Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Between Two Fires (Queen Branwen #1)” as Want to Read:
Between Two Fires (Queen Branwen #1)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Between Two Fires

(Queen Branwen #1)

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  322 ratings  ·  105 reviews
Saxon barbarians threaten to destroy medieval Wales. Lady Branwen becomes Wales' last hope to unite their divided kingdoms when her father betroths her to a powerful Welsh warlord, the Hammer King. But the fledgling alliance is fraught with enemies from within and without as Branwen becomes the target of assassination attempts and courtly intrigue. A young woman in a world ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published August 23rd 2016 by Thomas Dunne Books
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Between Two Fires, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Mark Noce Thanks, Wendy:) I've always been fascinated by the region and the culture, but what really surprised me was how little had been written about the era …moreThanks, Wendy:) I've always been fascinated by the region and the culture, but what really surprised me was how little had been written about the era I was interested in. After that, it sort of all fell into place.(less)
Mark Noce Hi Maya! #BetweenTwoFires is the first in a series. The sequel #TheLongDefeat is already with the publisher, but I don't have a release date yet. Than…moreHi Maya! #BetweenTwoFires is the first in a series. The sequel #TheLongDefeat is already with the publisher, but I don't have a release date yet. Thanks for asking! :)(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.64  · 
Rating details
 ·  322 ratings  ·  105 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Between Two Fires (Queen Branwen #1)

Despite having a strong start, this historical romance didn't work for me. While the Welsh countryside was a nice departure from the usual England that historical romances like to live in, there is not much else that I liked about this book. I felt that it had potential, but found that there were way too many conveniences.

It was almost ludicrous how many things just ended up “working out” despite no forethought or legitimate planning. And while I am not against “neat” endings this books ending
Jul 14, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Lady Branwen's father has promised her hand in marriage to the Hammer King to unite their divided kingdoms. However, after Lady Branwen meets her new King and leaves her home with him she immediately finds herself the target of multiple assassination attempts.

Lady Branwen is not one to sit by and become the property of a man and with her life in danger she takes her safety into her own hands and decides to leave the Hammer King. Not knowing who to trust Lady Branwen finds herself teaming up wit
C. McKenzie
Feb 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The time is A.D. 590s in rugged yet beautiful Wales when Saxons pillaged and Christians prayed to one God, but knew of and understood the earlier times of old tribal beliefs. In this stark setting amid castles and Roman ruins, Lady Branwen is a sixteen-year-old who seems to be destined to be a pawn in the game of power among the ruling kings.

We follow her journey from innocent, insecure girl to a young woman with a keen political mind and the ability to garner loyalty and admiration from the peo
Feb 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Lady Branwen may often feel like a pawn, but even a pawn may stop a king in Mark Noce's Between Two Fires. The time of King Arthur may have passed, but the time of Lady Branwen has come. Branwen exudes a wisdom beyond her years and balances the traditions of the Old Tribes with the new Christian religion. She still makes plenty of mistakes, but she blossoms into a strong woman worthy of the Welsh people. The romance between her and Artagan is a bright spot in the novel. I couldn't help but want ...more
Linda Lou
Aug 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Middle age kids 7th grade through YA
Between Two Fires
By Mark Noce

Rating 4.5

The opening page begins with this:
To endure a dilemma is to stand between two fires. —CELTIC PROVERB

It is the year AD 597 as the story opens with 16 year old Branwen getting dressed for her wedding to a man to whom she has never met and has only heard horrific stories and rumors. She is scared and has absolutely no idea of what to expect. Just a few weeks ago she was riding her horse along the seaside lands of Dyfed and now she will soon be a Queen. A marri
May 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Medieval Wales - my fav. This book started really strong, but the last half of the book was mostly romance and coincidence. Branwen was all over the place with her decisions. She mostly reacted with emotion rather than thinking things through. I loved reading about the setting, and Noce really portrays Wales and its customs well.
Kate Campbell
* I received this title for free from NetGalley in return for honest feedback*

When I read the description for this novel I was so excited! I love historical fiction and romance all wrapped together in a story. I was ready for love, lust, back stabbing, and devous court rumors. I commend Mark Noce for embarking on this journey, I think it takes a great deal to write about 597 AD. However, this novel missed the mark for me.
Our main character, Lady Branwen, is a young unattractive girl set to be
Lynda Young
Feb 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
While I’m not usually a fan of stories written in first person present tense, this one works. The author immediately captures the sense of the main character trapped in the expectations of her society and place. I felt for her and looked forward to when she would inevitably show the male dominated world she had more value than just being good breeding stock.

