STORM FROST REVIEWS
Love, lust, jealousy and betrayal unleash a catastrophic chain of events in Moore’s pre-Christian East Anglia.
Inspired by the Anglo-Saxon poem “Wulf and Eadwacer,” Moore’s novel takes the readers on a journey across the harrowing terrain of 6th-century England. The princess Niartha is betrothed to Prince Raedwald in a political alliance between the tribal kingdoms of Wedresfeld and East Anglia. The arrangement, however, does not prevent Niartha from falling in love with Raedwald’s brother, Wulf. Soon after the wedding, the steward Eadwacer discovers Niartha and Wulf consummating their love and betrays them. The two are promptly banished, with the added threat that Wulf must outrun the men issued to kill him if captured. Accompanied by two servants who die too soon, Niartha sets out to find Wulf and join him in exile. Harsh weather, an unforgiving landscape, robbers and Raedwald’s advancing men sent to retrieve her add setbacks to every step she makes. The princess is forced to gather an inner strength she never knew she had, and she draws from that strength for the rest of her life. Interpretations vary as to the characters and actual events, but the peom on which Moore’s novel is based is generally accepted to be about a tragic love triangle. Remarkably the author had culled a fully realized tale from these 19 lines of ambiguous text. Alternately narrated by Niartha, Wulf and a third person representing Raedwald and Eadwacer, the story advances effortlessly without extraneous detail. Like poetic verse, the prose is smooth, controlled and precise, and every sentence is critical to the story’s pregression. Moore’s telling is compelling, accessible and relevant, despite the challenging Old English pronunciations and a depicted culture that is far removed from the 21st century. A superbly executed assembly of fact and fiction, this book should impress a broad spectrum of readers.
A deeply satisfying, history-enhanced love story that’s chock full of every visceral consequence of the human condition.
It is 592AD, and two young princes from the East Anglians have set out to forge an alliance with the king of Wedresfeld, father to the lovely Niartha. Older brother Eni (also known as Wulf) falls hard for her, but his brother Raedwald is chosen to be betrothed. Niartha and Wulf meet secretly, but are betrayed by Eadwacer, steward to the king. Both are banished, Wulf to a remote island and Niartha to the rugged hinterland, where they endure hardship, danger and disaster while trying to reunite.
Moore’s fictional period piece is based loosely on an old English poem, Wulf and Eadwacer, as well as on true historical figures. Throughout, the author adeptly describes ancient rites, worship of the gods and other practices during this pre-Christian era. In offering medicinal aid to an injured Raedwald, for example, Niartha “made possets of warm milk and honey, herbal concoctions of rue and comfrey... ...and had warm ointments of saffron and wax brought for his body-carl to use on his bruises.” She places offerings (A comb, a knife with an antler handle) on a dead woman’s grave, invoking favour from the gods. The book is enhanced with other enlightening details that add intrigue to the story, such as incorporating Niartha’s voice at a time when a woman’s point of view wasn’t heard...
Using the recorded history of the 6th century and the literature of such epics as Wulf and Eadwacer, A Wife’s Lament and The Husband’s Message, Moore has fashioned her own version of the tale of King Raedwald, cuckolded by his brother Wulfgrim (aka Wulf or Prince Eni), and Princess Niartha, the woman who unintentionally brings to grief Raedwald and island exile to Wulf. In fact, Princess Niartha vows to find Wulf, even as she is also exiled instead of being burned alive on her dead father’s pyre.
Despite the hardships she endures while living off the land, including beatings and a rape, she clings to her love for Wulf. Regrettably, she gives in to a moment of passion that seals her fate forever as a outcast. This adversely affects the lives of everyone around her, resulting in the death of friends and enemies alike.
In the end, however, reconciliations lead to happier times for her and her kin despite foreshadowings of darker days ahead in the future story Moore recently published.
Moore’s formal studies of Old English literature and her experiences as a National Trust Volunteer and a Sutton Hoo Guide have steeped her in the history that pervades her novel. Her references to the customs of the times are convincing as she describes feasts and foods and superstitions and “a poltice of mugwort, plantain and fennel” and “a tisane of mayweed and nettles” used for medicinal purposes... ... [Readers] will find Storm Frost a rewarding read of [underlying] stories intermingled with Niartha’s narratives, Wulf’s brief laments, and third-person accounts of the adventure of other characters.
It is also worth noting the outstanding cover art. Richard Moore’s photograph depicts the “ancient, twisted yew tree”* hiding the cave that shelters Niartha from the storm frost of the winter with “its roots snaking down into the earth like warped fingers of an old woman”
In all, a commendable effort.
* It is actually an ash tree (Author’s note)
see also Amazon.co.uk books/ Storm Frost for further reviews online
Brightfire: A Tale of Sutton Hoo
In the historical novel Brightfire (Sequel to author P.M. Sabin Moore’s Storm Frost), Christianity is gaining a toehold in Sutton Hoo, on the eastern side of Britain, yet a belief in one God is resisted by many.
It is 608 A.D., and previously banished Niartha and her son, Ricberht, have gained favor in King Raedwald’s court. Ricberht has become a gifted goldsmith who creates a spectacular sword for the king, and Niartha is a highly respected healer. But Raedwald’s angry and disruptive son, Eorpwald, is bent on destroying them both and causing mayhem. It is a time rife with bloody clashes, rapes and cruel murders, with a general distrust of religious salvation as a replacement for healing herbs and powerful, protective gods.
As with the first book, Moore blends real and historical figures with colorful fictional characters while incorporating the rituals and lifestyles of the time. Visually rich physical descriptions are drawn from archeological evidence such as details of Raedwald’s underground burial in his ship, the Seawich: “he wore emblems of the power he held as High King; the shoulder-clasps, the great gold buckle, the purse and, of course, he wore his sword-belt...”
Moore’s deep love of history shines through in this enlightening book, which dispenses a thorough knowledge of the era, its culture, and a turbulent time period when happy endings were few and the fates could be cruel, even for the most beloved.
A novel of historical fiction that showcases life in an English village in the early seventh century AD, based on the ancient cemetery and archaeological treasure trove of Sutton Hoo.
P.M.Sabin Moore weaves a vibrant tapestry of family and village life into a story of change on the national and international front as Christianity slowly makes its way onto the scene, challenging the way people have worshiped since time immemorial. Chronicling the perspectives of diverse characters such as holy men of the old ways, a newly-appointed Christian priest, clan leaders, a wise woman and even the sword used to protect the clan, the story advances at a spirited pace. The majority’s quiet resistance to the new Christian ways and adherence to folk traditions forms the backbone of the story. Vivid descriptions of swordsmiths, jewellers, common villagers and their day-to-day lives, customs and celebrations long forgotten, such as Mothers’ Night, create an atmosphere in which the reader feels transported through time to the point one almost feels like a participant in the tale. Careful research and intimate knowledge of the period are evidenced throughout the story in the inclusion of minute details. Descriptions of clothing, pagan practices and symbols, and food and its preparation add a unique richness and depth. The suspicions and resistance of a polytheistic peoples to a monotheistic tradition are woven throughout – as well as the newly converted Christian’s fervent belief in the conversion of others. Incorporated in this is a theme of tolerance in which a king allows his people the right to choose how they will worship, and persecutes none for their choice. Feelings of betrayal and entitlement, as well as scheming among family members and villagers, combine with territorial skirmishes to add human qualities with which readers can identify. Characters are solidly fleshed out, acting realistically and in accordance with the time period.
An almost mystical reading experience for anyone interested in excellent historical fiction woven round a very real destination.
see also Amazon.co.uk books/Brightfire for further reviews online