Review: Dayraven, Hygelac’s Raid – C.R. May

Series: Sword of Woden 4

My version: Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction Dark Ages, Beowulf
Publisher: Self published

First published: 2014

From the cover:
Frisland – Summer 523 AD
An immense ship army under the command of Hygelac, King of Geatland has fallen on the northern provinces of the Frisian Kingdom.
Rushing to defend his land, the armies of the young inexperienced King Ida are defeated piecemeal as the invaders sweep through the length and breadth of the country at will.
Moving south the Geats raid deeply into the lands of the Salian Francs, carrying sword and spear to the regions of the Hetware and Cherusci as the Christian giant in the south slumbers on.
But appearances can deceive.
As the long days of midsummer slowly fade and the Geats prepare to sail away to their northern fastness, the Francs and Frisians move to crush their tormentors.
Into this whirlwind the paths of three heroes converge, until they meet on the bloody battlefield before the town of Dorestada.
Only the gods can know who will survive the clash.

Good to know: Beowulf, Hygelac, Geats, Franks, Frisii, Svear, Cherusci


I think this may have just become my favourite of all C.R. May’s books! I don’t want to have to let go of Sorrow Hill, The Scathing, Gods of War, The Raven and The Cross…all those off the top of my head. But this has just led a rear-guard, against all odd, staring death and Valhalla in the face, going to meet its ancestors in Odin’s meadhall, shieldwall up to a glorious, victorious summit.

It’s compact, concise, intense, boiled down, poignant and inspiring Historical Fiction. It is so much book in so small a number of pages. It is much more than an addendum, a side-track from the main Sword of Woden work – C.R. says the raid is mentioned in the original Beowulf manuscript and is the ‘only historically identifiable event’ contained in the poem:

It is Hygelac’s presence in the poem which has allowed scholars to tentatively date the setting of the poem as well as to infer that it contains at least some points of historical fact – Wikipedia

Beowulf is only one of a cast of incredibly well-drawn characters here, in fact, as befitting the incident’s off-on-a-spur nature, in relation to the main Beowulf story, Hygelac (“hoo-geh-lak”), is the hero here. And if ever a character was screaming to be made of, it’s Dayraven himself.

Hygelac’s Raid is nothing less than a lesson in how to write Historical Fiction. How to put succinctly the pre-Viking Odin worshippers’ way of facing their death, how to perfectly re-create one of the great nation-forging periods in European history. If you’re not shouting – but I want more Beowulf!!! and thinking Beowulf is undoubtedly the original, the best, the warrior hero of all heroes when finishing this book – you’re wrong. You’ll get more from Dayraven Hygelac’s Raid than most Historical Fiction novels of three times the length.

You can buy Dayraven Hygelac’s Raid from Amazon

*Not all covers are animated, like mine

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