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The King of Vinland's Saga Hardcover – 1 Sep 1998
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. . . earns a place on the bookshelf beside other neo-sagas. Mirsky has an excellent command of the saga style and spins a fine, page-turning tale . . . -- IDUNNA magazine, Summer, 1999, reviewer: Diana Paxson, author of THE WOLF AND THE RAVEN
. . . excellent first novel . . . a book the reader can't stay away from and mourns when it is finished. -- Midwest Book Review, Fall 1999, reviewer: Shelley Glodowski
. . . superbly faithful and inventive recreation of ancient Epic . . . uncompromisingly true to its centuries-old tradition yet stirringly contemporary . . . -- Carey Harrison, critic and author of RICHARD'S FEET, winner of the Encore Award/UK Society of Authors
. . . wonderfully rich adventure novel, with memorable characters . . . it even passed my 'keeps me up reading until 3 a.m. test'. -- from the SFSite in Canada, reviewer: Georges T. Dodds
From the Author
When I set out to write this book I aimed to create a tale both modern and old-fashioned -- one which could hold its head up as an historical romance of the 19th century sort, yet still work for us moderns. To do so, I selected the "voice" of a 13th century sagaman to recount an 11th century adventure in the guise of a 19th century historical romance. And frankly, while I had to cheat a little to make the tale contemporary, I really didn't cheat all that much. In truth, adopting the voice of other times is actually a very respectable tradition for telling a tale of high adventure, though it seems to have gone out of style by the late twentieth century. (The closest thing we have to it today is "fantasy and science fiction"; -- which this book isn't, so be forewarned.) Hopefully, THE KING OF VINLAND'S SAGA will help make high adventure fashionable once more, finding its audience among those who like history or who just like their fiction well-leavened with the archaic. For myself, I was particularly taken with the remarkable sympathetic resonance between the old sagas of medieval Iceland and the American mythos of the West so I tried to capture that as well. I hope the reader will find some or all of this in the book offered here. I, at least, enjoyed writing it.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
I'll never be put off by a book being self published again. The fact is that many self published books, in the age of POD, can be incomparably superior to, and much more of real books, real literature, than average high street best seller. Certainly this one is. It will stay with me.
I loved this book, and was hooked and put on the author's side from the very first page: largely because of the author's mastery of a true saga style, a simplicity combined with subtle nuance that can be very moving. Mirsky's style is in fact rather more amplified than that of a true saga, and tends to cover events and dialogue in more detail, but the narrative conventions are broadly the same, and the author has a sensitive appreciation of the values and artistic effects of the sagas.
Sigtrygg is a memorable character, the flawed Action Man, the Trapper, the Loner, the Youngest Son of folk tale who is cheated by his elder kinsfolk, and must travel to seek his fortune. In folk tale, the Younger Son marries a Princess and gains a Kingdom; and so, in a way, does Sigtrygg; but we cannot expect the same happy fulfilment, because this is an Icelandic saga in type; their world is bleakly realistic and it pays a price for everything. One of the most poignant things in this story is the ineluctable meanness with which Sigtrygg is treated by his legitimate kinsmen, the grandsons of Leif Eirikson, and his perseverance and courage.
It is 637pages long and the story line sags a tiny bit in places, but never so as to lose the reader, or the charm it exerts.
The absolute rightness of the title 'The King of Vinland's Saga', and its understated pathos, is appreciated after the reading. Sigtrygg will never be the`King of Vinland', because Vinland, as the author knows well, could have no king: it belonged to the skraelings, if it belonged to anybody. Sigtrygg wins supremacy over one tribe by delivering them from a tyrant hegemony temporarily, but he fatally lacks the organisational talents and focus to do so permanently. Yet he is `the King of Vinland', because of his courage in winning the heritage so meanly denied him by his kinsmen and because all his choices, however mistaken, have honor, and most of all his last. His final fate is as mysterious who one who has vanished into the torrent of a waterfall.
For me, Mirsky's great strength is his appreciation of and ability to handle the enormous wealth of 19th century English, but the style of The King of Vinland's Saga, really derives from that of what I should call the very best phase of translating the sagas into English: the George Johnston, Gwyn Jones English style.
But you can enjoy this book without being a saga enthusiast, and it's encouraging to see how many people say they have done so. Thank you Mr Mirsky.
For a first novel the author has set himself a huge task, and succeeded, demonstrating an erudite knowledge of the subject combined with a disciplined story-telling ability. The narrative style, although archaic, gives the epic story it’s own momentum and is a refreshing read for it.
This narrative voice, like Arnilot’s double-edges battle-axe, has both advantages and disadvantages and requires a confident hand to wield it.
It allows the storyline to remain on course with gusto, covering time-spans that otherwise would require inconsequential details to fill the gaps.
However, the flip-side is the loss of detailed characterization. For those readers unfamiliar with this era in Norse exploration a background introduction would also have been welcome.
The story itself follows the adventures of a disparate group of mostly Greenlanders lead by the stoical ‘Stigrydd’ to claim land bequeathed to him by his forefathers, after leaving their homelands in somewhat dubious circumstances. The land in question is the Vinland of the title, a.k.a. North America, and describes the interaction of Stigrydd’s band with the indigenous Indians and their culture.
Add swash-buckler ingredients; heroic Viking battling with hostile Indian tribes in defense of a more welcoming tribe, the inevitable love interest, jealousy, the later arrival of an adventuring Norwegian ship containing some familiar but unwelcome Kinsmen with competing land claims, and a bloody family feud. Combined with Mirsky’s obvious writing talent what you get is an unusually entertaining historical fiction of breadth and quality that stands, like the Viking men themselves, heads above the dirth of competing novels in this genre. Highly recommended and well done Mr. Mirsky.