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Saturday, July 30, 2022

Blog Tour: Oath Bound & Shield Breaker by Richard Cullen (review by Matthew Higgins)


Today Fantasy Book Critic via Matthew Higgins is excited to be a part of Richard Cullen's blog tour for The Wolf Of Kings series. Matthew will be reviewing the first book Oath Bound which can been read below.

Order Shield Breaker over HERE

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: England, 1068: a land gripped in the iron fist of Frankish invaders. But the Conqueror does not sit easily on his fledgling throne. Rebellion is rife, and the flames of uprising have been ignited in every corner of the kingdom.
Thrown back into this crucible is Styrkar the Dane, former housecarl of the slain King Harold. Forced to travel to Ireland by his deadliest enemy, he must risk the fates of his brothers-in-arms in order to protect the one thing he loves. 
So begins a journey that will take Styrkar to the royal court of Dublin, and the frigid climes of the north of England, for loyalty, love and vengeance. He will be tested, beaten and broken, but can any man keep the Red Wolf chained for long?

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Order Oath Bound over HERE
OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Richard Cullen originally hails from Leeds in the heartland of Yorkshire. He is a writer of historical adventure fiction and fantasy. You can find out more about what he's up to, and download free stuff, on his website.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: The champion of a dead king has nothing left to lose... And nothing more to fear. 

Hastings, 1066. Styrkar the Dane stumbles wounded and delirious from the corpse-strewn battlefield of Senlac Hill. He has watched his king butchered at the hands of foreign knights, seen his countrymen defeated in battle, and he will not stop until there is a reckoning.

Styrkar embarks on a bloody quest to avenge his dead master, becoming an outlaw in the wilds and earning a fearsome reputation.

When a Breton knight seeks to track down this fugitive and make his own name, he can little envisage the task he has set himself. For Styrkar, the Red Wolf, last surviving housecarl to King Harold Godwinson, will carve the story of his vengeance in Frankish flesh... or die in the attempt.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: My thanks to Head Of Zeus books and Richard Cullen for providing me with an copy of this book for an honest review.

Oath Bound is a gripping and gritty revenge drama wrapped within the shaggy Norse cloak of historical fiction; a fantastic first foray into what looks to be an exciting new avenue of fiction for myself to explore.

 It subverted my expectations for the book by using the surrounding of the famous Battle of Hastings as a frame through which the main revenge narrative could be configured, with a fierce lead character in Strykar the Dane. Once I’d wrapped my head around the fact that it was far more than simply a retelling of the events of the Battle of Hastings, I found myself fully invested in Styrkar’s quest to avenge his fallen king.

One aspect that particularly impressed me was the POV’s, which at a certain point in the novel switched between Styrkar and the main antagonist Ronan. Ronan was just as characterised as Strykar was, and at times, I felt an understanding of the struggles that had formed Ronan into the monster he had become.

The pace is whip fast, the prose highly readable, whilst still providing some beautiful descriptions, and Cullen seems to be rather good at writing motivational battle speeches too from the little snippets contained in this first entry.

Whilst the fast pace kept the plot trundling along in an unputdownable fashion, it did mean that in a book this short there wasn’t a lot of intense characterisation, and it did at times feel a little like mini vignettes from Strykar’s life in the way the book jumped around in time quite a bit. Ultimately it didn’t harm my enjoyment of the novel, as this is one for pure adrenaline entertainment, unlike some of the fantasy chonkers I read, and I think it actually suited this style of book rather well. Where characters’ motivations did start to feel just that little bit generic, it was ok because Richard writes it so well that you still build an affinity to that character.

Overall, this was a highly entertaining read for myself, and I can wholeheartedly recommend it to both readers old and new to the realm of historical fiction. If you’re after a slickly written revenge thriller set in the world of medieval Brittania with a highly motivated main character, and a stomach lurching yet oddly sympathetic villain, this will be one for the ages.



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