Sigrun’s Secret

Written by Marie-Louise Jensen
Review by Ann Turnbull

Fifteen-year-old Sigrun has grown up happy in the belief that she knows all about her parents, Bjorn and Thora, and how they came to be living at Thorastead in Iceland. But her world is shaken when Halfgrim Bjornsson appears in the settlement claiming that Bjorn is a fugitive – a slave who murdered Halfgrim’s father, stole his name and ships, and took refuge from justice in Iceland. Now Halfgrim wants revenge. Bjorn and his family are forced to leave Iceland, leaving behind Sigrun’s injured mother and separating Sigrun from her newfound love, Ingvar, the son of a neighbouring farmer. They sail to Jorvik, where Sigrun has to adapt to city life and where she gradually develops her latent skills as a healer before terrible events overtake the family again.

This story is well-told and has considerable emotional depth. The love between Sigrun and Ingvar is tender and built on trust; it is not the main theme of the story, but underpins it with its emphasis on friendship and the importance of home and family. Although narrated in the first person by Sigrun, the story also involves the reader sympathetically in men’s ideas of honour and the bonds of friendship, and how these can lead to conflict. I particularly liked the way that Sigrun is a ‘strong’ woman, but strong in qualities of caring and compassion. Although we tend to think of Vikings as warlike, this story shows how important was the role of the ‘godi’ or negotiator, and how even the most implacable enemies could eventually accept terms that satisfied them and ensured peace – essential if ancient feuds were not to afflict generations to come.

Marie-Louise Jensen’s extensive research brings this far-off time to life. The story can be read as a sequel to Daughter of Fire and Ice, but also works perfectly as a stand-alone novel. Young girls who enjoy historical romance will love it.