The Settlers of Catan

Written by Lee Chadeayne (trans.) Rebecca Gable
Review by Patricia O’Sullivan

The people of Elasund love their homeland, but life is a struggle. Long winters make for a short growing season, and frequent raids by the Turons have devastated villages on the coast. So when the rich merchant Olaf suggests they leave Elasund to search for a warm, uninhabited island he’s heard of, 250 Elasundians agree. The settlers fill nine ships with provisions and sail south, past Scotland and Ireland, to a mythical land created by Odin himself named Catan. Eager for a better life, the settlers quickly choose a site to build their village, but will they find the resources they need to survive?

Based on the popular board game by the same name, Settlers of Catan imagines where the settlers came from, what motivated them to leave their homeland, and what problems they encountered in building their settlement. Gable’s narrative explores not only the physical challenges of a new settlement, but also the social challenges. Catan’s settlers argue over religion, the treatment of slaves and women, and whether the tradition of blood vengeance should be upheld among such a small group.

Though I enjoyed Gable’s rich, and often daring, storytelling, I found the narrative too drawn out. It took one hundred pages for the settlers to agree to even leave Elasund, and another hundred for them to reach Catan. The length of these segments would not seem so burdensome if the story moved faster, but Gable has a tendency to over-explain scenes and her characters’ motivations. The Settlers of Catan is definitely worth reading if you love the board game or Norse history and culture.