The Cold Hearth: The Atheling Chronicles: #3

Written by Garth Pettersen
Review by Linnea Tanner

The Cold Hearth (The Atheling Chronicles, #3) by Garth Pettersen is an enthralling medieval Norse tale that continues the adventure of the little-known historical figure, Harold Harefoot—the second son of King Cnute. Although the book can be read as a standalone, reading the entire series would be advantageous. In 1029 C.E. Harold seeks a peaceful life as a farmer alongside his Frisian wife, Selia, in England, away from the infighting of potential heirs to the Viking empire. As Harold rebuilds the hall on his farm, his hopes for a fresh start are shaken with news that his older brother, Sweyn was almost killed in an assassination attempt. Further, he learns the previous occupants were brutally murdered and grows suspicious of his servants and neighbors. He seeks out unknown enemies that not only threaten his life but pose danger to all of the athelings (princes) in line for King Cnute’s throne.

Pettersen masterfully weaves fast-paced action into a heartfelt tale about a wise, formidable warrior with a heart of gold. As told by Harold in first-person and by other characters in third-person, the story brings the large cast of characters to life. Each of them is distinct and relatable. Harold’s oldest brother, Sweyn, is a reckless drunkard whereas Harthacnute is their pompous, impulsive half-brother. Pettersen seamlessly merges various words from the middle ages (defined in a glossary) into the dialogue. Poignant moments of everyday life and touching relationships are juxtaposed with gripping scenes of suspense and action.

The Cold Hearth has everything you could want in a Viking saga—memorable characters, realistic depiction of middle age lifestyles, riveting fight scenes, and dashes of romance. Highly recommended.