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NORTHMAN Kindle Edition
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Top customer reviews
I've never read a horror/supernatural/thriller book before, at least, not for years and years - it's not a genre that interests me at all, but I am hugely interested in all things Viking, and I thought the title and cover were terrific! Also, I had already read a short story by Hughes, so I knew he could write.
The beginning of the book is excellent, but it was the last 30% that I liked the best, and the ending is stunning, something I hadn't predicted at all - isn't it great when that happens? A weak ending can, for me, take a book down from 4/5 stars to 3/4, but this ending took it up a notch! I loved the Dark Ages historical element to the whole of the last section.
Other things I really liked - the sudden introduction of minor characters, giving cameo appearances in order to illustrate something. That's a literary device I use myself as I find it very effective, and I certainly did here. Also: the descriptions of the sociological state of England, the sometimes very funny dialogue ("Strange chap. Should have been a philosopher, you know. Or a serial killer"). My favourite part of all was a long scene with archaelogical assistant Martin, and pilot Peterson, at about 70%, but I can't say what it is here, because it would spoil the plot. Can I just say that I adore anything to do with time travel? Brilliantly done, I read it several times.
I imagine other reviews have or will say that this should be made into a film. I don't think it should be made into a film so much as a BBC serial - about 10 episodes, I think!
I can't say anything too much about how the story ends, because it would give away the whole point of it, but I'll say that if you love the idea of going back to change the past, little realising the impact this will have on the future, then Northman is for you!
It's not an 'easy read', but it's worth it. And I'll say it again - what on earth is JD going to write after this? I wait in wonder!
A string of freak occurrences lead to a German bomb lying untriggered in the barrow of a Thorkil, a Norse raider killed by Celtic magic, until the Twentieth Century. When it finally explodes it tears apart not only the barrow but lives, and eventually time itself. Kate, an archaeologist doubting her vocation, and Michael, a film director who finds her naked and crazed near the remains of the barrow, find themselves drawn together again and again as bad luck strikes wherever artefacts from the barrow are stored.
Although Hughes maintains a coherent voice throughout, the different time periods also have their own authentic style: Thorkil's death is recounted in a rhythmic, simile-filled prose reminiscent of saga; the bombing of Derby is delivered in clipped sentences familiar from military tales. A similar nuance exists in the characters' voices and actions.
The tension rises quickly without sacrificing the essential mystery. Skillful use of divine irony allows the reader to know there is a supernatural explanation while the characters are still blissful ignorant, but the evidence revealed still leaves the reader facing the question, is the threat a resurrected Thorkil, the remnants of the Celtic spell, or something else?
In parallel with the ongoing horror of a tightly-formed ghost story, the novel raises questions about the place of violence in society; is Thorkil evil if he is a hero by the mores of his people? Is killing honourably murder? Is killing of any kind evil if death is not the end of life?
Although the book would be sound on either of the threads, it is Hughes' balancing of the visceral and intellectual that truly gives it enduring appeal; even knowing what will happen, the prose and themes invite rereading.
I enjoyed this novel. I recommend it to readers who enjoy brooding horror or spiritual themes.
The characters are convincing, although I admit that I did skim a little when the conversation got a little too developed and held up the flow of the story.
The plot was, at all times, a driving force. I always looked forward to switching on my kindle and finding out what would happen next as the author intertwined the totally unpredictable fates of his characters. As many people have mentioned, the latter part of the book moves to a different level. The story builds to a sustained and intricate denouement that comes in waves of exciting action and beautifully observed description.
Northman is outside my preferred genre, but I read it because I was impressed by the amazing reviews. If you like this genre, the book will definitely blow you away.
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