This was a very interesting piece of fiction set in the Dark Ages at the time the Anglo-Saxons occupied Britain and Christianity was beginning to rise again in their culture. The author also depicts that the battle described in this book was believed to be real as was the enemy Penda. The messages in the book were OK but it would be a book I would recommend for teens only who could interpret the messages better. As for role models, the main character, Essa, shows great determination in keeping his loyalty to his master even though he is sent on a long quest and pretends to work for the enemy.
However there are the iffy parts of the book that, are in every book now a days. The violence is very realistic and straight forward, making it a perfect read for teen boys. There is some mature content in the book that would definitely keep it out of the children's section of Borders, even though it's not vampire style content. There is some swearing in the book as well.
Over all, this was an excellent book and I praise the author for her fine plot and research involved in this book. I can't wait for the sequel that comes out in March 2011.