REVIEW: A Night of Flames by Matthew Harffy

Last Updated on July 3, 2024

A Night of Flames continues cleric turned warrior Hunlaf’s journey as he heads to the wild lands of Norway in Matthew Harffy’s (The Bernicia Chronicles) latest historical adventure. Throwing himself into the life of the warrior following the events of the amazing A Time for Swords, young Hunlaf and his Viking ally Runolf head to the Viking warrior’s homeland in the hope of finding answers to the questions left at the end of the previous novel.

A Night of Flames by Matthew HarffyTold once again from the perspective of Hunlaf in AD 794, A Night of Flames picks up where things were left off in A Time for Swords. One battle may be over, but Hunlaf is a warrior now and his sword will be needed many more times before his God calls for him to rest. Hunlaf is an interesting protagonist to follow in the series for many reasons. Caught between his life of a warrior and his love of his God, the decisions he makes are always dissected with the impact it has on his soul as a God-fearing man and someone who wants to do what is right. Hunlaf has a diverse group of friends as the novel opens with his bond with the violent but caring Norseman Runolf growing whilst he is still looking for the approval of Brother Leofstan, his mentor. Every action that Hunlaf makes in A Night of Flames is given extra weight due to the fact he is torn between the two sides fighting for dominance inside him. He questions every action whilst searching for the reactions and approval of those he cares about. Hunlaf’s struggle guides the story as he grows into the person he wants or needs to be.

Wanting to find missing kin across the water, Hunlaf uses his wit and powers of persuasion to convince the king of Rogaland to fund a search party. Runolf displays his legendary ship-building skill and a band of warriors make their way to Norway in the hope of making an allegiance to prevent any more bloodshed. Hunlaf makes some mistakes on the way, adding to the burdens already on his soul. His actions are of a brash, young man acting with more freedom than he is used to. The journey to Norway is a tough one but once there, the magnitude of their job grows as a slave has broken free and is leading fanatical followers on a path of fire and destruction across the lands.

Harffy is a master of the historical thriller and A Night of Flames is continued proof of that. Historical aspects are well-researched (love the mention of Bayt al-Hikmah thrown in – a side series in this area of the world would be insanely cool) and he clearly understands the world he is writing in. Characters behave with emotion and logic and the twists bring a sense of shock without confusion. Like Harffy’s The Bernicia Chronicles, this series is crying out for a TV adaptation in the style of Bernard Cornwell’s The Last Kingdom (Netflix).

A Night of Flames is a thrilling, wild ride of a novel full of violence and Vikings. Harffy has created a wild group of characters who are just as capable of having deep conversations about the meaning of their existence as they are at slicing the throats of their enemies. A Night of Flames is proof that this series is heating up and I can’t wait to read more!

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Aaron Jones

Aaron Jones

Aaron S. Jones is the author of Memories of Blood and Shadow, and The Broken Gods trilogy. He is Head of School at a school in Kent, UK and when he is not tearing his hair out at students struggling with their, they're and there, he is tearing his hair out as he dies for the thousandth time on Elden Ring. You can find him on Twitter @HereticASjones where he is most likely procrastinating for hours at a time instead of focusing on his Orc murder mystery.

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