Thank you to Giles Kristian who provided me with the audiobook edition of Hellmouth. This did not alter my opinions on Hellmouth, or my review. All opinions shared are honest.
Giles Kristian is known for his historical fiction, from Arthurian inspired Lancelot, to The Rise of Sigurd in 8th century Scandinavia. In Hellmouth, Giles Kristian deviates to a style of historical fiction with a twist of horror, which is executed equally well.
This is a fantastic novella. Thrust into the shoes of a mercenary band in Bohemia, 1370, the reader is greeted by blood-pumping action, lyrical prose, interesting characters and an engaging plot. The story diverged from what I expected when initially starting, but that by no means demeaned the enjoyment.
In the short space of this novella, Giles Kristian simultaneously builds an authentic feeling world that is gritty and tough, whilst also creating a memorable band of warriors led by leader Galien, who is forced into carrying out a mission for the Mother Church. In this, we see the band fall out of their depth and see how they adapt in attempt to deal with what approaches them. Giles Kristian engages with a dark, brutal and tense mood and atmosphere that whilst being authentic like his other works, relies much more on tension and suspense, which personally I loved.
The audiobook is narrated by the fantastic Philip Stevens, who I would say is one of the best narrators out there. The sheer variety of tone and delivery is what elevates him above most. Whatever tone that Giles Kristian appears to be aiming for, Philip Stevens adapts the delivery and pace to suit and deliver. Wonderful to listen to. Also, this is the first time I have ever actually felt scared by an audiobook. So, if you’re up for an interesting dose of fear in your read as well, this is the one for you.
Overall, Hellmouth is an incredibly well-crafted novella in which Giles Kristian expands and explores different themes and tones with much success. Routed in a historical authenticity set in Bohemia, 1370, Giles in this creates a fantastic, engaging story that is brought to life by poetic prose narrated by Philip Stevens. I would recommend this short read to fans of fantasy, horror and historical fiction alike.
Author: Giles Kristian
Genre: Historical fiction. Horror. Fantasy(?)
First Published: 2021
Rating: 5 stars
In absentia lucis, tenebrae vincunt. In the absence of light, darkness prevails.
It is no secret that I am a big fan of Giles Kristian’s writing. I have digested three of his books so far including his stellar Lancelot & Camelot duology and God of Vengeance, the first in his epic Viking series, The Rise of Sigurd, and have praised his excellent characterisation, lyrical prose and remarkable storytelling. His new novella, Hellmouth, not only boasts all three but is also permeated with a raw horror that genuinely terrified me as I listened to it in the middle of the night.
"It is wiser to stand in front of the bear than to turn his back to him.”
After reading Giles Kristian’s Raven trilogy and then Lancelot and Camelot, I was certain that this would be a 5-star read. I was not disappointed.
God of Vengeance is book one of The Rise of Sigurd, Giles Kristian’s prequel trilogy to Raven. This is the beginning of an epic Viking saga tale about Sigurd, who begins as a young man. A fantastic story that was great to listen to on Audiobook, narrated by the fantastic Philip Stevens.
Sigurd is the younger son of Jarl Harold, an inexperienced warrior who yearns to prove himself to both his father and brothers. But, unbeknown to him, he will receive more opportunities to become a warrior than even he would like. This is a tale of a pursuit of vengeance, where Sigurd with a small band of allies fights to survive, with the goal to one day get revenge on King Gorm, the Oathbreaker, who betrayed and killed Sigurd’s father and brothers.
“As with all the stories, there's always smoke before the fire kindles.”
As always, Giles Kristian’s prose shines through in the narration by Philip Stevens. I would say that the pacing of this story was perfect, with the fantastic blend of characterisation, action and intrigue for my tastes. This is somehow made even better by the fantastic reading by Philip Stevens, who has a voice that completely immerses you into Kristian’s gritty, authentic, dangerous world.
One of the strongest aspects of God of Vengeance is the characters. From Sigurd himself, to the bloodthirsty priest Asgot, to the steadfast Olaf and the frenzied Black Floki. In this, Kristian again forms a band of warriors, each with their own distinguishable characteristics that makes them all unique. He forms the tone and atmosphere of such a band brilliantly, showing the tensions between each other but equally the camaraderie they forge through the blood of their enemies.
Part of what creates such an immersive experience is how Giles Kristian makes sure to omit modern sayings, and instead adopts seemingly authentic Norse figures of speech. Combined with the historical detail, this immersed me into the beginning of this tale of the rise of Sigurd.
“Even the old hounds can bite.”
Overall, God of Vengeance is a great first instalment in The Rise of Sigurd trilogy. The plot, prose, narration and everything else blend together to craft a fantastic experience. Whilst The Rise of Sigurd is a prequel to the Raven series, you can begin with this.