The King of Vinland's Saga Paperback – 1 Aug 1998
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Mirsky keeps us glued to this excellent first novel, using a subtle yet powerful story-telling technique that recalls old-time adventures involving swordplay, fair maidens in distress, relatives who are scoundrels, a misunderstood hero engaged in epic exploits, strange lands full of mysterious and wonderful peoples, and the power of good versus evil. The King of Vinland's Saga is a book the reader can't stay away from . . . and mourns when it is finished. -- Midwest Book Review, Fall 1999
THE KING OF VINLAND'S SAGA is a wonderfully rich adventure novel, with memorable characters, a storyline that is faithful to the mediaeval Icelandic sagas, and enough sword- and axe-play to please even the most jaded of adventure readers. Mirsky's work compares well to that of his predecessors, both in terms of capturing the gloomy mood of the saga and the larger-than-life heroes, while avoiding any blatant historical inaccuracies -- from the SFSite in Canada
The King of Vinland's Saga .earns a place on the bookshelf beside other neo-sagas such as Eric Brighteyes by H. Rider Haggard and E. R. Eddison's Styrbiorn The Strong. Mirsky has an excellent command of the saga style and spins a fine, page-turning tale -- IDUNNA Magazine, Summer '99
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
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
The compelling saga is full of adventure, with a strong but unintrusive plot. Whilst the themes are operatic (Love, Death and Fate feature prominently), the narrative is stoically understated. The climax is powerful and moving, not through any special-effects gimmickry, but because of a hard-earned sense of tragic inevitability. I finished it in the small hours and went to bed sniffling and biting my quivering lip.
The book itself is tragically under-exposed. If you can afford it, buy it. Full stop.
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.Read more ›
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