Set in the very depths of the Dark Ages, in the northeast of a country not yet known as England. The Romans have recently departed, though fragments of their world still linger on. The native Britons are being pressed back by the barbarian Angles from over the water, as they sail in on the east wind seeking new land to settle. Ronan and Bryn are two young men eager to defend their land against the invaders, but Ronan is a common freeman, and Bryn the son of an overweening lord. As with his Fortunes of War and White Rose of Night, Mel Keegan conjures up an atmospheric tale in which love between men is forged in the battles they must fight.
Review by Erastes
Ronan is a son of an artisan in a village in what is now Yorkshire and he goes to the cheif’s town (Deventio) to help train a horse. There he persuades the chief to train him as a warrior and falls into a brief relationship with a beautiful cripple boy, whilst at the same time having a UST relationship with the chief’s son, Bryn.
Then the Angles come, warlike and ravaging, from the East and Deventio is destroyed. This is where the story begins, really.
It’s a good adventure story, with action, romance and some nice sexy scenes. there are a few negative reviews on Amazon but I didn’t really find the problems they talked about. The characters did seem to get together a little too easily but they were both sexually active and there weren’t any taboos about m/m sex in their world. (How accurate that is, I couldn’t tell, and I doubt that there’s any historical evidence to say one way or the other, but the main characters are pre-christian and I would imagine that the Christian prudity only came in later)
There are rather a lot of m/m relationships actually, and it does lean towards OKHomo – “Everyone’s Gay and Everyone’s Fine About It” but I let that slide and concentrated on the story. After all, how do I know what the attitude to homosexuality was in the Dark Ages? Keegan bases it on a warrior culture, along the lines of the Sacred Band, and it’s believable enough.
All in all, pretty enjoyable. Not an earth shattering read, it won’t grab your heart and break it, there’s no real conflict and conflict resolution (relating the characters, at least) but it’s a decent enough page turner. It almost struck me as a prequel and I would have liked to have seen what happened next.
The editing, though, was appalling, far too many mistakes in the text to forgive and not the quality I would have expected from a professional publisher (the now defunct Gay Mens Press) and the cover is just giggleworthy. There is also a lot of repetition which seemed to be there just for filling and some of it is contradictory to earlier canon.
The other snag is that Mel Keegan’s books are being withdrawn and will soon only be available on his website. You can pick up this book on Amazon at the moment, but you can’t get all of them there, and some of them are outrageous prices.
I don’t know if I’d be tempted to read another MK book, though, it was good but not good enough to tempt me to rush out and buy all the others.