I’d intended to have this posted by Halloween, but dayjobbery derailed me. It’s a perfect Halloween read, but don’t let the fact that the holiday is past stop you. It’s worth the time. I’d like to thank Micheal Molcher for providing me with the review copy. He sent it at the end of the summer, and I apologize for taking so long to read it. Like I said, it looked like a good read for the Halloween season, but I didn’t finish it in time.
Very much in the tradition of The Wicker Man, Saxon’s Bane is the story of Fergus, who is injured in a car wreck outside the village of Allingley. His coworker Kate is driving, and before he’s rescued, Fergus sees a Saxon warrior stroking Kate’s hair. Clare is an archaeologist called in to excavate a man found in a drained mill pond. Or more specifically a Saxon who was murdered and buried in a bog.
After he finally gets out of the hospital, Fergus discovers that his life has changed and he can’t go back to his high pressure sales job. It’s more than survivor’s guilt over Kate’s death. He returns to Allingley, where he gets a job at a stable, hoping to continue healing. Clare, on the other hand, has begun to have disturbing dreams about the man she’s studying. Vivid dreams that become nightmares as the events of each dream move closer to the Saxon’s death.
Fergus and Clare don’t realize they have a deeper connection to the events of the past, and that those events are impacting the present.
I’ve been a fan of British television, mainly comedies and science fiction, for years. And while I haven’t had time to watch much in recent years, this book reminded me of why I enjoyed some of the shows I did. Saxon’s Bane made me want to live in a close knit British village. Just not this one.
Gudgion assembles a diverse cast of characters, from the vicar of the local church to the pagan who runs the stables to the leader of the Satanic cult that’s targeted the local church. He builds the menace and dread slowly, then when you think you know what’s going to happen, he goes in a different direction. He also manages to make even the minor characters unique individuals.
The dream/flashback scenes are well done and ultimately properly bloody, and Gudgion gives enough technical data on the history, customs, and language of the Saxons without overwhelming the reader with the amount of research he’s done. I’d love to see his try his hand at historical fantasy.
I really enjoyed Saxon’s Bane. For a first novel (I think it’s a first novel), it’s more polished and smooth than you would expect. Gudgion shows the potential to be a writer to watch. I intend to read his next book.