Read The Cross and the Curse (Bernicia Chronicles Book 2) Online

Authors: Matthew Harffy

Tags: #Bernicia Chronicles #2

The Cross and the Curse (Bernicia Chronicles Book 2) (55 page)

The meeting with Penda described in this book is fictional. However, the leaders of the different kingdoms of Albion created pacts and alliances and Oswald had a lot to deal with without having to worry about Penda. Penda at this time is the warlord star of Mercia and his power is on the rise. He has already sided with Cadwallon and killed Edwin, the over-king, or Bretwalda of the Anglo-Saxons, showing the scale of his ambition. The truce between Oswald and Penda as I describe it will not last for long, and the future of the two kings will be intertwined, just as Beobrand's wyrd is linked to the royal families of Bernicia.

There is still much to tell in Beobrand's tale. More battles and death. More raven-feeding with the corpses strewn in the mud before the shieldwall.

And more love.

But all of that is for another day and another book.










First let me thank you, dear reader, for buying this book. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. If you have, please take a moment to leave a short review on Amazon or Goodreads, and also tell your friends about it, be they on Facebook, Twitter or even in real life! Word of mouth and positive reviews make all the difference and independent authors like me rely on the support of readers saying nice things about our books.

When I was writing this book, I had yet to release The Serpent Sword, so I was writing in a bubble. There was no pressure apart from getting the words down and moulding them into an interesting story. However, now that I am preparing this book for publication my first novel has been out for a few months and has garnered overwhelmingly positive reviews. This has made me extremely happy, but has also added an extra edge of anxiety for The Cross and the Curse. I know now that it is not as simple as just writing the story. Once a book is released it gains a life of its own and with that come extra expectations for its sequel. Will people like it as much as the first one? Will it do as well?

In the end there is nothing for it, but to trust that all the hard work agonising over the words is enough and let it out into the wild. Just like children, when they are ready to leave the nest, you have to let them go. And just as with children, you hope they do you proud. And so, I hope The Cross and the Curse does me proud and I move on to work on book 3 of the Bernicia Chronicles, By Blood and Blade.

But before I go, I must thank all the people who have helped me to get this book ready.

A sincere thank you to my trusty beta readers, Shane Smart, Rich Ward, Derek and Jacqui Surgey, Simon Blunsdon and Mark Leonard, each of whom offered useful comments and spotted mistakes that helped me to improve the book.

Robin Carter, of Parmenion Books, kindly agreed to read an early draft and he provided a wealth of useful input.

I am thankful to Dr Christopher Monk for his help with the intricacies of Old English pronunciation.

My great friend Gareth Jones read multiple drafts and was, as ever, full of energy and good ideas.

Thanks, as always, go to Alex Forbes, who is not only one of my oldest friends, but also one of my strongest supporters.

To my agent, Robin Wade, thanks for the comments on the manuscript and your attempts to get a publisher to see the light. One day!

Special thanks to Matt Bunker, of the living history group, Wulfheodenas, for again agreeing to let me take photographs of his amazing and historically accurate battle gear – this time with him in it! Stephen Weatherly took the great photo that is on the cover, so I am indebted to him for that and for all the lunchtime chats and games of pool!

My parents have always been supportive of everything I have ever done and my writing is no different. Both of them have read drafts and provided feedback, but my dad, Clive Harffy, has gone one step further and edited the novel too, spending hours going over each and every word. He is writing his debut novel now, so special thanks to my mum, Angela Harffy, for putting up with my dad and me talking incessantly about writing whenever we get together.

Despite all the help I’ve mentioned, writing can be a very lonely business. By definition you need to be alone with your thoughts for many hours to produce a novel. Being able to reach out to a friendly community of other writers online for help and inspiration when things get tough is wonderful. There are many authors who have offered me their support in the last couple of years, but the following all deserve a special mention for being brilliant writers and lovely people: Steven A. McKay, Angus Donald, Paul Fraser Collard, Carol McGrath, Justin Hill, Toby Clements, Michael Jecks, Giles Kristian, Martin Lake, Samantha Wilcoxson, Stephanie Churchill, E.M. Powell and K.M. Ashman. Read their books!

And lastly, putting up with my absences when I am deep in the writing or editing process, and my moods when the writing is not going well, my eternal gratitude goes to my ever-supportive and lovely wife, Maite and our daughters, Elora and Iona.










