Another Review at MyShelf.Com

The Divine Sacrifice
Arthurian Mystery #2

by Tony Hays

     

I had the pleasure of reading Tony Hays' The Killing Way (also reviewed on Myshelf) when it came out last year. I had at first assumed that it was a standalone, from the satisfying way the ending seemed to resolve things. Instead, it's the beginning of a series and—impressively—one in which the second outing is even better that the first. The Divine Sacrifice is much more than a rewrite of The Killing Way with some details changed, as happens too often these days. Itís a completely different story, set in different circumstances, which may involve some of the same people but also reflects that these people have changed and developed a great deal since the opening pages of book one... just as they would have in real life. I think itís an even richer, more satisfying and exciting read than its predecessor, which is saying something.

The series is labeled "Arthurian Mysteries." If you, like me, have trouble buying into the usual Arthurian fiction concept of some epic fantasy hero living in a castle out of Disney, donít make the mistake of thinking that applies here. You wonít have any trouble believing in this, the historical Arthur, an entirely human, charismatic war leader who is very much a man of his gritty, early medieval times. Memorable characterization is one of the bookís greatest strengths, a standout even over the superb plotting, the evocative, smoothly effective writing, and the solid historical detail. The story is filled with complex people you care about and believe in, remembering them long after words and plot details have started to fade. That starts with series hero Magwyn ap Cuneglas, a farmer turned berserker soldier / military advisor, turned bitter drunkard after losing a hand in battle, returned to a position of respect in Arthurís court through the events of the first book.

Arthurís plans for a formal visit to Ynis-witrin (Glastonbury) to talk with church leaders and remind an iffy ally that he is being watched are upgraded to urgent when a monk is found murdered there. The abbey is where Magwyn first developed a reputation for solving puzzles during his convalescence and they need him now. Discovering who killed Brother Elafius means first discovering why he was killed, something that seems to have as many reaching tentacles as an octopus, and more besides. Some of which involve possible threats to Arthurís reign, while others seem to have ties to Saint Patrick and the heresy he has come to the abbey to investigate. Before he can even begin to figure out which ones contain the answers he needs, Malgwyn will need all his skills just to unearth all the secrets seemingly everyone at the abbey is hiding.

A highly recommended entry in what has fast become one of my favorite new historical mystery series. Well written, intricately plotted, gritty and real, filled with fascinating people and a "you are there" depiction of its setting, all in a story whose mysteries are solved through genuine detective work—something that fails to occur in a surprising number of mystery novels these days. I canít wait to see what Tony Hays comes up with next.

The Book

Tor / Forge / Macmillan
April 2010
Hardcover
978-0-7653-1946-3
Historical Mystery / 5th century Britain
More at Amazon.com
Excerpt
NOTE: Tony Hays was my July 2010 Myshelf Author of the Month. Follow the link to check out my interview with him.
Thereís a very useful glossary and gazetteer in the back, along with a helpful authorís note connecting some of the dots between his fictional story and the real life history in which it's grounded.

The Reviewer

Kim Malo
Reviewed 2010
NOTE:
© 2010 MyShelf.com