The Sea’s Edge: The Atheling Chronicles: #4

Written by Garth Pettersen
Review by Deborah Cay Wilding

The year is 1030 when Harald, the second son of Engla-lond’s ruler, King Cnute, is tasked with a mission that will take him from his beloved wife, Selia, in Mercia, to the strife-torn coast of Wales. Harald prefers the quiet life of a landholder. However, he’s not one to shirk his duty when his father summons him to coordinate an attack on powerful King Rhydderch of Gwynedd, a Welsh county along England’s border, and replace him with a puppet ruler.

Harald does not expect to see military action, but an ironic turn of events finds him honor-bound, though understandably hesitant, to lead a contingent of warriors into battle. Among other things, he promised his wife not to take part in the fighting. What’s more, the loyalty of his Norse-Irish allies is questionable. And to make matters worse, there’s a spy among his inner circle.

The Sea’s Edge is Book 4 in Pettersen’s Atheling Chronicles, but can be read as a standalone novel, in large part because the author’s dramatic storytelling and lush descriptions quickly draw readers into Britain’s often harsh but beautiful medieval world. Harald’s early life was not recorded, so the author makes some creative assumptions as he paints the portrait of a man struggling to strike a balance in his life while he matures into an experienced leader who will one day wear the crown.

A minor secondary plot involving Selia’s domestic trouble does little to advance the story. For this is Harald’s journey, replete with lusty wenches seeking power, and battlefield violence as seen through the eyes of a somewhat reluctant warrior hero about to confront his destiny. Bibliographic references, author’s notes, map, and glossary are noteworthy features of this engaging work of historical fiction that will keep readers turning pages and looking forward to the next in the series.