Reviewed by David Maclaine
Blood Eye begins in the dawn of the ninth century, as Norsemen land on the south coast of England. The novel's title character and narrator is a foundling named Osric with a bloody mark on one eye, and a memory that is blank before his arrival in the village where the foreign ships have just come ashore. The lad is surprised to discover that he speaks the language of the newcomers, who say they have come to trade. Trade they do, but betrayal follows soon after. Osric finds himself on a ship loaded with fierce warriors. He is useful to them because he speaks two languages, and the boy, now nicknamed Raven, finds himself increasingly at home as he matures in the company of these hard men from across the sea. Their path along the coast is anything but smooth, and soon the band is ashore in a land they yearn to leave behind. Embroiled in murky plots and dogged by layers of treachery, they must fight their way to the conclusion of more than one bloody mission before their faint hope has a chance to come true.
In this first novel of a series Giles Kristian proves himself a skillful craftsman who can create vivid characters and engrossing action sequences while serving as a believable guide into the mind-sets of the assorted cultures that collided some 1200 years ago. A back-jacket blurb that invokes the name of Bernard Cornwell is surprisingly apt. Kristian's storytelling craft is in the same league as Cornwell's, who I suspect was something of an inspiration, judging by the many times Kristian borrows one of that writer's most tiresome habits, the tic of ending a chapter with a snappy short sentence or fragment such as "Into the slaughter." Kristian shows a particular over-fondness for chapter-ending "sentences" that begin with "and." But this bad habit is really the only jarring feature of Kristian's otherwise fluid style. Blood Eye is a worthy start to a voyage that any Viking fan will want to follow to the series' end. (2009, 352 pages)More about Blood Eye at Powell's Books, Amazon.com or The Book Depository