I loved the energy in the story and the cinematic action sequences. The plot kept the story moving. The descriptions swept me away to a won
Christine Rains
Feb 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Lady Branwen is Wales' last hope to unite divided kingdoms, but it means marrying a man she's never met. The Hammer King is a powerful warlord, and surely he will drive off the Saxon invaders and bring peace to the land again. From the beginning, Branwen's marriage is shadowed by assassination attempts and a spy within. Yet she must choose between duty and love when she falls for a hedge knight named Artagan. But can she save her people and be true to herself at the same time?

A magnificent histo
Clare O'Beara
Sep 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed reading the level of detail and felt thoroughly immersed in this early medieval world. Anyone who wants to read about the kind of world depicted in The Lord of The Rings, without the fantasy elements, will feel at home here on the Welsh Marches. Suspicious kings, siege wars, ambushes, rangers, warning beacons, cold stone castles, brave horses, archers, invaders, and a strong heroine all feature.

Lady Branwen is sixteen, about to be wed to a warrior she's never met in order to seal a tr
Carol Kilgore
Sep 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I entered Branwen's world as she was thinking about her impending marriage to a man she'd never met. I fell in love with her voice. A page or two later, I was already deep into her story. I'd follow Branwen anywhere. Between Two Fires, by Mark Noce, is a wonderful debut. I'm looking forward to reading more books by him.
Katherine Coble
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Monica Hills
Feb 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
There were many things I really like about this novel and some things that I think could have been a little better. I love the cover and the strong female character Branwen. I also liked the overall story and characters. What confused me was that at first her husband seemed ok. He was gentle with her and made her part of a delegation. He let her sit in on a meeting and said that he wanted her to be more than a broodmare. Then everything changed and he was a completely different man. It kind of f ...more
Samm | Sassenach the Book Wizard

Interesting...this is the definition of historical fiction. There's no fantasy element what so ever (which was actually quite refreshing for me today). I liked that the mc grew with her experiences and understood how things were escalading and adapted accordingly. It felt like such a long book with everything that covered but it's actually quite small! MC romance was sweet.
Branwen is a pawn in a king's game, the target for marriage, bearing children, assassinations, and kingdom destruction by Saxons. She's more than aware that her life isn't entirely in her own hands, so she plays like a chess master, navigating the numerous courts throughout Wales to unite the country, be with the one she truly loves, and defeat the Saxons.

I'm always eager to read books similar to Hild or Shadow on the Crown, stories that are set in medieval or ancient Britain / Europe, when coun
Aug 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Every day is a struggle for life, death, or love.

This story commences in 587 A.D. with the Welsh clans during the middle ages. The various Welsh clans have their own kingdoms and are not known for helping each other when threatened. The Saxons intend to destroy medieval Wales. Branwen, daughter of King Vorten of Dyfed is betrothed to a powerful Welsh Warlord, Morgan, the Hammer King, thereby having someone to help defend him if attacked. She is only sixteen years old, her real mother died years
Elizabeth Varadan
Nov 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I love a good mystery, and I love fiction that takes place in historical times. I’m also hooked on stories set in Celtic Britain. So these are three great reasons to be delighted with Mark Noce’s debut novel, Between Two Fires.

The book opens in the year A.D. 597—post-Arthurian times, when Wales is in disarray from the invading Saxons. The Romans are gone. Arthur’s Camelot is distant history. Christianity coexists with remnants of the old Druid religion. Fragmented Wales is riddled by power stru
Feb 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: r4r-and-arc, uno-2017
I received a free copy of this book via netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book had a great premise, it should have been full of history, it should have been a great book that left the reader wanting more. Sadly it did not deliver. If this had not been a review book and I was reading it for a challenge I wouldn't have gotten past the first two chapters.

I know there is a lot of sexism in history but this was just too much to handle.Also the whole ugly girl gets all the guys, 4 kings
Oct 19, 2016 rated it it was ok
Originally Between Two Fires intrigued me so much, I was the first person to request a hold even before my library managed to purchase a copy. A strong female protagonist is caught up in a political intrigue, while her home country of Wales is being invaded by brutal Saxons? That sounds right up my alley! Assassins? Allegiances? Forbidden love? Sign me up! But instead of a gritty, complex historical novel I get a bodice ripper with a Christian fiction filter thrown on top. This book is about as ...more
Christina (Confessions of a Book Addict)
Lady Branwen is being used as a pawn in a medieval game of chess. She is uniting two divided kingdoms in Wales by marrying the Hammer King, a powerful and tough Welsh warlord. Lady Branwen is just a young girl though and this is all new to her; she has little guidance. Her step-mother isn't supportive, so she barely has anyone on her side. To complicate matters further, the Saxons are constantly attacking and she has even been subjected to many assassination attempts. She knows her job is to sim ...more
Sep 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I love a story with a good strong female character, and Branwen grows into a force to be reckoned with over the course of this book. Equal parts historical thriller, love story, and mystery it captured my attention and took me on a thrilling adventure.
Meredith McGhan
Aug 07, 2019 rated it liked it
I found much to like about this novel. Branwen is a lovable character--a strong, independent young woman in a world of men who want to control her. When she meets and butts heads with the Robin Hood-esque Artagan, sparks fly. Their relationship starts and remains one of equals. I was very impressed with Mark Noce's ability to write from the perspective of a character of another gender than his own, and make it realistic. He even wrote accurately about how it feels to grow breasts. The story was ...more
I had a hard time deciding between two or three stars for this book. On one hand, I enjoyed reading about a time period and setting that aren't often the focus of historical fiction (6th century Wales). On the other, loose ends in the story were wrapped up much too quickly and neatly for my liking, and I couldn't relate to the main character. This book centers on the imagined story of Branwen, a lady of the Welsh kingdom Dyfed, being wed to the Hammer King, a ruler in the south of Wales. The mar ...more
Laine Cunningham
Apr 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Release date: August 2016 from Thomas Dunne Books

