A Savage Moon by Theodore Brun

October 5, 2023

Please note, A Savage Moon is the fourth book in The Wanderer Chronicles. If you haven’t read books one, two and three then what follows may contains minor spoilers.

Byzantium, 718AD

The great siege is over. Crippled warrior, Erlan Aurvandil, is weary of war. But he must rally his strength to lead a band of misfit adventurers back to the North, to reclaim the stolen kingdom of his lover, Lilla Sviggarsdottir. For this, they need an army. To raise an army, they need gold.

Together they plot a daring heist to steal the Emperor’s tribute to his ally. Barely escaping with their lives, they voyage north, ready for the fight. But when fate strands them in a foreign land already riven by war, Erlan and Lilla are drawn inexorably into the web of a dark and gruesome cult.

As blades fall and shadows close in, only one thing for them is a savage moon is rising. And it demands an ocean of blood.

What with global pandemics and what have you, it’s been a few years since the last instalment of The Wanderer Chronicles. A Burning Sea, book three in the series, was released way back in September 2020. Fortunately, I have learned, that when it comes to books, you have to be patient. A Savage Moon is finally released this week and the good news is that it has been well worth the wait.

Erlan Aurvandil is the hero of the hour. The mighty city of Constantinople has held against vicious hordes of invaders. Erlan should be on top of the world, but instead, he is unfocused and plagued by uncertainty. The battle for the city has cost him dearly and that cost is starting to take its toll. To those that don’t know, Erlan comes across as quite the uncomplicated soul, very much your atypical man of action. Stab first, ask questions later; that sort of thing. The truth is that there is actually far more to him than that. Erlan obsesses about things. Rather than venting his emotions, he internalises just about everything. There are still traumas from his formative years that he dwells upon. On top of this world-class critical self-analysis Erlan has suffered both mentally and physically during his travels. It is becoming more and more obvious that Erlan is being ground down by a constant diet of warfare. The narrative offers insights into Erlan’s innermost thoughts, and it feels like he is suffering something almost akin to PTSD. In the short pauses between the seemingly relentless violence, Erlan is beset by nagging doubts. He’s become unsure of himself. The only place there is ever any clarity or respite is in the midst of bloodshed. I’m not sure there is anyone that can survive that kind of pressure long-term.

Meanwhile, Lilla Sviggarsdottir, ever the opportunist, is hatching a plan to regain her lost lands. For our erstwhile hero, this means that once again, Erlan finds himself between a rock and a hard place. How does he reconcile the call of duty and honour with the bonds of love?

Circumstance (an ill-advised heist pulled off more through luck than judgment) demands a quick exit from Constantinople. With the city far behind them, the remainder of the novel finds Erlan and company moving north towards home. This is where events take a darker turn. Brun uses A Savage Moon to explore the origins of werewolf mythology in Europe. It’s a fascinating subject. The time period during which the novel is set is a fertile breeding ground for the sort of superstitions and tall tales that eventually evolve into legends. I like the interpretation of the werewolf mythos used here. It’s a very grounded approach that feels entirely plausible and works well within the confines of the story.

For me, the best historical fiction needs to be evocative and ignite my imagination. Throughout the entirety of The Wanderer Chronicles, the author has perfectly captured that sense of the old and new at loggerheads. The various religions and politics of the era clashing together and causing war after war. The Old gods are still being worshipped in dark places while Christianity spreads outwards from Rome*. Erlan Aurvandil has lived through turbulent times and the writing makes that chaos feel palpable.

A Savage Moon is published by Corvus and is available now. Highly recommended. I look forward to more.

My musical recommendation to accompany A Savage Moon is the album Kvitravn by the Norwegian folk band Wardruna. Lead singer Einar Selvik describes the album as follows – “..discusses Northern sorcery, spirit-animals, shadows, nature and animism, the wisdom and meanings of certain myths, various Norse spiritual concepts, and the relation between sage and songs“. The atmospheric, ambient sounds lend themselves well to the novel’s dark tone. You know the drill listen to one, read the other and enhance your enjoyment of both.

*Personally, if I had to choose, I’d be team Old Gods** all the way but each to their own.

**I might draw the line at human sacrifice. I’ll be honest the “might” really depends on who is being sacrificed.

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