Review: The Day Of The Wolf – C.R. May

Series: Erik Bloodaxe 3

My version: Paperback
Genre: Fiction, Vikings, Britain
First published: 2020
ISBN: 9781999669539
Pages: 303

York, Spring 952AD
After four years in exile, Erik Bloodaxe retakes the city, and while his enemies regroup beyond the borders of the kingdom, he marshals his army and waits.
As summer wanes, the storm breaks. An alliance of Scots, Britons and English sweep down from the north, but Erik moves faster. Seizing the day, his armies outmanoeuvre the invaders and crush them utterly.
With the ancient borders of Northumbria restored, Erik strikes again, ravaging the land of Alba and hounding its king to the grave.
But Erik’s triumphs are an opportunity for others too, and as Bloodaxe plans a kingdom of the North and begins to dream of an empire of all Britain, they are laying plans of their own.
In an epic tale of blood and betrayal, The Day Of The Wolf concludes the story of Erik Haraldsson, the last king of Northumbria and most renowned Viking of his age.

The Day Of The Wolf is an absolutely stupendous way to finish off what surely now must be one of the most powerful trilogies in all Historical Fiction. Too much? No, I don’t think so. For a Viking king of Erik’s magnitude and historical importance, you need a writer of some stature to do his story justice and thus place him inedibly in the history of the period in the minds of readers. That has C.R. May unarguably done with insight, verve and not a little gusto.

Here, Erik Bloodaxe feels like one of, if not the, last great Viking. I know there is Harald Hardrada who came later, but he went east to make his name and his attempt to conquer England in 1066, feels both as if it were forced upon him and more a little unrealistic in its ambition. Erik on the other hand, is king of his own destiny – even if there is that prophesy about him being king five times and dying on a windswept hill. Even then, when the time comes, it is Erik who decides the where the when and above all the how.

Erik is undoubtedly a force of nature, a Viking of the old school and the new. The old, in that he loves and adventure and leading the battle from the front outsmarting his enemies every time, but he also dreams of being more than the king he is, he wants to be a great king, one that will rule an empire, even if that is ‘just’ the island of Britain. He feels like the last of the Vikings who came for the adventure and to test themselves against the foreign foe, and the first of the Vikings who saw over the heads of the shieldwall, to the riches and conquests and future that his viking must eventually lead to. He has a foot in both camps, the old and the new realism.

The story (as set out above) grips tighter than a Viking’s hands on spear and sword in a desperate shieldwall. Skilfully unravelled by C.R.May, Erik’s saga is compulsive reading, full of tension, daring, adventure, last ditch battles, spirited fightbacks and a dawning realisation that Erik, whilst a Viking to end all Vikings, is after all, just one man against his fate.

Doesn’t get bogged down in the politics, like so many others set in this period do. He knows that you’ve paid your admission fee to see Erik B and the story stays with the main man. The politics of the time are kept in the background, a brooding presence just over the horizon. Erik is a one thing at a time man, with an unerring eye for what needs to be done. This makes him and exceptional king, a brilliant battlefield commander and an wonderfully exciting read.

With The Day Of The Wolf, C.R. May has breached the defences of even his unassailable standards. There’s absolutely no doubt that when you finish this you’ll wish it had been the whole Week of the Wolf!

You can buy The Day Of The Wolf from Amazon – or all three!

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