Book Review – Pagan Warrior by MJ Porter

Today I am reviewing the first book in MJ Porter’s series about Penda of Mercia, Pagan Warrior!

Pagan King by MJ Porter

From bestselling author, MJ Porter comes the tale of the mighty pagan king, Penda of Mercia.

Britain. AD632.

Penda, a warrior of immense renown, has much to prove if he is to rule the Mercian kingdom of his dead father and prevent the neighbouring king of Northumbria from claiming it.

Unexpectedly allying with the British kings, Penda races to battle the alliance of the Northumbrian king, unsure if his brother stands with him or against him as they seek battle glory for themselves, and the right to rule gained through bloody conquest.

There will be a victor and a bloody loser, and a king will rise from the ashes of the great and terrible battle of Hædfeld.

Now the first thing to know about MJ is that she writes a lot. In the three years since my first novel Rise of a Champion came out, I have published the first four books of my Cid series, and two of them were finished well before Rise of a Champion was out. MJ has released over twenty. Twenty! And she has another three coming out in the next three months! Part of me wonders if she has some sort of historical fiction AI bot helping her churn out these books. But then you read them, and realise she is just a bloody marvellous writer with the gift of the muse and fast fingers.

Set in seventh century Britain, the book focuses on Penda of Mercia and his alliance with Cadwallon, a Northumbrian who has recently been defeated by King Edwin of Northumbria, who happens to be Cadwallon’s foster brother. Edwin is a ruthless and ambitious individual, and the ruler of a realm in its so-called Golden Age. Penda is a pagan warrior at a time when Christianity it beginning to expand and take over Britain; Celtic Christianity takes hold of the north, whilst the south sees influence from Rome. As tensions rise, alliances are drawn up, and the inevitable clash comes in the book’s culmination at the Battle of Hatfield. It really is a game of thrones, with many of the main players related in some form as they battle divided loyalties and plot and scheme in the shadows, looking to profit from the forthcoming fight.

The book has plenty of viewpoints, not least from kings like Penda and Edwin themselves, but from a range of key players on all manners of sides that give varying views and insights of the weave of political intrigue and religious differences in the kingdoms of Britain at the time. It perhaps would have been more to my liking to focus on just a couple of characters for their viewpoints, mainly the kings themselves, but MJ manages to make it thoroughly engrossing despite the glut of character viewpoints. There is blood and violence, there is swearing by the bucket load, and enough scheming and plotting to keep you guessing who will be loyal to the man they want to wear the crown. Despite the fact the book is set in the so called Dark Ages, MJ fills the book with looks of incredible details, and fills in the blanks masterfully to craft an entertaining read.  

Overall a brilliant book and great start to the series. 4/5 Stars.

MJ Porter is the author of many historical novels set predominantly in Seventh to 
Eleventh-Century England, as well as three twentieth-century mysteries. Being raised in the shadow of a building that was believed to house the bones of long-dead Kings of Mercia, meant that the author’s writing destiny was set.

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Matt Coles – audiobook narrator:





4 thoughts on “Book Review – Pagan Warrior by MJ Porter

  1. Thank you so much for hosting MJ Porter today, and for your lovely review of Pagan Warrior. I’m delighted you enjoyed the story.

    Cathie xx
    The Coffee Pot Book Club


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