7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
High class swashbuckling - a superb first novel.,
This review is from: The King of Vinland's Saga (Hardcover)
This book came very highly recommended to me - and I'd always fancied giving the Norse sagas a bash - so I decided to give it a whirl.
It is very ambitious in its scope and in its style; in the style of writing and dialogue Mirsky has undertaken to emulate the sagas to give his book an authentic feel - a very difficult prospect for a writer - it could go badly wrong. That Mirsky apparently pulls off this stylizing of his story is a testament to both his meticulous research and his pure writing skill.
I read somewhere (I think on Amazon.com) that this very weighty first novel was the equivalent of a first-time mountaineer climbing Everest. That may be true, but that certainly doesn't mean the resulting book presents a similar challenge for the reader. The story is not dense nor bogged down by the obvious supreme knowledge of history infused into its pages. The characters aren't particularly complex, but then were norse warriors complex people? Some characters are very much larger than life, caracatures even, which you might think is at odds with the strive for realism. Not so. Historical accuracy is one thing, but the book is first and foremost a great yarn - a story packed with high seas, blood, lots of blood, implacable warriors, honour and considerable buckling of swashes.
We follow the exploits of an unlikely band of mercenaries and erstwhile viking warriors setting sail from Greenland for the promised land of Vinland (North America) - a semi-mythical fertile and fruitful land of plenty bequeathed to the central character Sigtrygg. The story seemed similar to the Seven Samurai in that this band of warriors are subsequently enlisted by the native populace to tame a local warlord. But the challenges, carnage and confrontations don't end there. The storyline is elegantly simple and satisfying, as is the message of the book - that the failings of human nature will always cause people to find ways to divide themselves, take sides and, ultimately, destroy themselves.