Carla and the Vikings
Thirteen-year-old Catla lives in a small Anglo-Saxon village on the coast of England, where her future is laid out for her: her father expects her to marry Olav, a middle-aged merchant, and settle down as an obedient wife. But one day in the autumn of 1066, when Catla wanders into the headlands above her village to gather herbs, everything changes. From afar she watches as Viking invaders burn her village and take her family and everyone she cares for captive. Catla must set out alone over the moors to get help from Aigber, the closest village. With the help of Sven, another young refugee who escaped the raid, Catla must convince the neighboring villagers to help her face the Viking invaders and save her family.
This book is geared toward younger readers, with brief chapters and a predictable storyline. However, this simplicity does nothing to detract from the lovely prose and the likable characters. Catla is a shy yet courageous heroine, who finds her strength in gentleness and negotiation. While the narrative is kept a bit unrealistically G-rated – no one is murdered or raped during the raids, and everyone opts for mercy – the Vikings Catla encounters are refreshingly realistic, portrayed not as stereotypical raging Norsemen but as real people, for whom Catla comes to feel compassion as well as fear. Catla and Sven develop a convincing rapport as well; however, while their budding relationship unsurprisingly comes to take precedence over Catla’s arranged betrothal, the author avoids a sappy storybook conclusion and leaves the possibilities open. This book is a pleasant dose of reality for young readers who want to learn more about the Viking era.