Not a bad take on viking "adventure" in the ninth century as the hero embarks on a raid against the English coast from a viking stronghold in Ireland. The writing's fairly taut and fresh and the plot cracks along but the modern tone, though justified by the surprise plot twist at the end, seems remarkably out of place. We get a fairly good tour of the English (and Welsh) countryside as our reluctant viking protagonist learns to raid and kill in the best tradition of his forebears, gets lost from his raiding party and hooks up with a lovely, if mysterious, female companion and finally finds his shipmates again, only to get swept overboard, with the girl, and end up in the monastery at Lindisfarne just prior to the historical raid on that site which kicked off the full scale viking age in England -- which was to trouble the natives there for the next hundred years or so. We get an oddly bracing picture of these vikings too, professional warriors that they were, as they ready themselves for each upcoming encounter (not unlike the limbering-up exercises of a modern football team about to meet the "other side" out on the gridiron in a friendly match) -- you almost have to believe in the realism of it all, despite the warm fuzzy feeling you get once you've really gotten to know these boys. Even Thorfinn Skullsplitter seems like the kind of guy you wouldn't mind splitting a beer with -- assuming that's all he's in the mood for cleaving. But the dragon stuff seems rather forced and out of place. And the end, clever as it is, only adds to the sense that this book and this author didn't quite know where they wanted to go with the story. The protagonist's "voice" lapses into a rather sophomoric, counter-cultural patois as the tale winds down, which is both jarring and debilitating to the rest of the tale. And, though it's justified by the ending, the ending itself is discordant with what went before. You may guess it from the way the story moves, but I doubt you'll figure out the locale.
The surprise ending in this one seems to have pleased many readers but I found it a bit off-putting, myself, turning what had seemed to me to be a good, and nicely paced, historical yarn into something a bit too self-concious and cute. I prefer my viking tales with a larger dash of authenticity so the abrupt plot twist which brings this one to a close, left me a bit cold.
But it's nicely written and holds the reader to the end.
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About the reviewer
Stuart W. Mirsky (swmirsky)
I'm a retired bureaucrat (having served, most recently, as an Assistant Commissioner in amunicipal agency in a major Northeastern American city). In 2002 I took an early retirement to pursue a lifelong … more
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Bran Snorrison, a young Irish Viking bard, journeys through the turbulence and uncertainty of his eighth-century world, as a confrontation erupts between the old magic and the rise of the new Christian religion.