***Thank you to NetGalley and the author for providing a copy of the book for my fair and honest review!***
Alternate history – 1116 AD. Three hundred years of cruel Viking raids have finally united Christian Europe against the pagan Northlands. A great crusade has been called to pacify the wild Norse kingdoms. The banner of the cross has been raised against the north, and all the power and fury of the west rides under it.
Ordulf, a talented young German swordsmith, is ripped from his comfortable life and cast into the bloody chaos of the crusade. As fate deals him a cruel blow in the lands of his enemies, he will have to forge a new path through the chaos, or be consumed by it.
In the Northlands, three rival kingdoms must unite to survive the onslaught. But can any man, king or commoner, unite the bickering brotherhood of the Norse? Or is the time of the Vikings finally drawing to a violent end. Heroes will fail, kings will fall, and ordinary people will fight for the right to a future.
What I Liked
I loved this book. It pulled me in from the very start with the mystery surrounding the sword and kept me hooked throughout the story with the great characterization and beautifully written battle sequences. This author definitely has a way with words that constantly left me wanting to read just one more page.
The characters in this book were fantastic. They felt like real people, and it was easy to understand their motivations and emotions because the author did a great job of making me feel like I know these people. The two main protagonists, Ordulf and Ragnvald, were particularly well-crafted. I enjoyed jumping between the two because it gave the perspectives of both sides of the war and provided a window into the unique strengths and weaknesses of each culture. Their stories also complemented each other well, with one character being older and more experienced and the other young and naive. However, I appreciated that they were both on similar journeys that required shedding off some of the ways of their pasts to embrace a new future and ensure their survival.
The prose throughout the story was exquisitely detailed and beautifully written. The battle sequences were especially well-done. They made me feel like I was going into battle with the characters and had just the perfect amount of gore to be realistic without overdoing it. I was also pleasantly surprised with how well the writing pulled me into parts of the story I would have otherwise found boring. A great deal of time in this novel was spent on describing the forging of weapons. This is something I’ve never been very interested in before, but this author’s prose was spell-binding enough to keep me hooked throughout those parts of the book. I feel as though I came away from the story with a better understanding of metallurgy and had fun learning about it, which is something I never expected going into this book.
I also greatly enjoyed the information about Norse culture displayed throughout this book. I didn’t know much about it prior to reading the story, and I am now interested to learn more. The author weaved the information skillfully throughout the narrative, and I never felt like I was being taught anything about history. However, I learned a lot from this book, and it has whetted my appetite to learn more!
Things I Didn’t Like
Nothing. I loved everything about this book, and I cannot wait for the next one to be released.
If you enjoy historical fiction or fantasy books, this might just be the book for you. The writing is wonderful, and the characters are realistic and fun to read. The battle sequences are outstanding, and I loved learning about Norse culture and metallurgy because the information is presented in engaging bits throughout the story. Therefore, I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars.