6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Surreal - but I don't think that was the intention.,
This review is from: Thunder God (Paperback)Looking at the other reviews of this novel I must be in the minority, because I just didn't find it entertaining or informative from a historical perspective.
For a start, the characters are just not realistic, they need some life injecting into them. Their motivations are not explored and they blithely accept what is done to them.
For example, an unknown Christian missionary approaches a village of Norsemen and personally insults and assaults the resident Norse priest in front of the whole village. The priest (who also happens to be a deadly Varangian warrior) just doesn't react in a believable manner, in fact he doesn't really react at all, and neither does the warrior Celt who happens to be tagging along. It is a theme that is carried throughout the story, the character interaction is lacking and makes the novel seem surreal. Didn't these people live short brutal lives battling against each other, the elements and conflicting beliefs? Where's the anger? Where is the aggression? Where are any emotions? It's a story devoid of emotion. Were these Norsemen really this boring and accepting of their fate?
To make up for the lack of depth, Watkins throws his protagonist from one location to another, quite literally and unbelievably circumnavigating the planet. Maybe there is some arguable historic evidence that the Norse people were great travellers and did travel enormous distances to settle in far flung places. But to suggest that one man did this amount of travelling in the timescales suggested, and was able to regularly pop back home afterwards, is complete unbelievable nonsense. The novel really took a turn for the worse when Hakan found his way to South America and we had a few chapters on the ancient Maya and we briefly explored the subject of human sacrifice. Watkins seems to have read somewhere that there was some evidence that the Vikings made it to the America's and decides he'll throw it in at the end of this fairy story. We started off talking about the Varangians, why have we ended up with the Maya? I think Watkins should have picked a subject, a time period, even a civilization and stuck to it.
This novel is a mess and a non entity. It is not a romantic escapist novel of high adventure with a historic setting, such as the excellent David Ball novels, `Empires of Sand' and the `Sword and the Scimitar'. Nor is it a highly enjoyable but also educational and only slightly fictionalised piece of work such as `This thing of Darkness' by Harry Thompson. Needless to say Paul Watkins will go on my `black list' of authors to avoid in future.