a Prequel To Cornwell's King Alfred Books.

  • By Farniboy on 11-04-17

An excellent debut

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 15-12-16

This is Matthew Harffy's first novel, though you'd never guess that from the writing quality; it's as well-written as anything that more veteran authors of the genre like Bernard Cornwell and Simon Scarrow have produced. The story is gripping and engaging from start to finish, and the narration by Barnaby Edwards is near-perfect. I say near-perfect because just occasionally it feels as though Edwards is reading the words as a recitation rather than acting them. The best audiobooks are those in which the narrator acts, rather than simply reads. But as I say, this is only occasional, and should be no barrier to enjoying the book. Definitely a worthwhile purchase for fans of historical fiction.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • In the Shadow of the Sword

  • The Battle for Global Empire and the End of the Ancient World
  • By: Tom Holland
  • Narrated by: Jonathan Keeble
  • Length: 17 hrs and 50 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 287
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 222
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 222

In the 6th century AD, the Near East was divided between two venerable empires: the Persian and the Roman. A hundred years on and one had vanished forever, while the other seemed almost finished. Ruling in their place were the Arabs: an upheaval so profound that it spelt, in effect, the end of the ancient world. In The Shadow of the Sword, Tom Holland explores how this came about.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • enlightening!

  • By julien on 13-04-13

Absolutely fascinating

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 18-09-15

As a former student of ancient history, Tom Holland's work on Late Antiquity captivated me from the beginning. This is a time period much talked about but seldom studied, and it is gratifying to find a work that goes so in-depth about the centuries either side of the foundation of Islam. Although often talked about as a work on the beginnings of the second largest religion in the world, this book is in fact much more about the world that Islam was born into, with much given over to the study of the Byzantine and, even more so, Sassanid empires. Combined with a brilliant reading from Jonathan Keeble, this book is sure to be of great interest to anyone interested in the world as it transitioned from Antiquity to the Middle Ages.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Burning Land

  • The Last Kingdom Series, Book 5
  • By: Bernard Cornwell
  • Narrated by: Stephen Perring
  • Length: 10 hrs and 58 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 762
  • Performance
    3.5 out of 5 stars 618
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 617

In the last years of the ninth century, King Alfred of Wessex is in failing health, and his heir is an untested youth. The Danes, who have failed so many times to conquer Wessex, smell opportunity.... First comes Harald Bloodhair, a savage warrior leading a Viking horde. But Alfred still has the services of Uhtred, his unwilling warlord, who leads Harald into a trap and, at Farnham in Surrey, inflicts one of the greatest defeats the Vikings were ever to suffer.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Where is Jonathan Keeble?

  • By AdeG on 10-10-14

Good .... but missing Jonathan Keeble

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-10-14

As with every book in the Saxon Stories The Burning Land is an example of perfect historical fiction. I cannot find fault in Bernard Cornwell's writing, characterisations, plot or historical accuracy (though maybe I'm not looking hard enough). The first four books in this series were narrated by the brilliant Jonathan Keeble, whose voices for the many characters were expertly done and consistent. But for some reason, he is not the narrator of this fifth volume in the Saxon Stories, and looking ahead I see that he is not the narrator for the sixth, seventh or eighth volumes either. This is a shame, and while Stephen Perring is by no means a bad narrator, I miss Jonathan Keeble's gravelly tones and slight Yorkshire accent that made me believe he was speaking in the voice of a grizzled Northumbrian Saxon warlord. Also, I found that in this book, unlike in previous readings, towns, cities, rivers etc. are given their modern name instead of their Saxon name. Whereas in previous books we have heard about Bebbanburg, Lundene, Eoforwic and Wintancaestir, we now hear about Bamburgh, London, York and Winchester, which I felt detracted from the atmosphere of the story and ruined the illusion that I was listening to a real Saxon recounting his life story. However, the story is still brilliant, Uhtred is still as immoral as he ever was and just as likeable and I look forward to reading the next books in the series. Well worth a listen, but if you're used to Jonathan Keeble prepare for disappointment.

