Norway, AD 785. Following the slaughter of his family by treacherous King Gorm, Sigurd Haraldson has been forced into an early maturity. Still a boy in years, his life must be dedicated to revenge. He has found a haven for his precious young sister on the Island of the Freya Maidens although, even there, glimpses of her life are unsettling. A penniless outlaw with a few unflinchingly loyal comrades, Sigurd must take death-dealing with service with any jarl who will promise payment in silver, risking his only treasure, the beautiful ship Reinen. Success will bring him the power to attract and reward high-quality fighting men; his long-term unswerving aim is the destruction of King Gorm. Sigurd has become known as lucky: after emulating Odin’s feat of superhuman endurance, he is favoured by the All Father.
A glorious but merciless winter landscape is laid out for readers in biting reality. The thaw brings a deluge that leaves the aftermath of every affray a blend of mud and blood. Brief intervals gathered round a hearth may be relished on behalf of this heroic band whose dialogue is understandably robust. At last, a chance occurs, more like a forlorn hope, but the reward could be tremendous. A bloody story indeed, but Sigurd shows an aptitude for trickery worthy of the god, arch-trickster Loki. The map and glossary are commendable, and this author’s known knack with metaphor and simile adds to readers’ enjoyment.