The Polaris Whisperer
This story begins in the year 830 AD, turns back to 801 AD (and drops by 831 AD, 835 AD, 800 AD, 836 AD, 837 AD, 802 AD, and 838 AD) then moves to 840 AD. Add in that the story begins with a prologue that has no given time and that the reader must follow several different sets of characters, and you will see why I found it difficult to get a grip on what was happening.
I couldn’t decide which character was the hero – there isn’t a heroine – a disinherited and exiled Norseman, Vidar, or the son, Niclaus, he places into foster care while he spends years on a quest to find a glacial cave. The reader is not told what the import of such a discovery might be, but the dwarf who charged Vidar with this quest has invested considerable wealth and time into the venture. The tale also involves two monks working on illustrated manuscripts; one becomes involved with the dwarf’s request for a secret book, and the other decides he must have the power he thinks it will confer.
Initially the pace is slow, but the last third of the book has a strong, faster-paced theme. It follows the Trial of Endurance in which Niclaus must win a race across the winter landscape against four other contenders, battling the wilderness, wolves and treachery. The book is an odd mixture of fantasy and the harsh reality of living in such a time, and the writing, especially the dialogue, is equally mixed. I feel that to understand and appreciate what was going on, especially since this is said to be Book 1 of a trilogy, I should settle down and begin the book again.