  • Excalibur

  • The Warlord Chronicles, Book 3
  • By: Bernard Cornwell
  • Narrated by: Jonathan Keeble
  • Length: 18 hrs and 50 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 456
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 424
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 422

A story of love, war, loyalty and betrayal, Excalibur begins with the failure of Lancelot's rebellion and the ruin of Arthur's marriage to Guinevere. The Saxons, sensing the disunity of the Britons, seize the chance to destroy Arthur. The climax of the war comes with the legendary triumph at Mount Badon, and Arthur`s great victory. But the promises he made then come back to haunt him after the years of peace and glory.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • "Now Complete"

  • By Lee on 10-04-15

Cut Too Soon

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-09-14

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Although as excellent as the other books in the series, this recording has been cut short for some reason, denying us an ending to the story and ruining an otherwise wonderful listening experience across a gripping trilogy.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • The Winter King

  • The Warlord Chronicles, Book 1
  • By: Bernard Cornwell
  • Narrated by: Jonathan Keeble
  • Length: 19 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 617
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 561
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 563

Uther, the High King of Britain, has died, leaving the infant Mordred as his only heir. His uncle, the loyal and gifted warlord Arthur, now rules as caretaker for a country which has fallen into chaos - threats emerge from within the British kingdoms while vicious Saxon armies stand ready to invade. Uther, the High King of Britain, has died, leaving the infant Mordred as his only heir. His uncle, the loyal and gifted warlord Arthur, now rules as caretaker for a country which has fallen into chaos - threats emerge from within the British kingdoms while vicious Saxon armies stand ready to invade.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Simply Brilliant

  • By Matt on 29-08-14

Simply Brilliant

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 29-08-14

Would you listen to The Winter King again? Why?

This is the kind of story you can enjoy over and over again. The Winter King boasts an engrossing, complex and compelling storyline rarely found in stories based on the Arthurian legends, which tend toward the tradition of chivalry, knights, round tables and simple good/evil battles against Mordred, Oberon and Morgan Le Fay. Bernard Cornwell has done a masterful job in The Warlord Chronicles of creating an Arthur that is believable, an Arthur desperately trying to hold post-Roman Britain together when the stabilising forces of the empire have gone and the chaotic forces of inter-kingdom warfare, religious conflict and Saxon invasions have come. This brilliant story is told by a brilliant narrator, Jonathan Keeble, whose voice and performance are absolutely perfect for this dark historical fantasy.

What did you like best about this story?

Perhaps the story's strongest aspect is Bernard Cornwell's careful maintenance of historical realism. It is easy to imagine a Britain in the grip of the early Dark Ages, unsure of itself and vulnerable in the aftermath of the departure of the Roman legions and the arrival of hordes of Saxons. It is all the more moving when you realise that history holds the eventual end of the story; we know that the Saxons succeeded in conquering much of Britain, and it doesn't matter how hard Arthur fights. The Saxons will win in the end.

Which character – as performed by Jonathan Keeble – was your favourite?

Jonathan Keeble's performances of all the characters in this audiobook are brilliant - he is the perfect narrator for this story. But perhaps his greatest success is in his portrayal of Arthur himself. The voice that Keeble uses for Arthur is only slightly different than the voice which he uses to portray the main character, Derfel, but it is enough. A slight tone in Arthur's voice immediately identifies him and carries across his humanity, compassion, ambition and altruism all at the same time.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

The only downside to this audiobook is its sheer length. At almost 20 hours, it is impossible to listen to the whole thing in one sitting - unless you are possessed of resolute determination, an iron will, and a lack of need for sleep. I would have liked to listen to all 20 hours without a break, as I found that when I had to turn it off to sleep and resumed it in the morning the story became a little disjointed. However, this is only a minor complaint and I would much rather have a long audiobook that takes multiple sittings than a short one that's over too soon.

Any additional comments?

This is an excellent example of historical fiction and of a legend being historicised. I cannot recommend this audiobook highly enough and eagerly await next month's credit so I can download the next instalment in the trilogy.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful