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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars


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There are many novels portraying the Norse seafarers. They make fascinating characters, leading the adventurous lives we dreamt of in childhood. A glance at any history of Medieval Europe shows the extent of their conquests - down the major rivers of Russia to link with their cousins in the Mediterranean. Their impact on history has been muted or misinterpreted often, usually due to their attacks on Christian establishments and their vacillating attachment to "The Faith". Their seafaring and conquering talents have not faded, however. They are the stuff of legend, even when the forays failed.
In this first volume of a Norse trilogy, Severin tries to cover some of the "millennium" events the Norse undertook. Greenland, an exile's enclave is one of many homes of Thorgils, bastard son of Leif Ericsson. It hasn't been settled long, and opportunities abound for the adventurous. His mother, a powerful woman of Irish descent, leaves her son some inexplicable powers. The mix of Celt and Norse was too tempting for Severin to skip, and it provides his character with a multitude of story events to encounter. It also prompts Thorgils to extensive travels. One of those jaunts takes him where few Norse-inspired novelists dare to venture - Canada's Atlantic Provinces. "Vinland", long a place of mystery to European chroniclers, has been revealed as truly a Norse settlement site. Severin takes advantage of this with a fighting tour of the region. Thorgils witnesses these events up close, but not as closely as will later clashes.
After some interludes, Thorgils embarks on his own quest - find his roots. He wants to learn of his mother and his other family. In Medieval Ireland, that's not only difficult, it may prove sadly unrewarding. Thorgils endures the usual vicissitudes of a young man without a protector in those turbulent times. Warfare, wanderings, captures and escapes. He falls in adolescent love [he reaches nineteen years in this volume - which is why there'll have to be two more], but life is full of various disappointments. Love must wait at least until volume two. There are mysteries to encounter and resolve, enigmatic people to deal with and a great question that must someday be confronted. What to do about the Christians?
While Thorgils must confront or deal with many people in his young life, the background antagonist to the young Norseman is the White Christ. In the first millennium year, the dominance of Norse society by Christianity was far from a given. Odinn had set an example for young men such as Thorgils. Odinn, crucified on a tree, suffered unendurable agonies for the reward of wisdom. Wisdom, as any fantasy reader will assure you, is far more desirable than material or martial power. Thorgils begins to understand this as he moves between events. Power is transitory, but wisdom persists. And the wisdom of the Old Ways retains great appeal to certain members of Norse society. Will Thorgils join that company?
Severin's offering to this rising genre regrettably doesn't add much that's novel. His characters are already drawn from formula. Since the tale is told from Thorgils' viewpoint, we don't learn why a people who had been surrounded by powerful deities should have turned to one so alien to their traditions - although this is central to the plot. It's clear that one powerful chieftain, converted to the White Christ, could force dependents along the same path. Blind adherence to authority wasn't a Norse trait. There were rebellions that Severin, at least in this volume, coolly overlooks. He grants Thorgils a human identity, perhaps even a valid Norse one. So many events in this book, however, are so glaringly predictable, it becomes a page-turner just to get past them unscorched. A readable book of promising adventure, but not something leaving me panting in anticipation for the next volume. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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This is the second book in the thrilling Viking trilogy and although I enjoyed the first book very much, the author seems to have really got his teeth into the adventure now and I found that I read the book in no time at all.

The year is 1020 AD the place, London. It is a few weeks since Thorgils has escaped the clutches of the Irish Church, but he now finds himself driven even further into the mire when he find himself at the centre of a love affair with none other than Aelfgifu, wife of Knut the Great, not only ruler of England but one of the most powerful and feared men in the Viking empire. As the passionate relationship unfolds it augurs nothing but trouble for Thorgils.

With Thorgils finally on the run again he meets up with an outlaw, Grettir. The pair become traveling companions and sworn brothers which binds them together not only through life, but death also. At the gates of Byzantium Thorgils' loyalty is put to the ultimate test . . .
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on 27 June 2008
I found this series a little hard to get into at first purely because of the style it was written in (i had just finished novels by Conn Iggulden and Cornwell) However you cant fault his knowledge which makes it much easier to imagine what is gong on. Unfortunatley this book and the 1st in the series was spoilt by a silly little mistake. how can you go into such intricities and then forget that Kjartan has 2 hands and only 1 leg(when thorgils reports to Knut after Thrands death) I know i'm being pedantic but still!!!
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on 11 August 2013
I have just finished reading this book and i have to say it is a work of art, as i read through the story of Thorgils Leifson i could really imagine his journey in my head as if it were a movie, i felt connected to the character and the people he meets.

Tim Severin has done a great job in writing down the cultures and traditions of all the people Thorgils meets, this trilogy is a must read for all people who love historic fiction and even more so for people who are into the old northern ways.
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on 8 August 2012
A very good series full of authentic information on viking culture; enjoyable stories which demonstrate the reach of Viking exploration and Viking law, mythology. As someone who studied the Vikings in history I found the books very realistic in cultural aspects of their lives - But also they are great adventure novels.
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on 12 January 2013
a brilliant read, i did read part 1 first but not neccessary as part 2 gives an adequate synopsis although i reckon reading part 1 would make a much better idea. and then, of course, you will be compelled to read part 3 as I was. if you are interested in Viking culture you will love these books
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on 3 January 2006
This book starts out really strong. Thorgils' affair with Aelfgifu is intriguing and suspenseful. His adventures are also interesting, and all of the secondary characters have been drawn to life. However, my only problem with this book is that the second part of the book leaves the first part somewhat resolved. I didn't like the fact that there was no closure between Thorgils and Aelfgifu. Also, Knut the Great is talked about constantly in the book, but he's only given one (albeit fascinating) scene. A few more pages should have been devoted to the most powerful Viking alive. Other than that, this was a great, easy read.
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on 22 May 2013
If you have not got this trilogy then you should buy it as it is fantastic, I have these on paperback but I had to buy them for the kindle.
This is one great story taking you on an adventure that will keep you wanting more.
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on 8 April 2013
Tim Severin's sailing knowledge shines through. There is clear thread with his journals of his own voyages. Brendon and Jason. The only reason I did not rate 5 stars were the slightly tiresome tales of Viking spiritualism.
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on 13 December 2013
Purchased for my brother, an avid reader of historical fiction. He enjoyed this book very much and thouroughly recommends the author. Although used, very reasonably priced, in good condition, securely and safely packaged.
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