The Saxon Wolf (Fire Born 2)

Written by Angus Donald
Review by Valerie Loh

In AD 773, Bjarki Bloodhand, a legendary berserker, is now Fire Born and inhabited by a fierce spirit while he’s fighting. Bjarki fears his ‘gandr’ (a she-bear spirit), because his father went insane and was destroyed by his. This internal conflict determines his willingness or reluctance to fight in battle. Bjarki’s sister, Tor Hildarsdottir, is a respected sword-maiden, who seeks to liberate Saxony from the Christian Frank invaders. Two distractions to this goal are her problematic bear cub, Garm, and her unexpected attraction to a Saxon Lord, Widukind. This enigmatic warrior leader seeks to unite allies to drive the Frankish Empire from Saxony.

This is an action-packed second book in the Fire Born Trilogy. It begins with a battle scene showing realistic tension followed by the gory portrayal of Dark Age warfare. Sword-maidens were accepted and feared as fully trained warriors, and Tor is convincingly portrayed as one of the best. Her strong character makes her scenes totally captivating in action, yet she has inner turmoil, which gives her character depth. Bjarki is a conflicted soul; he desires peace and fears the rage within that left uncontrolled will darken his destiny.

Setting his novels in an inevitably blood-thirsty, battle-driven period of history, the author has strongly depicted a totally absorbing tale of ‘berserkers’ set against the impeccable research of life in the 8th century. Tor’s and Bjarki’s stories are skilfully woven around the history of Charlemagne’s expansion of Christian faith and territory. This is a totally absorbing depiction of a war-torn age that will capture the imaginations and emotions of the reader, leaving a lasting impression that will stay with them until the final book is ready to enjoy.