The Saxon Wolves by Penny Ingham #BookReview #BlogTour

Britain 455AD. The Roman Empire has fallen. As the daughter of a king and a priestess of the sacred grove, Anya's life in Germania is one of wealth and privilege - until she dares to speak out against the high priest's barbaric human sacrifices. Her punishment is exile. Forced to leave her homeland, she sails to Britannia, to an island that is sliding into chaos and war, as rival kingdoms vie for power. Alone and far from home, Anya must learn to survive amidst the bloodshed, treachery and intrigue of fifth century Britain. Can she find a place to belong - a home, a hearth, a welcome?

I'm delighted to be one of the hosts for the first leg of the blog tour for The Saxon Wolves today, alongside two fabulous bloggers -  Cathy at What Cathy Read Next and Zoe at Zooloo's Book Diary. Many thanks to Penny Ingham and Rachel Gilbey from Rachel's Random Tours for inviting me and for my digital copy of the book.

The prologue of The Saxon Wolves places Anya, Saxon princess and priestess in a perilous situation where her life hangs in the balance. The book then takes us back two months to a time when she was safe and content at home and about to celebrate the joyful betrothal feast of her brother, Horsa, son of Athelwald, high king of Saxony to the great love of his life, Elsbet. A brutal event at the feast is considered an ominous omen and when severely injured refugees, victims of a violent attack by the Huns arrive, Athelwald's people fear they may be next. Anya has a deep, profound belief in her Pagan goddess, Nerthus but doesn't share her high priest's decree that to keep Saxony safe, a human sacrifice is required. A tense and heartbreaking scene results in Anya fleeing for her life from the only home she has ever known and later exiled to Britannia alongside her brothers, the ambitious warmonger, Hengist and the kind, loving and loyal, Horst, sent to form an alliance with barbarous king, Vortigern.
Although Anya is a fictional character, Vortigern was named as a tyrant by the Venerable Bede who invited the Saxon Wolves - Hengist and Horst  - to beat back the Picts in the North. Throughout the book there are numerous historical details as painstaking research gives a real sense of authenticity to the story. Whether it's the inclusion of real-life figures, the rich and evocative descriptions of the various settings, from the densely packed cliff top fortress of Tintagel to the mud and turf round houses of the Picts to the faded glory of a decaying Aquae Sulis, or the fascinating mentions of the various Celtic tribes of Sub-Roman Britain, Penny Ingham shines a light on this period of the Dark Ages and brings it to compelling life.
This is no dry historical text, however and I was utterly engrossed by this fast-moving, exciting story which is packed with intrigue, drama and suspense. Anya is a wonderful character who is torn by her need to belong and the dreadful realisation that her presence will be putting those she loves in terrible danger. She is welcomed by many at Tintagel as Epona, the fulfilment of an ancient prophecy but others fear she is a pagan witch. Her abilities as a gifted healer endear her to some of her doubters but her disturbing dream paths and visions mean she fears that a great darkness will befall them, particularly if she stays. I really enjoyed the mystic elements to the story as they helped to create a more intense feel for some of the pagan beliefs of the time.
Anya is guest of ailing king, Etar but it is his son, Silvanus who has been left to run Dumnonia while his father is bedridden and his story is as engaging as Anya's. He is haunted by the fear that he doesn't have the wisdom to emulate his father's success as a benign leader who can keep Dunmonia peaceful and safe. He and Anya are both driven by their deeply held principles and sense of humility despite their high-born status and it is the relationship which develops between them which is the most bittersweet aspect of this captivating novel.
The last few chapters are almost unbearably tense and have left me desperate to read the next book, The Saxon Plague. The Saxon Wolves is absolutely superb historical fiction; I was transported to Britannia where violence was never far away and yet the need for love and a sense of belonging are only too relatable. Highly recommended.

The Saxon Wolves can be purchased from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Penny’s father, a journalist, instilled her with a love of history from an early age. Family holidays invariably included an invigorating walk up an Iron Age hill-fort whilst listening to his stirring stories of the Roman attack and the valiant defence by the Britons. Consequently, Penny has a degree in Classics and a passion for history and archaeology. She has enjoyed a varied career, including BBC production assistant, theatre PR and journalism, but her ambition was always to write historical fiction. Her first novel, The King’s Daughter, was awarded Editor’s Choice by the Historical Novel Society. Penny has worked on many archaeological excavations, and these ‘digs’ and their evocative finds often provide the inspiration for her books. Penny’s research also takes her to the many spectacular historical sites featured in this novel, including Hadrian’s Wall and Tintagel.
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  1. Great review! :) I felt the urgent need to read the sequel, too! (ehm.. I actually couldn't resist, and I already read it... ��)

    1. Thank you! :) I don't think it will be too long before I succumb too!


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