Review: The Divine Sacrifice by Tony Hays

The Divine Sacrifice is the second in a series of historical mysteries set in Arthurian Britain. Don’t miss my interview with author Tony Hays.

My review:

When an elderly monk is found murdered in his cell at the abbey of Ynys-witrin, King Arthur’s counselor Malgwyn ap Cuneglas is asked to investigate. On their arrival at the abbey, however, Malgwyn and Arthur are surprised to find that St Patrick is also about to arrive from Hibernia in order to root out heresy in the monastery. Is there a connection between the death of old Elafius and the presence of St Patrick at the abbey? As Malgwyn begins to unravel the mystery he discovers something which could threaten not only Arthur but the future of the country.

The Divine Sacrifice can be enjoyed on different levels as an Arthurian story, a historical fiction novel and a murder mystery, although it’s the combination of all three that makes the book so compelling. I have read a lot of mysteries and a lot of historical fiction but this book really stands out as something new and different.

I love the character of Malgwyn, who is one of the most unusual detectives I’ve ever encountered in a book. As one of the other characters in the novel observes, he’s an ‘uncommon man with an uncommon clarity of vision’. We also meet Arthur, Guinevere, Merlin and others who will be familiar to anyone with even a basic knowledge of Arthurian legend, athough they are not depicted in the way you might expect. It’s important to understand that this is not a retelling of the famous Arthur legends – it’s actually an original historical mystery with elements of the legends cleverly woven into the story. Arthur is shown here as a powerful leader who is working to unite the warring tribes of post-Roman Britain.
The mystery unfolds at just the right pace and there are enough twists in the story to keep the reader guessing all the way to the end. Tony Hays has obviously done a lot of research on his subject and is able to portray life in 5th century Britain in a realistic and convincing manner, meaning that I came away from the book feeling I knew a little bit more about the time period than I did before.

Although I hadn’t read the first book in the series, The Killing Way, the author provided enough background information relating to the events of the first book that I was quickly able to pick up the threads of the story and understand what was going on. However, I enjoyed The Divine Sacrifice so much I now want to go back and read The Killing Way and I’ll look forward to more books in this series in the future.


Genre: Historical Mystery/Pages: 304/Publisher: Forge/Year: 2010/Source: Won ARC in giveaway

4 thoughts on “Review: The Divine Sacrifice by Tony Hays

  1. Amy @ Passages to the Past says:

    I have the first book, but not this one! I must get to them quickly! I’m surprised that you weren’t lost having not read the first, that must be hard to do as an author without re-telling the whole story.

    Great review Helen and I’ll be back tomorrow for the interview. He was such a nice man when we worked together for the giveaway. It’s so nice to know that a winner of one of the giveaways on my site LOVED their winnings!

  2. Aarti says:

    Wow, that sounds like a REALLY great series! I love how authors are kind of expanding genres now. It’s cool to see Arthurian literature with mystery. I heard about a fantasy mystery series, too, which sounds so fun!

  3. Helen says:

    Amy – Yes, it was great to win a book that I enjoyed reading. Thanks for hosting the giveaway. 🙂

    Aarti – I really liked the way the book combined mystery and history. I haven’t read many historical mysteries but will definitely look out for more.

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