Dream Weaver

Written by Penina Keen Spinka
Review by Ann Chamberlin

This is the second book in a series, the first entitled Picture Maker. It might help to have read the first one, which I have not.

The Norse settlement in Greenland is on its last gasp in 1396 AD. Ingrid, the daughter of a flame-haired Viking and a North American native woman comes of age under the stresses of racial and religious hatred and starvation. Inhospitable climate and cultures punctuate her odyssey to find acceptance somewhere–eventually across the ice sheet to her mother’s matriarchal people.

An engaging opening, rich with details of daily life, becomes awkward and overstuffed by the time our characters, fleeing the caterpillar-plagued and crumbling European settlement, reach the Inuit. More credit given to the Inuit way of cold-climate adaptation would have helped. For the long-dead Norse, this lack of credit–their downfall–is a moot question, but not for the author. This is a style that craves a loving, lingering hand, and when we get it in this volume, it’s not always on the best subjects. I never got a decent feeling for the midnight sun, for example. Dream Weaver (Ingrid) hardly seems to deserve the name, her mystical weaving and dreaming shallow, not given the power they deserve if, as seems likely, they were meant to be pivotal plot points. Other characters seem to have much more interesting tales to tell: Ingrid’s conflicted stepbrother Ole, the native Runs Fast, even the Norse nun Marie taken captive by the Algonquin in “Vinland” would have been better subjects. They are, however, frustratingly brushed aside as if of no account.