• The Serpent Sword

  • The Bernicia Chronicles, Book 1
  • By: Matthew Harffy
  • Narrated by: Barnaby Edwards
  • Length: 12 hrs and 9 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (468 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

633AD. Anglo-Saxon Britain. A gripping, powerful, action-packed historical thriller about vengeance and coming of age. The Bernicia Chronicles are perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell.

Beobrand is compelled by his brother's almost-certain murder to embark on a quest for revenge in the war-ravaged kingdoms of Northumbria. The land is rife with danger, as warlords vie for supremacy and dominion. In the battles for control of the region, new oaths are made and broken, and loyalties are tested to the limits. With no patronage and no experience, Beobrand must form his own allegiances and learn to fight with sword and shield.

Relentless in pursuit of his enemies, he faces challenges which transform him from a boy to a man who stands strong in the clamour and gore of the shieldwall. As he closes in on his kin's slayer and the bodies pile up, can Beobrand mete out the vengeance he craves without sacrificing his honour...or even his soul?

©2016 Matthew Harffy (P)2016 Audible, Ltd

What listeners say about The Serpent Sword

Average Customer Ratings
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Fantastic!

If you could sum up The Serpent Sword in three words, what would they be?

Taking up this book based on the comment about it being a good one for Bernard Cornwell fans, of which I am a huge fan, it started a bit slow. But I stayed with it and was rewarded by a gripping tale every bit as worthy of the genre. The tale covers a wide array of emotional tides other than revenge and grief. Mr. Harfly weaves this tale well and makes it a hard book had to put down. I look forward to the next two books to see what happens to the boy who became a warrior, Beobrand.

Have you listened to any of Barnaby Edwards’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I've never listened to any of Mr. Edwards' narrations but I am now a fan. It is difficult to remember that all of those voices are being said by one narrator and not an entire company of actors.

14 people found this helpful

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Good tale...

Good vs evil, with good ultimately, albeit painfully, triumphing. Would not recommend for teens...they may not be ready for graphic sexual violence scenes described, although the author does not shy from such realistic aspects of that time. Worth the read...good disclaimer at the end for minor historical inaccuracies (literary privilege), although they don’t distract from the tale.

4 people found this helpful

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Now that was good

After listening to a few stories that didn’t hold my interest and seemed marginal at best finally I was not moved to seek a return on my credit investment

2 people found this helpful

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Amazing story, needs a warning in the description.

I purchased this book thinking it would be an epic story of honorable warriors accomplishing great feats of power. That's pretty much what I got. But when the author would go into detail about rape scenes and the like, it was disgusting. I saw no such warnings in the description of the book as I was contemplating the purchase, at least nothing obvious. But aside from that, it was a great book full of satisfying revenge and violence (minus the aforementioned scenes). So if there was a warning in the description notifying potential customers of the TYPES and EXTENT of violence, this would be a 5/5 star rating all-round.

33 people found this helpful

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Slow and unfocused

I was disappointed in the pace, and the graphic description of rape was not appreciated.

1 person found this helpful

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Not perfect for Cornwell fans

Where is the story here? The characters are flat and uninteresting. Plot and dialogue are meandering trails that seem to take us nowhere. Narrator is as uninteresting as the story. I wander off in my head and snap back to realize they’re still sulking in the woods or some random town. There’s not story here.

1 person found this helpful

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Good for the most part

Good storyline- would have given 5 stars had there not been what seemed to be a random roaming part with the outlaw warriors with little purpose or direction other than brutal, savage encounters then back to where they started when the main character joined them. Other than that, good tale.

1 person found this helpful

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Not that great a story

Would you try another book from Matthew Harffy and/or Barnaby Edwards?

Dont think so. I found the story weak

Has The Serpent Sword turned you off from other books in this genre?

No i enjoy this genre

Have you listened to any of Barnaby Edwards’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No

Did The Serpent Sword inspire you to do anything?

Certainly not to buy the 2nd book

Any additional comments?

Very weak and predictable story. Hero gets everything right all the time

4 people found this helpful

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love this author

I love this author and the voice of the narrator. To me, the narrator can make or break the story by how well it is told. Great writing from the author as well.

