Summer Warrior (The Clan Donald Saga)

Written by Regan Walker
Review by Thomas j. Howley

By the mid-12th century, the Gaels of Ireland, Scotland, and the Isles are hunting down the remnants of the Viking invaders of previous centuries, who are either being annihilated or absorbed. Intermarriage is common, and many among the antagonists are related. Somerled, the hero, is dedicated to taking back his ancestral lands in Argyll, which were earlier invaded and occupied by the Viking foe. He also envisions a Gaelic kingdom of the Isles between Scotland and Ireland.

He assembles a small but growing fleet of longships with crews of Scots and Irish fighting men. He also attempts to gain allies through diplomacy with established kingdoms. He travels to the Island of Man to confer with the king there. Somerled is almost immediately smitten by the king’s daughter, Ragnhild. The princess, who is on the verge of being forcibly betrothed to a Viking chieftain, is equally taken with the gallant visitor. So, Somerled must continue on his martial quest to take back the isles, while simultaneously maintaining the flames of romance with his intended.

Despite the title, this novel is primarily a romance with all of the flowery and courtly prose attendant to that genre. Military and battle scenes, though well done, are short and fleeting. Nevertheless, Summer Warrior is a colorful, illuminating, and wonderful history of a time and place little examined. Many of the characters are actual historical figures, and the Gaelic pageantry, examination of the importance of castles and descriptions of food, dress, and music are exceptionally well-rendered. A short section on the “Battle of the Standard” is a prescient examination of the dangers of Scots and Irish ever becoming involved in English affairs. An Author’s Note expertly caps the whole thing. Highly recommended.