Wolf of Wessex

by Dee


Wolf of Wessex

Wolf of Wessex begins when Odin, the dog, led Dunston to a corpse in the forest. Accompanying the corpse was a cart full of valuables. A bit later on, Dunston met a young girl, Aedwen, who claimed that her father had been murdered. She asked Dunston’s help, first to take care of her father’s body and second, to find his murderer(s).

A lot of questions came to my mind reading the first chapters. But I decided to continue this Matthew Harffy adventure of mine blindly, without reading available reviews and ignoring the rating stars. I’m hoping that my perception won’t be tainted by those aspects. Let’s begin.

Featured image credit goes to Eberhard Grossgasteiger

The Wolf of Wessex

I’m not going to say that I have a favourite character of sorts in this book because, for me, the characters have their own parts to play and speak for themselves. I don’t know why I can’t find a likeable feature in any of these characters.

I liked that the story is focused only on two people: Dunston and Aedwen. The rest of the characters are necessary ornaments—they support the story but not the focal point. The main plot of this story is merely finding the killers of Aedwen’s father. But along the way, the quest stumbled upon a more important thing: why was he killed in the first place.

Dunston is a man with a questionable past. It seemed to me that his story won’t be told until the character is ready. I keep resisting the desire to liken him to Bruce Willis or Liam Neeson’s characters: retired but dragged into the “business” again (watch Red 1, Red 2 or the Taken franchise or The Expendables). I’m not sure I extracted exactly how old Dunston was, but his bodily symptoms were similar to mine: crackling knees, back pain, heavy foot—and I’m thirty-something.

Dunston said one sentence that profoundly struck my core. This was uttered as he taught Aedwen to trace and read the nature:

“You can learn much if you watch and listen. With patience and time, the woodland will give up its secrets. All learning comes from being patient and thinking what you can glean of use from what is around you.” – Wolf of Wessex, Chapter 20.

Aedwen is a girl whose life cards were drawn against her. She is now an orphan as her mother passed away and her father was murdered. Then she met Dunston, and the two of them started a journey to find her father’s murderer(s).

The Quest with the Wolf of Wessex

By Chapter 17, there were seven dead bodies, if I counted correctly. I found myself muttering, “What the heck is going on here?!” Up until this point, nothing is entirely clear yet. I know the problem, the case, and somehow could imagine how the problem might be solved. I do have a suspect in mind, but I’m not sure at all where the story will go or will my suspicion of this person holds.

There were, what I call, meaningful moments between Dunston and Aedwen during their travels that showed the developing relationship between them. Not as lovers, mind you, but more as father and daughter or mentor and mentee. Dunston is someone who had seen a lot in his lifetime, and I feel that he’s longing to pass on some of his knowledge to someone younger. On the other hand, Aedwen, who just lost her father in a murder, needed guidance and was willing to learn. This connection can be felt throughout the story, and I think it’s beautiful.

My favourite part of the book was when Dunston told the story about the meaning of rainbows for the Vikings. He had a conversation with one of his Viking prisoners, who told him that a rainbow is called Bifrost and seeing it means an omen that he would die. The Viking also said that he will travel to the feasting hall of the gods when he dies, a.k.a. Valhalla. This conversation occurred when Dunston and this prisoner saw a rainbow.

Can you imagine seeing such a beautiful sight that had such a dark and profound meaning to it? I thought, even during a battle, human connections can be made. At that moment, Dunston and that prisoner were two men fighting for their respective sides, but in the end, they were humans. It’s such a lovely connection, though then King Ecgberht hanged them the following day.

I am most disturbed by what happened in Beornmod’s house. Not because of gore—the gore is expected—but I thought that at least Dunston and Aedwen will have the chance to speak to Beornmod before continuing their quest. I thought perhaps Beornmod has some answers. Well, he was killed for that, along with four other people in his household.

Also, the amount of torture on Odin, the dog, is unbearable to read. I’m so grim that I’m seriously okay with human-related gore. But animals??? What have they done to you to deserve that? I’m looking at you, Raegnold! You’re seriously a fucked up dude—much more fucked up than the dude who did the spread-eagle thing with these murders.

The story did keep me turning the pages because I was hoping that Dunston’s past will be revealed bare in the next chapter. If you ask me, I don’t think the author revealed everything about Dunston’s past in this book. Yes, we know that Dunston was part of a group called Wolf of Wessex “hired” by King Ecgberht during his warring period. But I feel that some things were left unmentioned—maybe too dark or maybe for the following books, I don’t know.


Wolf of Wessex is a story of a quest for truth and justice. It’s also a story of wisdom, longing, and what I know as ikrar ksatria. Perhaps, a warrior’s promise is the proper translation for that. Anyways, if there isn’t an upcoming book, I would like to think that Dunston then gets together with Gytha, widow of Rothulf. It’s suitable with the ending.

The Fate of the Wolf of Wessex

Wolf of Wessex is a story of a quest for truth and justice. It’s also a story of wisdom, longing, and what I know as ikrar ksatria. Perhaps, a warrior’s promise is the proper translation for that. Anyways, if there isn’t an upcoming book, I would like to think that Dunston then gets together with Gytha, widow of Rothulf. It’s suitable with the ending.

As I finished reading Wolf of Wessex, I had to combat the tendencies to compare it to A Time for Swords. I get the impression that this book is much colder. I shouldn’t wonder much about it. It’s a different theme and has more gore in it. If I feel excited and anxiously gripped when the Norsemen were about to hit Werceworth in A Time for Swords, the anxiety level is different in this one. My vocabulary isn’t equipped to find an English word for this emotion.

The atmosphere in Wolf of Wessex is seemingly more serious. I’m not saying that Norsemen raids aren’t a serious thing. But you can find funny bits when the characters were jesting about in the other book. This switch is somewhat unexpected for me. This is grim, and I love it.

Although I enjoyed the quest that Dunston and Aedwen were in, the story made me feel quite anxious about what would happen next. I dare not think that they will find a clue and then be done with the quest, cause most of the time, that leads to disappointment on my side.

I’m honestly glad that I got introduced to Matthew Harffy’s works by reading A Time for Swords. Again, not saying that that one is better than this one. It just feels different. I want to say I feel something is incomplete, left out, or unsaid, having finished this book. I think I’m going to do a re-read later in the year to find what feels missing.

Words I Learnt

In the spirit of reading to enrich my language skills, I decided to include a list of words I learnt from every book I read, starting with this post.

  • thrall: A thrall was a slave or serf in Scandinavian lands during the Viking Age. (source: Wikipedia)
  • saetherie: Old English of savoury. (source: Etymologeek)
  • coruscating: flashing, sparkling; severely critical, scathing
  • carbuncle: a cluster of boils — painful, pus-filled bumps — that form a connected area of infection under the skin. (thank you, MayoClinic! That’s disgusting)
  • sorrel: Sorrel is a leafy green vegetable grown for its pleasantly tart, lemony flavour. It sometimes gets classified as a herb and sometimes as a vegetable. (source: The Spruce)
  • cudgel: A club is among the simplest of all weapons: a short staff or stick, usually made of wood, wielded as a weapon since prehistoric times. (source: Wikipedia)

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