by Katy Moran
Reviewed by Annis
A vivid, fast-paced adventure, the first in a trilogy, Bloodline is set among the warring tribal kingdoms of seventh-century Britain. In a violent, precarious world, the only constant is the ancient land kings fight over, a land where the wild magic of the old gods remains strong, even after the spread of Christianity.
Nine-year-old Essa is the son of Cai, a wandering bard. "We are bound to no man", Cai says. "Best you follow the hawk's path, free under the sky". But Essa, a “child of no kingdom", is "fascinated by the knotted, gory pattern of loyalty and betrayal linking the different realms of Britain. He especially loved songs of men bound by gold rings to their lords, promising to fight till death took them."
When his father disappears after leaving him at a marshland village, Essa is heartbroken. As long as he can remember, it's just been the two of them travelling from place to place together. Now he must grow up as a foster-child of the village, but he is different from the others: "a wild leaping fire burned within him". His quicksilver temper and uncanny abilities get him into trouble. And when war between Mercia and the Wolf Folk threatens his village, Essa sets out on a perilous, reckless mission that leads him through the kingdoms of Britain into the hands of an unknown enemy.
As he unravels the dangerous secret of his bloodline and fights to save the villagers who have become his kin, Essa learns that loyalty and sacrifice are less straightforward than they seemed in Cai's songs. Nor can any golden ring bind a man as firmly as the ties of love and friendship. (2008; 320 pages, including a Historical Note, a list of people, kingdoms and tribes, and a map of Essa's Britain. Recommended for ages 12 and up.)
More about Bloodline at Powell's Books, Amazon.com or The Book Depository
Interview with author Katy Moran
Other YA novels set in Britain after the Roman period:
Wolf Girl by Theresa Tomlinson (2006), about an Anglo-Saxon girl whose mother is accused of theft. More info
Dawn Wind by Rosemary Sutcliff (1961), about a boy who survives a disastrous battle during the struggle between Celts and Saxons over Britain after the Romans withdraw. More info
Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve (2007), about a girl protected by Arthur's bard Myrddin after her village is attacked and destroyed. More info
Nonfiction about the Anglo-Saxons:
A Heroes History of the Anglo-Saxons by William Webb (2005), for preteens. More info
Anglo-Saxon Raiders and Settlers by Brian Knapp (2005), fore preteens. More info
The Anglo-Saxons, edited by James Campbell, Eric John and Patrick Wormald (1982), for adults; includes many illustrations. More info
The Anglo-Saxons at the BBC website
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