- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 7722 KB
- Print Length: 381 pages
- Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
- Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00GSDYVXA
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Average Customer Review: 43 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #30,367 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Sorrow Hill (Sword of Woden Book 1) Kindle Edition
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It is difficult to believe that this is the first novel by this author. From the first scene when a young boy climbs a tall tree to catch an eagle chick, it is a beautifully written account of life in the early sixth century. Beowulf is the grandson of the king and shortly after his adventure with the eagle, and a meeting with an old, one-eyed man in the forest (it takes him some time to realise exactly who that was!) he visits the Royal Court. He is sent to be fostered by his uncle, Hygelac. The Kingdom of the Geats is at peace under King Hrethel, but there are hints that all is not well in the rest of the world. Nations are on the move and attention is turning to the rich lands of Britain across the sea - I liked the brief mention, that King Arthur is getting old.
Beowulf grows up within a happy family and trains to become a warrior. This first half of the book could become boring, dealing as it does with the events of daily life. However the perfect combination of character development, the gentle drip of historical information and the lyrical description of the countryside of southern Sweden make it an easy and interesting read.
The only fly in the ointment is another uncle, Hythcyn. Beowulf cannot understand why he is not as friendly and supportive as the rest of the family. After Beowulf is accepted as a full warrior, (a strange and disturbing ceremony), everything changes. King Hrethel is dead, an accident or murder? Hythcyn is now king. Should Beowulf support him or act on his suspicions? The kingdom starts to fall apart and the neighbouring Swedes invade and Beowulf is sent to hold them back. To find out what happens, you will have to read the book, but the scenes of battle are excellent.
The book includes occasional touches of the supernatural, but not as much to make it unbelievable.
This is the first of four books in the Sword of Woden series and I have already bought the second, Wraecca. I look forward to finding out what happens to Beowulf and how the author deals with turning a legend into a story of living, breathing people. (And monsters?)
I have to agree with the previous reviewer, Ed Flack. For a first novel the author has done an amazing job. The style of writing is very easy to read, helped by a good standard of editing. I don't recall seeing a single typo and it really helps the book flow for me. The characters became real, multi-faceted people, always the mark of a good writer. I found this first volume in the series absorbing and look forward to the following titles. Sue
A nice touch is to have added a few bits about North European (and not only Scandinavian) religion at the time with the appearance of an ageing one-eyed traveller, in particular, but also with the volva – priestesses of the heathen North that were devoted to the Gods (a northern and fiercer version of the Roman Vestal virgins if you like). The exploits of the six and seven year old are just about believable, and, even if you were to be sceptical, they make for a rather good story and are meant to show up the very promising young boy who is to become the greatest warrior of the North.
Another good feature is the description of everyday life among the noble warriors of the Geats in what is now the southern part of Sweden. High born children are fostered to allied families and nobles clans of allied people. This seems to have been a practice that was taking place across both Gallic and Germanic warrior elites before the Roman conquests. There are indications that it continued both during and after the end of the Western Roman Empire. It would also continue to take place during the Middle Ages with young future warriors learning to become knights at the court and castle of their father’s overlord or with one of their father’s allies. Elements of the poem are also skilfully integrated into the story and translated into something much more realistic, such as Beowulf’s fight under sea monsters during a swimming race against Breca, the “English” (Angle) foster son of his uncle Hythcyn.
Fostering and marriage alliances were used as strategies to protect or expand the clan or the King’s power and this well shown in the book. The fostering of Beowulf with his uncle Hygelac, brother of the King of the Geats, but also the Angle/English foster-child of Hygelac’s brother or the marriage of Beowulf’s sister to the son of a lord in Britannia are illustrations. They also show that, at the time when many from Frisia and actual Denmark and Norway were leaving their homelands for new and more fertile lands to conquer in Britannia, there were still close contacts between the two, if only because only part of the populations emigrated and such emigration took place progressively during decades.
The book contains also numerous other interesting items of daily warrior life, showing to what extent the author has researched his topic. There is the feasting and drinking (lots of it). The ribbing, teasing, joking and blustering among warriors is also well displayed. The making of weaponry and of mail armour in particular, is also shown. Ship building and the performances of what the author calls “draca” – warships similar to although smaller than those that the Viking would have some three hundred years later – are also displayed rather superbly through a race, as Beowulf’s ship is hunted down during his embassy to the Kind of Dane Land.
The story itself picks up pace with the suspicious death of the heir (Beowulf’s uncle) and then of the old King of the Geats (his grandfather). His second – rather unpleasant and very scheming - uncle Hythcyn becomes the new King of the Geats with the help of mercenaries from a neighbouring land and Beowulf’s loyalties are somewhat torn. Another consequence of the turmoil is a major raid and invasion from the Swedes which will result in a couple of bloody battles that will do a lot to start establishing the reputation of young Beowulf. This is where you get some rather superb and grim shield wall fighting, among the best that I have read up to now. Five stars.
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