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NORTHUMBRIA LIVES!

Fantastic book!
If you are looking for a fix to smooth your Bernard Cornwell craving, this is it.
It has a slow build in the beginning, but the characters come together nicely and the story is well told.
The narrator also gives an excellent performance.

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  • Farniboy
  • 04-11-17

Almost a Prequel To Cornwell's King Alfred Books.

What did you like most about The Serpent Sword?

I think people may expect a lesser copy of Bernard Cornwell's The Last Kingdom series, thankfully that isn't the case. For a start the books are set a couple of hundred of years before the events in Cornwell's books. The history of Dark Ages Northumbria is really interesting and a time that I know little about, Matthew Harffy builds a dirty, cold and cruel world, well. Plenty of fast paced action scenes, political skullduggery and a hero you can root for.

Who was your favorite character and why?

A great lead character in Beobrand. A young man on a very real hero's journey. Over the course of the book he goes from being a young innocent searching for his last living family member, to a warrior who's survived several battles and seen the evil that men do.

What does Barnaby Edwards bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

A good narration. A large cast and they all seemed to stand out.

Any additional comments?

I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed this book. The enticing £2.99 price is what drew me in. I'm glad that I took the chance, its a really good listen. A great lead character, thrilling battles, and a few story strands that aren't tied up completely, enough to make you want to delve into the world of Bernicia some more! A good start to a series. I've already purchased the second book for a holiday read on my Kindle.

14 people found this helpful

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  • LewisMoorhead
  • 12-21-16

Best Audiobook I have read to date,

If you could sum up The Serpent Sword in three words, what would they be?

Gripping, Battles, Emotion

Who was your favorite character and why?

Beobrand ofcourse, the main protagonist who defeats his enemies with the power of youth and determination after the loss of his loved ones. A great character to follow.

Have you listened to any of Barnaby Edwards’s other performances? How does this one compare?

First performance I have heard from Barnaby Edwards but his performance is fantastic.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I listened to it over 3 days at work! =)

Any additional comments?

Fantastic read.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Alan
  • 03-05-17

Excellent

Excellent performance, great characters, very much in the essence of the saxon chronicles. Looking forward to the next one which is already downloaded

6 people found this helpful

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  • Chris Mitu
  • 11-27-18

Entertaining enough but predictable

I enjoyed listening to it and was really looking forward to a prequel to Bernard Cornwell's Last Kingdom series but unfortunately this isn't it. The time and places are interesting from a historical point of view.
Unfortunately the story is very predictable. The author spends too much time recapping the feelings and worries of the main character to the point where you start to wonder if he is describing the mind of a 21st century teenager rather than those of a 6th century young warrior.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Ian Minter
  • 06-04-18

Narrator

I enjoyed the story very much. Authors move things around with impunity and this is ok, if you are interested you would look for the facts yourself which I have done and it does not diminish the book.
With audio you are listening to a voice that is being used to give us something extra to the book, with this book I did not have extra compared to some books I have listened to. To explain I would invite you to listed to The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell . It is the best book I have listened to, but it does not make it a better story. The narrator almost puts a face to the minds eye or topography as well as a map.
I will listen to more of these books, I did enjoy it. Thank you.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Simon
  • 12-27-17

A Real Bone-Cracking Skin-Splitter of a Book!

Over Christmas I fancied the audiobook equivalent of a box set, a bit of a binge and after some deliberation settled on this gem of a series from Matthew Harffy. I’ve gone through all three of the books available on Audible at the time of writing and by golly this is a good one. I see it has been compared to Cornwell’s Dark Ages adventures and the similarity is certainly there. Both authors describe a world where life is frighteningly cheap for the majority. The upper strata of society is held together by an almost primeval belief in Gods and oaths all backed up with the bloody effectiveness of the warrior class and haunted by superstition. I wouldn’t say that Harffy goes for quite the level of sophistication and depth that Cornwell does but to me that’s not an issue. There are strong Lords and Kings, vicious battles, much drinking and feasting, strong women weaving their own intrigues and heroic speeches and feuds galore. It’s a glorious adventure but our hero Beobrand never has it easy.

