In the Shadow of the Gods

Written by James Bicheno
Review by Richard Tearle

In a rousing tale, James Bicheno takes us back to Norway in the late 8th and early 9th centuries when the Norsemen began their raids on North East England and the Scottish Isles to the north and west. Two friends and foster brothers, Thorwolf and Einar, are making their name as warriors, Einar, the son of a king of a Norwegian area named as Hordaland, being the more promising of the two. The story begins with them being included on a trading vessel that has run into a storm in the English Channel before making landfall in Wessex. Here they encounter some local opposition and they come away with a Saxon slave girl, Edith. Edith is mistreated by Einar, but Thorwolf is powerless to do anything to help her. Later, he is married to Edith, this being on the advice of a mysterious woman, Thyra, who flits in and out of the story. Thorwolf is later captured and enslaved, but is rescued. He finds Einar has been crippled in a fight against raiders and that relationships between the two friends has inexplicably changed. He decides to leave Norway and take his wife to Orkney.

The story skips eighteen years. Thorwolf returns to Norway with Edith, their three sons and daughter as his foster father is dying. He is named as successor and becomes king. The already soured friendship with Einar becomes a feud that is carried through to the next generation.

I was enthralled by the story, although there were some instances where the writing became a little clumsy and there were some typographical errors. I enjoyed the story and look forward to a sequel. I liked the simplicity of the cover, but whether it is enough to attract a first-time reader I am not sure.