The Rood and the Torc: The Song of Kristinge, Son of Finn

Written by Matthew Dickerson
Review by Susan McDuffie

656 AD, Europe. An eighteen-year-old novice at the monastery of Luxeuil learns unexpectedly of his true parentage. Kristinge is not the son of Willimond, as he had believed all his life, but instead is the only remaining son of Finn, a slain Frisian chieftain and king of Hwitstan. The knowledge sends Kristinge on a journey of self-discovery, taking him from the monastery to the Frankish court of the insane King Clovis, onward to far Denmark and a reunion with the mother he has never known, and eventually to his birthplace in Friesland, where the young man is forced to make difficult choices. Kristinge struggles with his identity. Is he a monk? A priest? A bard? A warrior? A king?

A professor and a Tolkien scholar, Matthew Dickerson has a gift for poetry, and one of the most fascinating aspects of this novel are the poems Kristinge sings as a bard. Some are actual Old English poems; others are new poems composed in that same style by Dickerson. The entire tale, as was Dickerson’s previous novel, is based on a poetry fragment, “The Finnsburg Fragment.”

Dickerson has obviously done his research, and the novel casts light on a little-known era in history, as well as bringing to life some very interesting historical personages. However, I found the narrative somewhat confusing and not straightforward. The timeline often perplexed me; for example, did weeks pass, or a few days? At times I felt Dickerson told rather than showed his story. There also appeared to be some loose ends left at the end of the tale and unexplained plot twists, making me wonder if a third novel will continue this saga.