In 854 Norway, Asa Coppermane watches her Viking chieftain father and most of the clan’s men sail off at the end of a starving winter to find food. The sick and the weak remain in Asa’s care, and the burden is a heavy one for a 14-year-old. Her mother’s health deteriorates, and Asa surmises that Jorgen, the clan’s storyteller, has been manipulating her people to seize power. When the next part of his plan includes the sacrifice of Asa’s beloved horse, she flees on his back, beyond the fiord territory that is her clan’s domain. There she meets Wenda, a one-eyed Solitary who communicates with ravens and offers shelter and food. Wenda knows much about both the past and future, and hints that Asa will be called to make a great sacrifice. Soon Asa goes into battle with Jorgen and the harsh landscape and finds the strength to lead.
Asa’s grim journey is eloquently told and touched with wonder. The depiction of the harsh realities of the terrible winter, the bond between Asa and her horse, and the troubled young mind seeking clarity are this novel’s strengths.