5.0 3
by Katy Moran

Warring kingdoms, bloody feuds, and a boy’s battle for survival. Step back into the Dark Ages with this riveting epic adventure.

In the wilds of Dark Age Britain, a bard abandons his son, Essa, in a village trapped between two feuding kingdoms. As the once-nomadic boy grows rooted in the life of the Wolf Folk, forging allegiances and young love, King

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Warring kingdoms, bloody feuds, and a boy’s battle for survival. Step back into the Dark Ages with this riveting epic adventure.

In the wilds of Dark Age Britain, a bard abandons his son, Essa, in a village trapped between two feuding kingdoms. As the once-nomadic boy grows rooted in the life of the Wolf Folk, forging allegiances and young love, King Penda of Mercia threatens to attack, thrusting Essa into the violent and cunning world of the tribal rulers. Joined by unlikely friends, unsure of whom to trust — or even of who he is — Essa sets off on a dangerous journey, using his newfound intuitive gifts to guide them as a deadly battle brews. Will his desperate efforts to save his loved ones bring him closer to understanding why his father has never returned? Fast-paced and full of intrigue, this debut novel transports readers to a time of blood and steel, when peace was fleeting and won only at a cost.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Cara Chancellor
For the first nine years of his life, Essa had no home. His mother is dead, and he and his bard father, Cai, traveled freely between the warring territories of Mercia and the Wolf Folk, singing for food, shelter, or even a chunk of amber. Britain in the Dark Ages is a harsh nursemaid, but it is better to be free than roped into the tribal wars, says Cai. One morning, though, Essa wakes up to find Cai gone from the village in which they played the previous night. Gone, and left his prized sword and Essa's guardianship with the village headmistress. Struggling to make the transition from "outsider" to "Wolf Folk warrior," Essa nurses his bitterness while working to unravel the mystery of his father's disappearance. When the Mercian King Penda—known for being both cruel and insane—threatens his village, Essa is forced into a journey neither he nor his father could have foreseen. Amidst unlikely allies and following a naive, daring plan to restore peace, Essa finally discovers the answers he seeks… and finds out they are not at all what he had hoped to hear. Moran can be commended not only for spinning a captivating tale with epic reach, but also for refusing the easy and conventional route in her fiction. Readers hoping for a precursor to King Arthur's Britain will be surprised to discover that royal heritage, forbidden love, and unassailable courage do not always win the day, and that somehow even defeat can seem like a new—more realistic—beginning. While it does center on a compelling mystery, this book's attention to historical realism and day-to-day Dark Ages life make it most suitable for a high school audience. Reviewer: Cara Chancellor
School Library Journal

Gr 7-10

Essa has traveled the lands of seventh-century Britain with his father, Cai, for many years without incident. In a Wolf Folk settlement, he wakes to find that his father has left without any explanation. Feeling angry and alone, he slowly comes to appreciate the people of the village, but never forgets his father's betrayal. Eventually Essa becomes sworn to a king and is sent out on a small errand. He gets himself deeper and deeper into tribal disputes and finds that the errand has become a full-blown adventure across kingdoms, with Essa taking matters into his own hands to try to influence the outcome of a potential tribal war. Well written and deeply researched, Bloodline moves along at a steady pace with enough intrigue and mystery to keep readers turning pages. It is a wonderful story of emotional and physical discovery that reads with "you are there" immediacy. The historical details are effortlessly woven throughout as the plot develops into a complete picture of the times. A map and an outline of the characters are included. This novel would make an excellent companion to a study of the Early Middle Ages and/or British and European history.-Dylan Thomarie, Johnstown High School, NY

Kirkus Reviews
A bleak tale from a harsh time, told with elegance and graceful mystical overtones. Essa's father, a bard wandering seventh-century England, abruptly fosters his son to a hall of strangers. Caught between two bitterly feuding tribes, Essa is also internally torn, between his yearning for family and his resentment at being abandoned, between his Christian British heritage and the pagan ways of his Anglish caretakers and, above all, between his desperate desire to belong and his bone-deep need for autonomy and independence. When simmering hostilities suddenly flare up into savage warfare, it falls to Essa, with his supernatural affinity with animals and his secret ancestry, to declare his allegiance and take a stand. Lyrical, supple prose employs well-chosen details to evoke the politics, spirit, even the flavor of ancient Britain, despite some heavy-handed symbolic flourishes and awkward translations. Essa is a complex, sympathetic protagonist: prickly and quick of temper, but also clever, determined and of unflinching integrity. If his struggle is authentically gory and ultimately tragic, it is not without glimpses of love and hope. This impressive debut kicks off a trilogy. (Historical fantasy. YA)

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Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.30(d)
830L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Middle Anglia, eastern Britain, late summer, AD 631

HE SUN rose above the flatlands, spreading a bloody glow across the mere. Shafts of brilliance swept into the hall through a side door left ajar the previous night. A streak of pale light swung across the floorboards to touch the head of a sleeping boy with hair like a lick of fire in the dark. His name was Essa, he was nine summers old, and when he opened his eyes, the first thing he saw was the red dawn waiting. Red sky in the morning, Essa thought. If Da wants to ride out today, we'll get wet. And ride out they would, he was sure. Essa sometimes wished they might stay in a place long enough for him to make friends, but they never did.

