Bracelet of Bones

Written by Kevin Crossley-Holland
Review by James Lee Richard Lee

Kevin Crossley-Holland inverts the Viking stereotypes with this sparkling and poetic story. His Vikings lust for trade, not war. Their bravery is demonstrated by the distance they are prepared to travel in unknown territory. Ignorance, and the forces of nature are as dangerous to them as human foes. The viewpoint is that of a girl-woman, Solveig, whose skills are creative and empathic, not martial.

I loved it. It is a voyage novel, like Henry Treece’s Viking Dawn, but reworked through the prism of archaeology instead of the sagas. There is plenty of adventure and incident, plenty of that peculiar Viking mistrust, but it is a tale of the culture, the survivors, not the glorious dead.

Kevin Crossley-Holland has a passion for words, as you would expect of a poet, and this book will leave you with an acute sense of a tactile world quite alien from ours. Solveig also finds that travel brings her into contact with people who have different religious and social views than those familiar to her (or us), and I think many young readers will find this particularly fascinating.

Kevin Crossley-Holland has already won pretty much every award for his children’s fiction. I’m delighted to say that this new series is just as fresh and accomplished as his earlier books, and probably more accessible.

— Richard Lee

Bracelet of Bones is a Viking quest book. One day, Solveig wakes up to find Halfdan, her father, gone so she abandons everything she knows and loves, and finds a group of merchants willing to take her on board their ship, to aid her passage to Miklagard to find him. For her journey, Solveig has to pay with the product of her major skill, to carve runes or pictures in bone. The journey goes to plan until they reach the cataracts, patches of really strong water which cannot be crossed by boat, because archers shoot their captain, Red Ottar, in the mouth, and the crew have to make the decision whether or not they should go on to Miklagard.

I really liked Bracelet of Bones, because it feels as though you are always with Solveig on her journey down Eastern Europe, and can vividly imagine every event happening along the way. One of the reasons that I like Solveig is that when she has a comment that she does not like thrown at her, she is always quick to fight back.

— James Lee