This is the story of a young woman, Berengeria—a Viking queen who comes with her people to live on the coast of East Anglia. They are a small, vulnerable group, the survivors of a battle for supremacy between rival kings. Berengeria’s father Thorkil was killed in this battle, and right from the start we sense some mystery about his death and suspect the motives of her uncle, Vasser Wulf. The Saxons in the nearby settlement are hostile, and with good reason. Many of their people were killed in a Viking raid the year before, and the monastery was plundered of its treasure. Berengeria is determined to forge peace with her Saxon neighbours, and ensuing events make the need for peace even more imperative as both groups must unite to face a common enemy. The plot relies less on surprise than on the detailed depiction of Viking and Saxon life and the ways in which the two peoples gradually come together. The differences in language and belief are blended skilfully into the story and serve to enrich a well-written and involving tale—which ends much as expected, but is nevertheless satisfying.
My only query was about Berengeria herself, who seems to have been raised more or less as a boy, with martial training and the expectation of taking part in battles and even in single combat with men. There is no suggestion that this might have seemed unusual, either to her people or to the Saxons.
This book is a pleasure to read, the style evocative of the Viking and Saxon style of storytelling. The characters are simple, but appropriate to their time and to the saga-like nature of the story.