The Dane Law: The Atheling Chronicles: #2

Written by Garth Pettersen
Review by Kristen McQuinn

The Dane Law is the second in Garth Pettersen’s Atheling Chronicles series, following The Swan’s Road. In this installation, Cnute is king of England and he sends for his son, Harald, who is living with his new wife in Italy. Cnute is planning for the time when he inevitably dies; who will succeed him? He had secured the Saxons’ fealty by marrying Emma of Normandy and promising that his children by her would be his heirs, but Cnute fears his official heir, Harthacanute, is unfit. He is unable to name Harald as heir without Saxon support. Someone wants Harald either out of England, dead, or discredited because he’s been attacked, his man wrongfully accused of murder, and now Harald himself is kidnapped and held hostage. Harald has to free himself and then decide what is best for his country, even if it is the very last thing he wants for his own happiness.

The Dane Law is a great read, filled with multidimensional characters and plenty of action. Harald and his brothers were, of course, historical people, as were many others in the book. The real people are supported by a terrific list of fictional characters, all of whom are similarly well-developed. The setting—mid-11th century England—is brought further to life both in detailed imagery as well as the liberal use of Anglo-Saxon words scattered throughout the narrative. Clearly, the stage is being set for the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The politics of the Saxon court are interesting, and every bit as convoluted as the Tudor court. There are, however, many liberties taken with historical facts and timelines, which may not bother some readers, but I prefer more accuracy with my historical fiction. All the same, it is a novel full of action, intrigue, love, and politics, which combine into an entertaining story.