Blood Brother — Swan Sister
Clontarf, Ireland, Easter 1014. A battle looms which will decide Ireland’s future: either a Viking colony, or a country ruled by Irish kings owing alliance to the High King, Brian Boru. But first, Brian Boru and his allies must defeat the Norse King Sitric, who rules Dublin. Sitric has formidable allies, not only in the Irish kingdom of Leinster but also Norsemen from Orkney and the Isle of Man who love battle and, still more, the plunder which awaits the victors.
Dara has come with his father to fight for Brian Boru; it will be his first battle, and he does not want to let his father down. Elva and her sister Arna live in Dublin with their father, Weland the Smith, and Elva’s mother. The looming battle frightens Elva, but she’s worried even more by her sister’s strange behaviour. Arna is becoming far too close to Queen Kormlada, Sitric’s mother, a fierce woman reputed to be a witch.
Skari has travelled with his father from the Orkneys in the train of Jarl Sigurd, Sitric’s ally. Skari’s mother was Irish but she died soon after he was born. Dara, Elva and Skari don’t know it, but their histories are linked, and the coming battle will test them all to the uttermost.
I really enjoyed this book. Like Rosemary Sutcliff, a writer I much admire, Eithne Massey has the ability to get across the emotional complexities of divided loyalties. And the fierce determination of the Norsemen to conquer Ireland, no matter what the cost, comes across vividly; as does the Iron Age half-Pagan, half-Christian way of life.
Clontarf was a real battle, but tales of sorcery have sprung up around it. Eithne Massey weaves these into the story in a way which is completely believable. Highly recommended for imaginative children of 11 plus.