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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Thursday 22 December 2022

Forest of Foes

 This is the ninth book in Matthew Harffy's historical fiction series, The Bernicia Chronicles, set in 7th-century Britain. Specifically in Northumbria and what is today southern Scotland. In the last of the series, our hero Beobrand and his Warband of Black Shields were about to set off on a mission to escort a novice monk called Wilfrid to Rome. This sounded like an intelligent venue shift for the series, as Northumbria was beginning to lose its appeal after eight books. The result is a brilliant story, one of the best in the series.

To get to Rome, they have to cross Frankia. They quickly get into a fight helping a convoy ambushed by what looks like bandits. It turns out that the convoy includes the pregnant Frankish Queen Balthild. Needless to say, she is very grateful, and they escort her to Paris. Here they meet Dalfinus, the Lord of Lyon, and his brother, the bishop, and they agree to stop off at Lyon en route to Rome. Most of the action takes place in Lyon. I won't spoil the story, but it involves a plot to unseat King Clovis and his Queen.

The author keeps to the broad historical story, or what we know of the Frankish Merovingian realms at this time. Wilfrid later became a saint, which given his actions in the book, will come as something of a surprise. His story is told in the Life of St Wilfrid. Queen Balthild appears to have been a special character in her own right. What we today know as France was split into smaller kingdoms: Austrasia, Neustria, Burgundia, Aquitaine and Septimania. Aquitaine was ruled independently and was often quite detached from its Frankish overlords. Septimania was allied to the Visigothic kingdom that stretched across the Iberian Peninsula.

This is historical fiction in the Bernard Cornwell mode. Plenty of violent action and strong characters, but with an underlying morality tale. The bad guys usually get their comeuppance, typically at the point of Beobrand's sword. Great stuff, and I am looking forward to the next book when they resume their trip to Rome.

I have yet to get any Franks, but these later Saxons and Vikings are not far off.


  1. Hmmm… sounds interesting. I’m not sure, however, that I could commit to a series of 9 books - so far. Presumably they were published in chronological order, yes? Would I need to start at #1? How “stand alone” are the stories? Of late I’ve been reading more historical crime fiction, rather than historical military/war fiction. And still need to fit in time for non fiction.
    Merry Christmas & a happy New year. Cheers,

    1. Best to read them chronologically as some of the references will make more sense. However, they can be read as a one-off, particularly this one. The back story is explained enough to make sense. Seasons greetings!