I’ve taken part in the blog tours for every book of the Eagle of Mercia Chronicles series so far. When I got the invite to review the newly released fifth book in the series, Protector of Mercia, I jumped at the chance!
If you are new to the series and want to catch up on any of the prior books before this one, you can find my reviews for Son of Mercia, Wolf of Mercia, Warrior of Mercia and Eagle of Mercia using these links.
One last thing before getting into the details of this latest book and my review! A massive thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources and to M.J. Porter for giving me the opportunity to read the book as part of the tour!
Now, let’s get stuck in!
Protector of Mercia – M.J. Porter
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Boldwood Books
Publication Date: 05 Sept 2023
Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟
A deathbed oath leaves the lives of two infants hanging in the balance.
Tamworth AD833 After successfully rescuing her husband from the Island of Sheppey, Icel hears the deathbed confession of Lady Cynehild which leaves him questioning what he knows about his past, as well as his future.
In the unenviable position of being oath sworn to protect their two atheling sons when Lord Coenwulf is punished and banished for his treason against the Mercian ruler, King Wiglaf, Icel is once more torn between his oaths and the secret he knows.
When the two children are kidnapped, Icel, good to his word, and fearing for their safety, pursues their abductors into the dangerous Northern lands, fearing to discover who is behind the audacious attempt on their lives: the queen, the king’s son, or even Lady Ælflæd, a friend to him in the past, but now wed to the king’s son and aunt to the two abandoned children.
Alone in the Northern lands, Icel finds himself facing his worse fears. Can he rescue the children from their captor, or will he fail and lose his life in the process?
Where earlier books in the series centre on Viking invaders and Saxons repelling them, Protector of Mercia turns inward to the internal conflicts between Saxons themselves. I enjoyed the change of focus, as the undercurrents to the previous books got their chance to shine here.
Throughout the narrative, the threat of Viking warriors continues to loom; Saxons continually make preparations. However, the plot is largely a near-solo quest to locate and retrieve two children. They have a claim to the Mercian throne and are kidnapped under dubious circumstances. That’s not to say that we don’t get to see the camaraderie and group battle scenes we have come to know and love throughout the series though!
The conflict may arise from different sources in this book, but the execution of storytelling, tension and intrigue is just as great as every book in the series to date. Protector of Mercia is a compelling read, leaving you wondering how Icel is going to face the next challenge that is invariably around the corner.
Throughout the series we’ve ventured far and wide across the land of the Saxons. Protector of Mercia is no exception… and we get to explore new territory in this narrative. Icel finds himself venturing into new and unfamiliar lands. On his quest to secure the safety of the kidnapped children, he finds himself isolated and endangered at every moment.
The change of setting and circumstances of Icel’s quest keeps us (along with Icel) on our toes. He is not quite floundering, but he is far more unbalanced and unsure of his actions, creating tension and leaving us guessing as to what could happen next.
Icel remains a standout character for me throughout this series and in the genre more widely. He has come a long, long way from the youth who couldn’t bear to pick up a seax, even in his own defence. Yet, for all the personal growth and development over the course of the books, he retains a strong sense of self. He doesn’t relish his duty as a warrior – it is purely his responsibility. He has never lost touch with his penchant for healing and his allies greatly benefit from his skill after leaving a battlefield.
Given the more political nature of Protector of Mercia, we get to explore the natures of other Saxons that make up the background of not just this story but help augment what has already happened to date.
On top of the troubles with inheritance for the Mercian throne, Icel has his own secrets and preoccupations. We know far more about Icel as a character and his history than we did in Son of Mercia. The revelations of his past, and the potential consequences that may have are an overarching storyline spanning across the series. I’m sure we’ll see far more of this in future books, and I can’t wait to see how it all unravels.
Protector of Mercia varies slightly from the previous books in the series in terms of focus, but not in terms of enjoyment. I really appreciated the change of setting and conflict, and the worldbuilding we got as a result, but with the nail-biting (at times) tension that keeps us on the edge of our seat.
The Eagle of Mercia Chronicles series still has plenty of offer, and I already can’t wait for the next instalment!
MJ Porter is the author of many historical novels set predominantly in Seventh to Eleventh-Century England, and in Viking Age Denmark. They were raised in the shadow of a building that they believed housed the bones of long-dead Kings of Mercia – so their writing destiny was set.
Social Media Links –
Newsletter Sign Up: https://bit.ly/MJPorterNews