The Raven and the Dove

Written by K. M. Butler
Review by J. Lynn Else

890 AD. As raiding has become less profitable, Jarl Rollo decides that the Norse should settle the lands of North Frankia instead. After nearly dying a humiliating death after a raid, Halla sees this as a sign from the gods answering her cry for new purpose to her life. Offered the opportunity to rule, Halla decides to solidify her leadership by marrying one of the Christian aldermen. Representing his town, Alderman Taurin sees the size of Rollo’s army and agrees to the marriage in the hopes it will preserve his people.

When Halla, Taurin, and a group of Norse sail into Lillebonne, they are met by outraged townsfolk. Tensions run high as Halla and Taurin try to bridge the gap between the Christians and Norse settlers. While vastly different themselves, can a shieldmaiden and a Christian landowner unite two opposing cultures?

Butler deftly weaves a tale filled with high emotions, shifting loyalties, and cultural clashes within a richly detailed setting. Halla and Taurin face opposing forces both within and without their respective groups. Butler doesn’t make it easy for his characters, ushering in a wealth of character growth and plot twists. Not only must Halla and Taurin run a town together, they must also weather a marriage as feelings arise between them. Halla is a fierce warrior, while Taurin must grapple with Halla’s past: someone who raided other Christian towns like his own and plundered holy relics. Lillebonne has already had to rebuild itself from a raid in years past.

The story’s cultural details illustrate Butler’s strong research. Between the rush of battle to mounting tensions while keeping peace between religious factions, The Raven and the Dove is an immersive story with well-drawn characters. Highly recommended.