Monday, March 12, 2018

Review: Saxon's Bane by Geoffrey Gudgion

Saxon's Bane
Fergus Sheppard’s world changes forever the day his car crashes near the remote village of Allingley. Traumatised by his near-death experience, he returns to thank the villagers who rescued him, and stays to work at the local stables as he recovers from his injuries. He will discover a gentler pace of life, fall in love ¬ and be targeted for human sacrifice.

Clare Harvey’s life will never be the same either. The young archaeologist’s dream find ¬ the peat-preserved body of a Saxon warrior ¬ is giving her nightmares. She can tell that the warrior had been ritually murdered, and that the partial skeleton lying nearby is that of a young woman. And their tragic story is unfolding in her head every time she goes to sleep.

Fergus discovers that his crash is uncannily linked to the excavation, and that the smiling and beautiful countryside harbours some very dark secrets. As the pagan festival of Beltane approaches, and Clare’s investigation reveals the full horror of a Dark Age war crime, Fergus and Clare seem destined to share the Saxon couple’s bloody fate.

This is one of those stories when the reality of the main characters collide with something all-together unreal.

At the time Fergus is involved in a car accident outside of a small English village, archaeologist Clare is making a discovery of her lifetime. Fergus' return to the village is some sort of catharsis whilst visions of a past life of the Saxon warrior unearthed from the bog plague the dreams of Clare. As Beltane approaches, are Clare and Fergus doomed to relive the fate of the Dark Age couple?

The story immediately reminded me of "The Wicker Man" and "Children of the Corn". It is rich, evocative and descriptive, gripping and harrowing, as Gudgion weaves a tale shrouded in ancient folklore, superstition, dark fantasy and horror. The village of Allingley itself, with its diverse characters, conceals a deep, long hidden animosity - the menace of impending doom hovers in the air like a pall.

The story slowly builds, you are drawn deeper and deeper, until it reaches its apogee and the true horror is revealed.

Further Reading:
The Search for Anglo-Saxon Paganism by EG Stanley
Imagining the Anglo-Saxon Past by EG Stanley
Anglo-Saxon Paganism by David Wilson
Bog Bodies Uncovered by Miranda Aldhouse-Green
Bodies in the Bog and the Archaeological Imagination by Karin Sanders

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