He stretched out an arm, working it free of the blue blanket drawn too close around his neck and chin. The blanket had been given to them in exchange for a song only a few days before. "And not a moment too soon." Cai had held up their old rug so that Essa could see sunlight streaming through the holes. Cai had quick black eyes, like the pieces of obsidian he'd once sold to the High King in Northumbria. He was dark and light-boned like a bird. Nobody could tell what he was thinking, not even his son, who knew him better than anyone.

Essa sat up, shrugging the blanket away from his shoulders. Next to him a fat man lay on his back, snoring gently. On his other side a small child was curled up next to her mother. The entire hall was filled with sleeping people. Cai preferred to sleep outside with their horse, Melyor, when the weather was warm enough, choosing the mare's company over the closeness of strangers. This village was a rich place with two grassy, hollow mounds behind the weaving hall, where big clay jars of barley and wheat were stored in the earthy coolness. They had a stable full of horses too, although Essa had noticed last night that two were old wrecks and one was lame. Maybe Cai was in the stable.

He squinted in the half-light at a small bundle lying at his feet, unwound himself from the blanket, and snatched the tooled leather bag to his chest. Cai must have been very drunk last night. They had so few things that everything was guarded like a dragon's hoard, especially this. Without it they'd starve, because Cai was British and proud. He was of the Iceni, whose great queen Boudicca had almost driven the Romans back into the sea, long ago. Cai used to say that more generations had come and gone since the high days of the Iceni than Essa could count on the fingers and thumbs of both his hands, and if anyone knew, Cai did, for he was a song man and a keeper of the past. But this was an Anglish village, and Essa knew Cai would never beg a meal from these people, who knew nothing of Christ the Redeemer and sang of their grandfathers crossing the eastern water in long ships with sea serpents snarling at the prows.

The night before last, Essa and Cai had been given a linen package containing dried yellow saffron and a lump of amber that had delighted Essa because it looked like the head of a dog: a rich haul. He loosened the drawstring and dug his fingers inside the bag, reassured by the smoothness of the amber in his hand. The linen packet of saffron heads was there too, rustling against his fingertips. He buckled his belt around his waist, pushed the bag inside his tunic, and ran to the door, leaping over sleeping bodies. He'd managed to get a place near the fire, and there were a lot of people between the hearth and the nearest door.

The yard was quiet and peaceful in the dawn light. Opposite the hall, a row of scythes lay against the barn wall under the low, thatched roof. He ran for the stables, where the air was quiet and thick with the warm, sweet smell of horses. When he got to the stall where he'd left Melyor the night before, Cai was not there, and neither was the horse. It was always Essa's job to bed her down whenever they arrived at a new place, whether it was a clearing in a wood or the golden-banded hall of a king. For the first time since waking, he was afraid. Had he not bolted the stable door behind him? He should have left her tethered. Without Melyor, they would be beggars. Men of song did not travel on foot. He would have to catch Melyor and bring her in quick before anyone noticed she had got out. Cai was already angry with him, and it would do no good to remind Cai of his own mistake in leaving the tooled leather bag lying around for anyone to take.

The argument had started in a hall across the border, in the kingdom of Mercia, when Cai sent a messenger to summon Essa away from a game of Fox and Geese.

"Tell him I'll come soon." Essa watched his opponent move a goose piece across the board. He was a tall, wiry boy with stooping shoulders, and he was about to get beaten. Two more moves and Essa would be the owner of a knife with a bone handle.

"He says come now."

"Tell him to be patient," Essa said, earning a burst of laughter from his opponent and the small gathering of onlookers. He watched the board, pretending to think over his next move, although he knew exactly what he was going to do: in two moves, the game would be his. He was the fox and he had captured nearly all the geese. How would it be to slink like a real fox through the night, he wondered. Cupping the small wooden figure in his hand, he could almost feel the thrill of running slick and silent in the darkness, and the thirst for hot blood.

Cai could wait. Anyway, these Mercians would probably give him another drink. He had played well the night before. The women cried when he sang of the dying bear king who was taken away in a boat by nine maidens, leaving his warriors asleep in a green cave.

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Meet the Author

Katy Moran began writing BLOODLINE while she was still in college. A former children’s book editor, she now spends her days writing in her garden shed in London.

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Bloodline 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MoodyBeatleGirl More than 1 year ago
This novel set in the Dark Ages of Britain starts off a little slow, but once the story gets going I was completely swept up in the plot, finding it to be an exciting and engrossing read. The characters, especially Essa, and the interactions between them are authentic, and even if it is set a thousand years in the past, it is easy to relate to their stuggles and feel as though you've been thrown into their time. I recommend this book to anyone who's interested in adventuours stories.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Essa's father brings him to a camp one day and leaves him there without any explanation. Essa's forced to grow up in the village without any sense of home. Years pass peacefully until the village's rival threatens war. Essa must do his duty and spy on the neighboring village. He's expected back in two days, but he's gone for much longer. He's caught while spying on the camp. The father he thought was dead is alive in the village. Essa's forced to swear another oath - to his enemies - and join their side. He doesn't understand why his father is there and his reasons for not returning. Essa figures he'll have plenty of time to ask these questions, but the next day he's sent on a mission with the King's son to fetch back his bride. The two boys form a friendship and gradually realize the pending war isn't best for both sides. They attempt to stop it with knowledge they've gained. But are they too late? Katy Morgan makes the Dark Ages come alive with her tale of war and courage, friendship and loyalty, and family and belonging.