Harffy doesn’t spare his characters hardship or misadventure. You will see characters you thought would last fall both in battle and to the evil desires of Beobrand’s enemies. It’s a tale of a young man’s struggles as a warrior and we get straight into it. There is no coming of age tale here! That’s history by the time the first book starts as he stumbles through his first bitter experience of the shield wall. With the excellent narration from Barnaby Edwards the atmosphere and harsh character of the period is conjured in thrilling fashion. Maybe Edwards doesn’t quite have the booming tones of a Brian Blessed so he can’t do some of the great warriors and kings full justice but few do and with his variety of voices he gives each protagonist nuance and character.

This looks like being an ongoing series and I can certainly confirm that for the three books so far published on Audible the quality is kept up throughout. I don’t often listen to books in a series back to back but this turned out to be the perfect choice for me. From the author’s website there is clearly more to come! Bring it on!

13 people found this helpful

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  • Harlequin565
  • 05-07-21

This is no Cornwell...

Caveat: Made it 4 hours in before giving up...

Not for me this one. I found the narration to be very lacklustre as if someone was just reading it out loud rather than injecting some enthusiasm into it. Sadly it's not helped by the overabundance of description and lack of dialogue which means it comes across as more of a history book reading than a heroic fantasy novel.

The characters are all bland and feel very tired and cliched. The story labours ponderously along and after 4 hours I found myself wondering why I was listening. Would rather relisten to a Cornwell or a Gemmell book than continue.

I like my fantasy pacey, gripping, exciting and with a well written story. Sadly this audiobook manages none of these.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Nick F
  • 03-24-17

Dark Ages enlightened

A regal story with intrigue, great characters and action.

Take the long way home to listen.

3 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • julien
  • 08-09-21

bad story, bad narration

one dimentional characters, appalingly predictable plotline, repetitive stereotypes, every character that is not the hero is rendered with an accent being one shade or another of constipation... tedious

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • JackJackdaw
  • 07-27-21

Mediocre story with terrible narration.

I ploughed through it as I had no more credits left to choose a different book, and by the end, it was an alright tale. Chances are you came here via Bernard Cornwell, if so you will be disappointed!

2 people found this helpful

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  • Thomas
  • 02-26-17

Could have been written by Bernard cornwell

Great read. But reads so similarly to that of a Cornwell novel. Is this a bad thing? Maybe not

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-18-21

Well worth the "read"

I'll start by saying I happened upon this title by accident, so I knew nothing about it. I have an interest in the time period in which the book is set so I would consider my criticisms a little harsher than normal.
That said I very much enjoyed this book. I particularly liked the small portion at the end where the author explains the terminology used and the liberties they took with the history, bending it to suit their story but not breaking or ignoring history.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-10-21

Good start......

Series has started well, characters are developing and the time is rich with potential stories. The dialogue is a little stilted so hoping the authors familiarity with his characters will make some improvements.
Narrator is good and l am looking forward to the next book in the series.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Erin
  • 09-26-20

fast paced plot

If you are a fan of Uhtred and the Last Kingdom series, this book is for you!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-04-20

Worth a listen.

Brilliant narrator, fine story and strong historical base. In my view rivals Cornwell but possibly not quite as good in dialogue. Thoroughly enjoyed it and will purchase more.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-20-21

enjoyed the plot

this was a good tale of the dark ages
enjoyed the narration
just downloading the next book

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  • James Alexander
  • 06-18-21

Well written and an enjoyable story

I look forward to listening to more of these novels. Bernard Cornwell has some serious competition!

James Alexander
Adelaide
South Australia


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  • Michael
  • 08-28-17

great reading of a very mediocre story.

basically sword porn with a weak plot, one-dimensional characters and no sense of development or impact.

great reading though. differentiates the voices of different characters and does a great job of keeping the pace and tone appropriate for each scene. will be searching for more barnaby edwards readings but not more matthew harffy novels.

1 person found this helpful