Matthew Harffy 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. Matthew lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife and their two daughters.

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"A tale that rings like sword song in the reader's mind. Warriors, shield walls, the carnage of the war as it tears at a land that is not yet a nation. Beobrand is a hero to stand shoulder to shoulder with and his story is one to be told round the hearth fire on a dark night. Harffy knows his genre inside out and The Cross and the Curse proves it."

Giles Kristian, bestselling author of God of Vengeance and the Raven series

"The Cross and the Curse is a terrific novel that strikes just the right balance between fact and fiction, the plausible and the romantic, and it illuminates the Dark Ages like the bolt of lightning in its first few pages: in rare and unexpected ways. Top stuff."

Toby Clements, author of the Kingmaker trilogy


"The best historical fiction enables the reader to simultaneously live in the here and now and the then and there. Matthew Harffy has this skill in abundance. He peoples his work with everyman and everywoman, allowing a bridge across the centuries, a meeting place. Matthew Harffy’s first novel, The Serpent Sword, was superb. The second book, The Cross and the Curse, is every bit as good. He is one of the most accomplished and exciting voices in the field today. I love his novels."

Martin Lake, author of A Love Most Dangerous and The Lost King series

"Harffy allows the reader to peel back the layers of Dark Age society beyond the implicit violence. His wordage is skilful and beautifully wrought, rather like a perfect damascened sword. Harffy is a writer to watch…"

Prue Batten, author of The Gisborne Saga and The Triptych Chronicle

"Matthew Harffy has created a gritty, authentic world, home to a hero who shows us the complexity of what it means to be human – the darkness and the delight. The Cross and the Curse is historical fiction at its finest."

Stephanie Churchill, author of The Scribe's Daughter




“A gripping and credible tale of Dark Ages Britain, well researched, with rounded, convincing characters and a strong plot-line ... the battle scenes [are] gut-clenching encounters in which you could almost smell the blood and feel the sweat trickling down your spine. A very good read! Recommended for all fans of Bernard Cornwell. Historical fiction doesn't get much better than this.”

Angus Donald, bestselling author of the Outlaw series


"A storming debut novel fans of Bernard Cornwell should not miss!"

Steven A. McKay, bestselling author of Wolf's Head


"Vivid and compelling...historical fiction at its brutal best."

Paul Fraser Collard, author of the Jack Lark series


“The Serpent Sword is a stunning debut: fast, confident, adrenaline-pumped, this story of a young warrior's coming of age in the maelstrom of the Dark Ages has the flavour of early Giles Kristian or James Aitcheson: it's raw, rugged and rich in colour and texture. Beobrand is a hugely likeable character with just the right blend of vulnerability and heroism and his story is clearly set to run for a good, long, loveable series. I stayed up till after midnight to finish this. What more could you ask for?”

Manda (M.C.) Scott, author of the ROME and Boudica series


“From the early years of the 7th century, The Serpent Sword tells the story of young Beobrand, who sets out on a journey to take revenge on the man who killed his brother. With powerful language and gripping action, Harffy tells a tale of courage, revenge and love as Beobrand is transformed by his quest. A journey that will test both his mettle and his steel.”

Justin Hill, author of Shieldwall


“The Serpent Sword by Matthew Harffy is a stunning debut novel. It is a fast-paced tale of historical adventure beautifully written. I found myself transported into villages, halls, camps, forest and the coastal regions of early medieval Northumberland, all atmospherically and convincingly portrayed. The Serpent Sword is a story of revenge, passion, betrayal, honour, love and loss. Above all, it contains both a quest and a love story. Kings, thegns, warriors and commoners leap out from its pages with superb vividness. Harffy's characters are portrayed with depth and humanity. Readers of Bernard Cornwall and Giles Kristian will enjoy The Serpent Sword. They will wait with anticipation to visit Beobrand's further adventures during the Dark Age of the seventh century, a time of emergent monasteries and warfare between kings. It is wonderful story and a fascinating world in which I thoroughly enjoyed spending time.”

Carol McGrath, author of The Daughters of Hastings Trilogy




First Published 2016

Copyright © Matthew Harffy 2016

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Matthew Harffy has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

Paperback ISBN-13: 978-1518882586; ISBN-10: 1518882587

E-book ASIN: B018932PFW

This book is a work of fiction and, except in the case of historical fact, any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.


Cover photograph: Copyright Stephen Weatherly

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