This power-packed historical novel is the first in a series...and it's going to have readers beating on the publisher's door for more.

Look, I'll be the first to tell you that historical fiction can be a real slough. In the wrong author's hands, novels set in any time period earlier than maybe 20 years ago can bog down in details...what folks wore, how they acted, the mores of their society, what their culture told them was right, how they rebelled
Donna Weaver
Sep 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Saxon barbarians threaten to destroy medieval Wales. Lady Branwen becomes Wales' last hope to unite their divided kingdoms when her father betroths her to a powerful Welsh warlord, the Hammer King. But the fledgling alliance is fraught with enemies from within and without as Branwen becomes the target of assassination attempts and courtly intrigue. A young woman in a world of fierce warriors, she seeks to assert her own authority and preserve Wales against the barbarians. But when
Aug 04, 2016 rated it liked it
I went into this book expecting a historical romance, but I the romance felt lack luster in my opinion. I did not feel the connection between the romantic leads at all. I thought the romance was an afterthought. The romance didn't feel believable. There were some sweet and steamy moments, but I didn't love them as much as I would have if I was more connected to the romance. I wanted the romance to be more developed throughout this book.

I loved how the main character, Lady Branwen, was strong and
Aug 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Between Two Fires
Mark Noce

Noce’s debut is like an armchair travel back in time to the turbulence and wild beauty of late Sixth Century Wales. Featuring a realistic mix of Christianity and Pagan worship he spins his tale rich in folklore, legend and factual history, while his eloquent narrative captures the powerful emotions and the violent, unforgiving times. His unforgettable strong willed protagonist, Branwen, extraordinary costars and vivid scenes make this a page turning must read for all fa
N.J. Burggraf
Aug 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This story grabbed my attention from the first page to the very last word. Mark Noce intricately weaves in historical fact, placing the reader directly in the midst of medieval Wales, without detracting from the exquisite story, filled with emotion: war, personal vendettas, love, jealousy, hope, belief, and the journey of Branwen – from childhood to womanhood.

The characterization is excellent, the plot is sound and due to twists and turns in the story, all of which were unpredictable, I could no
« previous 1 3 4 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 2 Jan 14, 2016 08:39AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Winter Witch
  • The Daughters of Maine (Witches of BlackBrook, #2)
  • The Witches of BlackBrook (Witches of BlackBrook #1)
  • Commune: Book One (Commune #1)
  • Commune: Book Two (Commune #2)
  • Commune: Book Three (Commune #3)
  • After It Happened Omnibus Parts 1-2: Survival / Humanity (After It Happened #1-2)
  • Commune: Book Four (Commune #4)
  • After It Happened: Omnibus Books 3-4
  • Home (After It Happened #9)
  • After It Happened: Omnibus Books 5-6
  • Andorra (After It Happened #7; The Leah Chronicles #1)
  • Piracy (After It Happened #8; The Leah Chronicles #2)
  • The Traitor's Kingdom (The Traitor's Circle, #3)
  • Ultimate Soap Carving: Easy, Oddly Satisfying Techniques for Creating Beautiful Designs--40+ Step-by-Step Tutorials
  • Almost Just Friends (Wildstone, #4)
  • The Traitor's Ruin (The Traitor's Circle, #2)
  • Independent People
See similar books…
Mark writes historical fiction with a passion, and eagerly reads everything from fantasy to literature. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, he has been an avid traveler and backpacker, particularly in Europe and North America. He earned his BA and MA from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, where he also met his beautiful wife. By day, he works as a Technical Writer, having spent much of his car ...more

Other books in the series

Queen Branwen (2 books)
  • Dark Winds Rising (Queen Branwen #2)

Related Articles

In most historical romances, love and marriage go together like...well, a horse and carriage. But what if the girl part of the girl-meets-boy...
48 likes · 18 comments