By the mid ninth century, Danish raids on Anglo-Saxon kingdoms have escalated. Several bands even dare to overwinter on the coastal islands, particularly those at the mouth of the Thames, where the kingdoms of Wessex and Mercia border each other. The kings of these lands must put past hostilities aside and take the first steps towards unity; steps they see as vital in the face of this newfound threat to their lands.
Alfred of Wessex and Eadwulf of Mercia are the sons of kings, whose futures have been determined since birth. But the turbulent events in their childhood years change the natural progression of things and shape the characters of the men they will become. Their roads to manhood follow vastly different routes, but both learn crucial lessons along the way: lessons that will serve them well in future years.
Discovering that the enemy is not always a stranger is a harsh lesson indeed; the realisation that a trusted kinsman can turn traitor is the harshest lesson of all.
This story is an emotional saga than anything else. There are dark issues shown in this book that would never be accepted in the 21st century. But as humans, our need for lust, greed, and emotion overwhelm us. I feel sad for many of the characters in this novel. Very sad. This is how brutal times were. Yet in the 21st century, we still have more comforts than the violent 9th century provided us. I have to commened Millie for writing such a good story that I became engrossed with the characters. Especially Eadwulf of Mercia. His story is truly tragic.
Yet, Millie does a very good job of bringing characters that we can relate too, from History’s Viking show, unique characters such as Bjorn, Ivar, Halfdan, Ragnar. Thankfully instead of focusing all five points of view, we get one that is focused on Bjorn. For those that are familiar with Viking history, there are particular raids that happen and there is often the cut-throat Danes selling each other out. Power and Politics play a crucial role within this book. Eadwulf has to navigate through this complex and tricky situation that he will find himself in the course of the novel. Eadwulf’s mother, Morwenna is a character that I like the most. It goes to show that there is nothing more powerful than a mother’s love in this world for her children and she will do anything to protect them. What shames me is that the men in this novel don’t even care for their woman. How stupid it is, to have lived a society of patriarchy for so long that men began to oppress womenhood, when women were the backbone of all society. And how stupid it is, how stupid, that we lived in a society where man and woman could not fall in love so easily. The 21st century is not free of these problems, but we are in a much better situation than what people were subject to in the 8th and 9th century.
There is an epic story buried underneath this saga, and you will find yourself immersed into the breath-taking descriptions, wonderful dialogue, and heart-felt scenes. Many times I was almost close to breaking in tears because of some really powerful scenes. I had to control myself a few times. This is the hallmark of a true writer. There are incredibly historical scenes written, and great action. I was not taken however with Eadwulf’s transition so to say, and his relationship with Sieghelm. I think that could have been more developed, and more scenes should have been added. But it also plays a crucial part in this story. I ended up like Freydis, Alfred, and Bjorn the most. A fantastic start and now I want to review the whole saga. I think this is the start of an epic journey.