Reader reports and reviews of Paths of Exile

Wondering whether to give Paths of Exile a try? Here is what some readers and reviewers have said about the novel:


I've finally found the time to finish Paths of Exile. Firstly, may I say that I enjoyed the novel tremendously. Starting with the physical book, the production standard is good, and the cover is excellent, particularly the lettering which shows real flair and imagination. The maps are good and clear.
As to the novel itself, I agree wholeheartedly with the HNS Review. It is fast-paced and has the narrative drive which makes it a page-turner, and most of the major characters are completely believable (although I had trouble with the bimbo Aethelind and why Eadwine should have fallen, and stayed fallen, for her, whatever her physical attributes).
The only critical comment I have is that, at the beginning of the novel, is Eadwine too much of a boy scout? OK, so he is only 20 and you want his character to develop through the course of the novel, but he has already been commanding a band of warriors for three long, hard years, and also he is an intelligent man. Wouldn't he be mentally harder and more cynical, more critical of the mores of his aristocratic warrior class? Feeling himself trapped by them rather than endorsing them would, to me at least, make him an even more interesting character.

--Bill Page, author of The Moon on the Hills and The Sower of the Seeds of Dreams


...This tale of loyalty, treachery, murder, revenge, escape and pursuit, in 7th century post-Roman, pre-Norman Britain (sometimes known as the early ‘Dark Ages’) also has just a smidgen of romance thrown in for good measure. The story is woven around some authentic historical characters (filled out to full living colour), including the main protagonist, along with some vivid entities from the author’s fertile imagination. With great attention to detail (the author is certainly au fait with this period); this is a beautifully crafted story...

--TD McKinnon. Read the full review here


Paths of Exile I have read and enjoyed even though I have read and enjoyed very little pre-1066 British fiction. I liked the Severa-Eadwine relationship because it was much more believable then most fictional relationships. After my own research into Eadwine I can say that Paths of Exile, in my mind, successfully merged the historical with the fictional. I am very glad to hear Eadwine's story continues and look forward to reading it

--Andrew, by email


I hope that "Paths of Exile" will be followed by others as you seem to suggest.
I enjoyed the characters that you have created and the sense of humour that imbued the story in spite of the occasionally
bloodthirsty content. I was also delighted to be informed about where each location actually was and yes, I did go to my road map.

With many thanks for a most engaging novel

--Pippa, by email


Just finished your book 'Paths of Exile'.
Wow, what a refreshing piece of historical fiction.
I love the detail of the period. And so few books are written in this time of history.
Reminds me of Elizabeth Chadwick's writing - and trust me that is a compliment.

But please tell me there is going to be a follow-up.
I have to know what happens to Eadwine (and his men).

--Jill, by email


I just finished Paths of Exile. Nice writing, wonderful story. The touch of reality really crept through - your copious research on the period and worldview of Northern England in the Darkest Ages was higly evident. Outstanding recreation of a dimly understood time.

--Paul, by email


I just finished PoE and wanted to tell you what a cracking read it is. I was not able to read it at one sitting and had to spread it over three weeks but I found it easy to pick up where I had left off. The combination of murder mystery and historical novel is a brilliant stroke.

The background to the English and Cumbrian traditions was very interesting, and was a strength of the tale, I felt. Black Dudda was a great character too -shame he met an untimely end.

--Stephen Pollington, author of The English Warrior, Leechcraft, and many other books on Anglo-Saxon England (see Anglo-Saxon Books for other titles).


I have just read your novel twice.Once straight through and once slowly.I found it excellent and on a par with Alfred Duggans 'Conscience of a King'
Here I must confess a fascination with the post Roman pre Norman period especially the 6 & 7th Centuries.I have read a great deal around this period.Your general portrayal of the background is first class.
I was a little unconmfortable with Eadwine's tortured love life. His reticence is I feel a modern day one and his relationship with Severa would not have been so reticent.However it is a novel.

--Howard, by email


... what I particularly enjoyed was the quick-witted repartee of the hero. He's not only likeable and virtuous, but *smart* in an entertaining way.

--Karen, by email


I am looking forward to know what happens next as well, since I thoroughly enjoyed the story and loved the sardonic humour- just right. A fascinating time in history; I have always wondered what/who happened after Arthur

--Alex, by email


A classic hero quest set in seventh-century Britain, Paths of Exile is based on the true story of Eadwine of Deira, a fugitive prince pursued by a relentless enemy throughout the land as he sought refuge and an ally to help him claim his lost kingdom.


