I love a good Viking story. Love me some Norse mythology, too, so getting comfy with some tea and this book was pretty much a certainty.
Raef Skallagrim wants to take the sea road. His ship is fast and sleek, his crew skilled and eager, and they will seek out new lands and win fame in the eyes of the gods. But Raef’s father refuses to allow the journey and when a stranger brings word that the king is dead and a gathering has been called to choose a successor, Raef must set aside his dream for his duty to his ancestral lands and his father.
When factions split at the gathering to choose a successor, Raef finds himself mired in bloodshed and treachery. Forced to make an uneasy alliance with a man he does not trust, Raef must navigate the tides of a war among three kings while seeking revenge for cold-blooded murder.
But winter has come early to Midgard, and even the gods will feel the cold.
“Sometimes we know things about even our most distant moments without being aware of it.”
I had thought to lay down and get a couple chapters of this book in before sleep, and suddenly it was 2am and I still didn’t want to sleep because some cool shit was going down and I needed to know how it played out. To be honest, the first 1/4 or so of this book brought me back to running across Skyrim, visiting each of the Jarls. Don’t look at me like that, I didn’t say it was a bad thing. I spent something like 2000 hours playing that game (Now you know my secret. I have no life >.>; ). It holds a special place in my heart. But yeah, this book made me want to play it again. In a good way. It made me want to start all over again.
As much as I thought Raef was a great character, who I did root for, Vakre was my favorite character from the very instant that we are introduced to him. He’s sort of mysterious from the very beginning, and I love me a good mysteriously stealthy archer. He has a tendency to just show up when Raef needs him most, and then sticks around for the trip around the land. Raef tends to make poor decisions sometimes, in the heat of the moment. Vakre is there to back him up with some cool, logical arrows to the chest. I wondered about his story, and then smiled when we got a bit of it, and it made sense. Despite mysteriousness, he is unfailingly loyal to his friends, and I cheered for him even harder than I cheered for Raef. 😀
There were a lot of really great characters in this story. Raef meets a lot of interesting people on his adventures, and Vakre is only the beginning. He repeatedly meets a mysterious half-god traveler who always seems to be a step or two ahead of him. Eira was an interesting character, having little memory of her life past a few years back. She’s a shieldmaiden, and is quick to take what she wants (and what she wants is Raef, to start with. Personally I would have found it more entertaining if Raef had to work for it, but whatevs). Siv, another shieldmaiden, is another character I liked. She is always quick with a grin and gives this otherwise war-torn landscape a bit of sunshine, along with Gudrik, the warrior/bard with his flute.
I really like how Raef grew over the course of the book, from the impetuous youth with dreams of sailing the seas to the battle hardened man who has seen some shit and lived to tell the tale. He does start off making rash decisions that almost always end up getting him in trouble, but he learns from his mistakes as his adventure progresses. He starts making better decisions, even if some of them are insane plans with chances in the fractions of percents of working. He’s got a bit of mystery behind him too. I liked that.
The plot keeps a very steady pace throughout. There was always something interesting going on. There was enough mystery to keep me guessing about what was going to happen, where Raef and his friends were going to end up, and who was going to end up winning the war. I wondered if the gods, who seem quite real in this world, if off-camera for most of the story, would intervene in the war, or choose a side. The battle scenes were well written, action-packed and full of stabbing, setting shit on fire, and arrows and axes flying all over the place. Battle galore!
With a satisfying ending that wrapped up the story and left so much room for more adventures, I really liked this one! I will definitely continue to the next book and then the next, because shit is going down! A very good read to be sure. Action-packed and viking-tacular!
I’m totally going to play Skyrim later. I’m naming my new character Vakre! He’s going to shoot some bitches in the faaaaaace!~ *sings* 🙂 4/5 stars!