The tale of Bjarni Hoskuldsson who lives a claustrophobic life with his father and young stepmother, brothers and half-brother on a rude Icelandic farm at the tail end of the viking period, this is a very psychological work which chronicles the deterioration of the relationship between father and son and between brother and brothers as Bjarni, too big to be beaten by his brutal father, leaves his home and sets out on adventures with his brothers. But the effort is aborted early on by bad luck and only Bjarni ends up making his way to the England of King William Rufus, successor to William the Conqueror. There he does a few things to distinguish himself, but nothing of any lasting note, longing instead for the farmstead and step mother he has abandoned back in Iceland. How he returns and makes his presence felt in that farm and his Icelandic district make up the remainder of this tale. It's worth reading, not for the action but for the sharply delineated and probing portrait of these people and especially of Bjarni the almost-viking. Not the very best of the saga novels which have been written since the nineteenth century, but a modern one. And a unique one.
SWM author of The King of Vinland's Saga
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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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