Paths of Exile is a turbulent tale of warfare, treachery, comradeship and love, full of action, memorable characters and delectably dry humour. Nayland incorporates a wealth of detail without compromising the fast-paced narrative, writing with an immediacy which brings to vivid life a world that has long since passed into the shadows of history.

--Annis, Historical Novels Info. Read the full review here.


Paths of Exile is a wonderful story, one that conjures up this long-gone age in extraordinary detail and reveals a profound understanding of its politics, cultures, and religions based on extensive research. It may be true, as Nayland admits, that “solid facts are rare indeed in 7th-century Britain”, but these characters—some real, others pure fiction—are so solid and credible that they will stay with you long after you turn the last page.


Nayland is an author who confidently weaves together an intricate and thrilling series of subplots, revealing more about the individuals whom Eadwine meets while in exile and the widely diverse groups that occupied areas now so familiar to us. Severa, a keenly intelligent young Christian woman and a healer whose skill exposes her to accusations of witchcraft, is a particularly unforgettable character. One controversial hurdle that Nayland has, to my mind, cleared in every respect is her wholly convincing dialogue that satisfies the modern ear while also distinguishing between the various accents and languages then in use. In all, a compelling tale and an authoritative new voice: one to watch.

--Editor's Choice, Historical Novels Review, August 2009. Read the full review online on the Historical Novel Society website.


This is a historical novel set in Yorkshire in around the year 600. The Romans are long gone, although their forts and roads are still in use, and minor kingdoms of Saxons and Britons squabble endlessly for supremacy. It's solidly grounded in the known facts of the period and features Eadwine, a prince whose kingdom is annexed by more powerful forces from the north... Instead of dying honourably in battle and going to Woden's Hall, he is saved by his companions, and with a price on his head, must flee to the hills...
His older brother has been killed in mysterious circumstances and Eadwine must try to solve the mystery, all the time hiding from his enemies.
By the end of the book a lot has been resolved, but mysteries remain, and there's a kingdom to be recovered! The bare facts are fleshed out, and reasonable suppositions made concerning his historically 'missing' years - all exciting stuff, and probably the best historical novel I've read for years!

--Mike Calder, proprietor of Transreal Fiction, a specialist independent bookshop in Edinburgh, UK


...There are so few reliable accounts of Britain's history during this period, that Nayland has the freedom to invent a satisfying story without straying from the known facts. The result is a stimulating, suspenseful adventure.

It took me a few chapters to get into the story, because at first we are given brief introductions to too many characters. Pretty soon events thin the cast out, we get familiar with them, and the personalities take some interesting twists. Eadwine is only on the verge of adulthood in spite of his brains and his military experience, and he isn't as well acquainted with some people as he thinks he is. Love isn't quite what he thought it was, either. And, there is at least one appalling plot twist. I encourage you not to despair at that point. The final chapters are dancing-on-the-edge exciting.

I once read right past my bus stop on this, and twice past the end of my lunch time. What kept me reading was, Eadwine thinks. He makes plans, smart ones. I had to keep reading to find out how the plan was going to work out.

--Joy Calderwood. Read the full review on Reviewers'


So finally I read Paths of Exile and I loved it so so so so Much and I have the opportunity to tell the authoress herself!
Y`know the period is so hard to understand,everyone has there own take on it and im one of the worst for nitpicking but I cannot fault it one single bit, the peoples of the different cultures were expressed terrifically in there politics, religion and everyday life
Cant wait for the sequel, so many avenues to explore and so many not finished?
Im so hoping you carry on with this period all the way to Winwaed! i`ll definitely be forking out, thank you so much

--Rob, by email


Edwin of Northumbria was one of the greatest Monarchs of early Anglo-Saxon England.Carla Nayland`s novel beautifully tells the story of his years in exile from his Kingdom of Deira and how he is pursued by his nemesis Aethelferth of Bernicia who has overrun his Kingdom and slain many of his family.
The Authoress is a brilliant storyteller who knows the difficult and arguable 6th/7th Century period very well.Though there is both action and romance in the story, the book dosent have page upon page of battle description or romantic liason,just the right mixture of action,drama,supsense,romance,humour etc.The characters are highly believable and conduct themselves as would a Heathen Angle,Pictish warrior or Brythonic King.
There are so many nice touches for the followers of this era
Carla Nayland is a name you will certainly be hearing a lot more from,highly anticipating the sequel!

