Sigurd’s Saga 1
Historical Fiction Vikings
Norway AD785. It began with the betrayal of a lord by a king…
But when King Form puts Jarl Harald’s family to the sword, he makes one terrible mistake – he fails to kill Harald’s youngest son, Sigurd.
On the run, unsure who to trust and hunted by powerful men, Sigurd wonders if the gods have forsaken him: his kin are slain or taken as slaves. Honour is lost.
But he has a small band of loyal men at his side and with them he plans his revenge. All know that Odin – whose name means frenzy – is drawn to chaos and bloodshed, just as a raven is to slaughter. In the hope of catching the All-Father’s eye, the young Viking endures a ritual ordeal and is shown a vision. Wolf, bear, serpent and eagle come to him. Sigurd will need their help if he is to make a King pay in blood for his treachery.
Using cunning and war-craft, he gathers together a band of warriors – including Olaf, his father’s right-hand man, Bram who men call Bear, Black Folk who wields death with a blade, and the shield maiden Valgerd, who fears no man – and convinces them to follow him.
For, whether Odin is with him or not, Sigurd will have his vengeance. And neither man nor gods had better stand in his way…
Honestly? I’m still no nearer to figuring out what I do, or should, feel about this one. Well, I know from other reviews what I should feel. I should think it’s the most wonderful thing since sliced Viking bread. But I have to be absolutely honest and say I didn’t think that. Occasionally, like when the story managed to surface through all the froth, I did think ‘this could go on now and be pretty good.’ But the burst enthusiasm for me, was short-lived.
So, explain ‘froth’? Well, all the ‘like a…’ and the wordplays intended to create pictures in your mind, nearly every other sentence (in places). Choosing a page at random here “…like looking at any man but sometimes like staring into the heart of a flame.” (p169). “Like a couple of foxes.” (p228). “..as a blade ripped up into the precious meat behind his ribs.” (p229). “…and you didn’t need much clever in you to know …” (p231). “Like some moon-mad crone.” (p231). “…in each other’s ear-holes like maggots in old flesh.” (p232).
It’s fairly clear that Giles wanted to write a book, a series, in the tradition of the Norse sagas. With that of arm’s-length feeling to the story. ‘Arm’s length’? As if you’re reading what a poet is repeating to a hall-full of Vikings. Obviously, as the sagas, there is a truth behind the story, but of course, the teller adds his or her own layer of interpretation. Those layers grow as the the story is repeated and you actually get further and further away from the truth. That’s really what happened to me here. I felt I was too detached from the story he was trying to tell. The story which is actually rather simple. Young Viking sees father betrayed and killed, swears revenge, goes about Norway gathering a band to get afore-mentioned revenge. We’re only one third of the way through it at the end of this book, there are two more to come. There really is nothing more to it. You and I know how it’s going to end. So, I could think he’s added in all the froth to pad it out (being uncharitable). I actually did, several times. I’ve got the other two, but not read them as yet. I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be a prequel to Giles’ ‘Raven’ books, and I really don’t remember them as being so caught up in themselves as this is. They were much more straight-ahead story-telling and all the better for that.
I’m not against this sort of embellishment. I think of Snorri Kristjansson’s books (Swords of Good Men, Blood Will Follow and Path of the Gods) when I say that. But, those were fairly firmly set in a fantasy Viking world, based on reality, but embellished with fantasy elements… hmm…not dissimilar to this. Maybe Giles’ books should be labeled under fantasy? A few of the “And the words were in the air like ripples from a stone dropped into water, when the first arrow whipped through the trees.” (p78) “….the fury coming off him like smoke from a pyre.” (p81), sort of thing, yes, they would have let the story breathe and added to the enjoyment no end. Seen in isolation, some of the similes are actually very good, very descriptive and imaginative. They’d work a hundred times better if there were fewer of them though.
Giles has shown that he really can hit the nail on the head with a bloody great hammer in the two (hopefully ‘so far’) Civil War books. Those were and still are the best he’s written (for me), two of the best Historical Fiction books you or I will ever read actually.
If you want to have a go at what I think are good fiction books about the Vikings, you really should have a go at The Sea Road by Margaret Elphinstone and Thunder God by Paul Watkins. Maybe The Long Ships by Franz G. Bengtsson as well. They will throw you headlong back into the Viking age a lot further than this book did me.
Maybe, maybe more than maybe, this does all Giles Kristian set out to do with it. Maybe it was supposed to read as a Saga from days of olde. Let’s go with that. For me, I tried, I really, really tried, I tried my utmost to like the book. But I couldn’t pull it off. Maybe I’m missing something somewhere. The other reviews I’ve seen would suggest so, but I was expecting more and got too much of the wrong stuff.
So, I’d recommend to go read a few of the other reviews, buy the books, think for yourselves and ignore me.
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