--HS Tibbs (on


I don't often find fiction interesting but "Paths of Exile" had me hooked and I read it in three large instalments; it has everything. It is historical fiction, although of a period about which little is clearly known, so while the general scenario is sound (a 7th century son of the king of what is now Yorkshire finds, after a battle, that he is now the heir to the throne but unable to stay in the kingdom until he can gather support to return) individual events are open to imagination. If you are not interested in that period as such, it may be read as pure fiction; if you are, as I am, you can take it as a plausible series of events, and I found the interaction of pagan English and Christian Welsh particularly intriguing. More than the politics of the time, however, there are male/female relationships both of a happy and of a disappointing nature, a strong illustration of how a band of friends support each other in adversity and some humour.

--D.Tankard (on


We are so short of historical fiction set in the period known as the 'dark ages' that it is always a pleasure to discover a new book, and this one does not disappoint. PATHS OF EXILE tells the story of Eadwine of Deira, over the crucial period when he was driven from his home by Athelferth of Bernicia. Eadwine is forced to flee with a small band of loyal companions and we see his struggle to survive and revenge his brother's murder. The dialogue is sharp and realistic and the pace is fast, but with quiet, thoughtful periods that add depth to the characters. Carla Nayland doesn't shrink from gritty descriptions of the harsh conditions of life at that time and we get a vivid picture of the chaos and uncertainty that must have followed defeat in battle and exile into uncertain territory. There is a gentle love story, with heart-breaking moments and some strong women characters. This is a 'rights of passage' story and the reader sees Eadwine as he matures and comes to make life-changing decisions and understand the true nature of loyalty. Carla Nayland's research is impeccable, but at the same time she does not overload us with historical detail. The picture we are given of people struggling to survive amongst warring cultures, land disputes and different languages, must surely have relevance to us today. I like the authors note at the end, which explains the difficulties of setting a story in this period and the historical basis of the story, as opposed to the rich imagination required to fill in the many gaps. I very much look forward to the sequel.

--Aelflaeda (on


You are one hell of a writer. Thank you for sharing your novels. I can't say that I like most female authors. You are an exception. I am particularly impressed with the way you weave interpersonal relationships to bind your reader. You do this at the same time as
keeping the action moving. I'm way impressed!

--Pete, by email


This is some fan mail to say how much I enjoyed Ingeld's Daughter and Paths of Exile. I happened to read Paths of Exile first and I'm glad I did because although it was as well-written and engaging as Ingeld's Daughter, and they both have the same delightful flashes of humour, it is also a darker story and the ending is terribly sad. I'm afraid I'm all for happily ever after.
I loved the interlude when Eadwine and his men were staying with Severa and her people in the hafod and the way friendship and trust unfolded between both sides. Severa is a lovely character, she and Eadwine were so well-suited.
"A considerable welcoming comittee for his soul." Very funny.
Ashhere's seeing of the elegant black cat with green eyes sitting by Eadwine's shoulder and his obvious interpretation is priceless.
Many, many thanks for sharing these clever books and a wonderful read.

- Toni, by email


I've now finished reading "Paths of Exile", and greatly enjoyed it. The description of the mixed-up post-Roman society slowly settling into what will become England five centuries later was very convincing.
I look forward to the sequel.

- Alan Fisk.


... an exciting, tautly-plotted tale that's action-packed thriller, murder mystery, tragedy and romance all rolled into one and set in an authentic landscape I can see and touch and feel. But it's much more than that, mainly because the author has peopled her story with flesh-and-blood-characters who are both convincingly of their own time and yet, with all their fears and hopes, not at all alien to us. I still find myself thinking of them as if they were old friends just lately gone away and whom I hope to meet again. Character is revealed mainly through dialogue which is often laced with humour, wry, dry and bawdy. No doubt the purists won't like it (too modern, too much swearing, tsk, tsk, yet it feels entirely right for Eadwine say "Bugger off" in moments of affectionate exasperation such as when he tries in vain to release his followers from their oath of loyalty - a telling, and touching, scene).
Oh, and I learned a lot without even realising it, for example from Eadwine in his moving exposition on the structure of Anglo-Saxon society.

- Sarah Cuthbertson. Read the full review here.


Paths of Exile is one of those books that, once sampled, cannot be forgotten. Nayland has certainly written an action-packed page turner, but "Paths" is so much more simply a good read. The novel simply oozes authenticity - rather than dress 21st century characters and issues in historical costume, Carla Nayland instead roots her story firmly in 7th century Britain. You can smell the air, taste the ale and feel the fear of her characters. Their dialogue, attitudes and issues are utterly convincing because - in certain places - they are so alien to us.

It's a rare talent to distance us from the protagonists by centuries yet keep us engaged with them. Nayland is so accomplished that you don't noticed how skilled her writing actually are seduced into the 7th century by her prose and for a brief are there with the characters. For me, the outside world faded away and I walked on the freezing moors with Eadwine and his friends, felt the same joy and relief when respite is found, and was shattered in grief with them.

Paths of Exile transcends the historical fiction genre: it is at once a thriller, a love story, an action-adventure and a whodunit set in a compelling reality that was once our own. Many authors would struggle to balance all of these threads, but because of the authenticity of the work, these facets are made utterly convincing.

The work demands a sequel.

- Russell Whitfield, author of Gladiatrix.


I'd like to thanks you for the enjoyable hours I spent with this heart moving novel. I'm looking forward to read another chapter of Steeleye's adventures :)))
It is really a collection of passion, humor and pain that can actually grab you from the day-to-day hustle bustle into a more mystic world.
I really admired your work (though it kept me up till dawn :))) I just had to finish it),
Great work and keep it up.
Keep going and good luck, I really admire you for making history alive again through novels

-Tysseer, by email


I have now finished reading Paths of Exile and thought it was very good. The names gave me a bit of trouble remembering who was who with the lesser part characters. Really enjoyed the way the characters worked with each other and their stay with 'the witch' (I forget her name) whilst Eadwine recovered. It has obviously been left open for book 2... Which I will keep my eyes out for!

- Mark, by email


Set in 7th century Britain, Carla Nayland's Paths of Exile follows the the fate of Eadwine, who has lost his kingdom and found himself in sudden exile. The novel is rich in period detail, and the plot takes unexpected turns, leaving the reader wondering what will happen not just to Eadwine, but to the woman he's supposed to marry.

With his life on the line, Eadwine must discover a way not only to avenge a murder in his family, but to defeat the enemy king Aethelferth. A gripping good read!

- Michelle Moran, author of Nefertiti (Review on


The story is compact, neat, logical and consistent. You are a terrific storyteller. You paint interactions and how they reflect personalities beautifully. You capture the setting. and the whole sequence where Eadwine makes up the story about Eadric entering the Hall of the Gods was exquisite.. moving, evocative, beautiful.. one falls in love with Eadwine right there. I really like the point counterpoint between the Brythonic and Saxon/Angle characters.. and of course Drust is terrific. You show the realities of their lives without going on and on about it. Severa is one of the most uniquely individual female characters, very self contained but not insular, if that word fits. I already liked her for her intelligence and humor but when she comes alive helping the boys escape, it's magical. A great story and a wonderful read and has characters I won't soon forget.

-Nan Hawthorne


I would definitely recommend Paths of Exile to readers of historical fiction. Carla does a superb job as usual of bring the reader into the past. The premise of the story is quite interesting, there were some parts that had me chuckling, and there were a couple of plot twists that took me by surprise.

- Nessili, Hitting the Books. Read the full review here


I have just finished reading Paths of Exile. I enjoyed it so much i had to go back and keep reading it when i had the time. Excellent novel and quite funny in places and sad of course cause life isn't always fair, just like certain situations in Ingeld's Daughter.

Very Big Fan :-)

-Michelle, by email


Carla Nayland has woven together a tapestry of old for a modern day reader. The excitement starts on the first page and holds throughout the book. Reaching back into history, and using her gift of writing and artistic rights, she brings forth a story of heroes, love, loss and life.

The Character names can be a bit confusing at first, but you soon get used to them. The plot is nicely formed and while a bit predictable, it is told in such an enjoyable manner the book becomes a real page turner.

If you enjoy stories about heroes, heroines, and other characters presented as real people, you will enjoy this book.

-Jeff Gegner


finished it and wow !!! I mean wow again !!! u did it again. U have total control over your metereal and my mind too. The charectors were as captivating as the plot and storyline and the dialogues. You used different dialects again, and the whole thing was so perfect. And the end was so unusual and unique. I know I am a sucker for ends like this, but this one was so disquieting. It was just too sad.

Still I just love your creations, those are all written with so much conviction and intensity. u bring alive the nearly forgotten art of story telling.

You also are totally non predictable and your writing never moves in a set pattern. The politics and the psychology behind the choise and behaviors of the charectors were so perfect that they made the whole tale come became more like a legend or saga than a fiction. Among the writers who tackle the genre of historical fiction, you are my favorite.

The structural unity and spontaneity of your narratives make it work for me., always.

-Mouri, by email



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