Series: The Rise of Sigurd 2
My version: Hardback
Historical Fiction Vikings
Norway, AD785 – a vow of vengeance must be kept…
Sigurd Haraldarson has proved himself a great warrior…and a dangerous enemy.
He has gone a long way towards avenging the murder of his family. And yet the oath-breaker King Gorm, who betrayed Sigurd’s father, still lives. And so long as he draws breath, the scales remain unbalanced.
The sacred vow to avenge his family burns in Sigurd’s veins, but he must be patient and bide his time. He knows that he and his band of warriors are not yet strong enough to confront the treacherous king. They need silver, they need more spear brothers to rally to the young Viking’s banner – but more than these, they need to win fame upon the battle field.
And so the fellowship venture west, to Sweden, to fight as mercenaries. And it is there – in the face of betrayal and bloodshed, on a journey that will take him all too close to the halls of Valhalla – that Sigurd’s destiny will be forged. There, in the inferno of winter’s fire…
I’m afraid I thought the first of GK’s ‘The Rise of Sigurd’ series (the prequel series to his Raven Viking series) God of Vengeance was not great, not easy to keep going some parts. So it was with something of the ‘might as well get it over with’ feeling that I started ‘Winter’s Fire.’ I’m not one for giving up on books half way – or any way – through. Especially when you have the series ready, all hard-backed, shiny-signed and lovely-looking. But the first was a cartoon mess…well, a foreboding does creep into the heart on hefting it off the pile. God of Vengeance was, I felt, not worthy to be compared to the Rivers Brothers English Civil War series that GK got two books into. They, especially the second, Brothers’ Fury, were absolutely superb. A ‘Masterclass’ if ever there was one.
The irritation from Book One, that sticks with me, was all the smiles, grins, teeth, etc, ‘nestling’ in beards. And at the start of Winter Blut, it didn’t look good…
P22: “A grin spread in Olaf’s beard…”
P34: “Hreidar’s teeth flashed in his beard.”
P53: “A grin spread in that huge, unkempt beard of his.”
Then there was clearly an “…of it” or two left over from the Raven series and the adjective in as a noun of “So I am thinking that maybe dogs have more clever in them than wolves.” It was like “I’m Giles K, me. And this is how you shall know me.” They were all over God of Vengeance like a bad suit. Though they weren’t helped by the appalling ‘audio book’ I struggled through. The overacting masquerading as reading there, was three days into fingernails down blackboards territory.
However…and it’s a great big stonking “wait just a cotton-picking moment there boy!” From about a third of the way through Winter’s Fire, maybe a shade earlier, something changes. There are no more smiles in beards, of it’s and all that unnecessary. A short time after the change, I suddenly realised and found the book had become clamped to my eyes and I couldn’t drag myself away from it to go have my tea – this is bloody good, this! And it is.
From being a mixture of Pirates of the Caribbean, The Simpsons, Top Cat, The Keystone Cops, and a wild west bar-room brawl, it develops into a proper, well-written, not irritating at all, getting well into Justin Hill rather than Robert ‘no one knows more about Vikings’ Low, territory. I cared about the mission, they had a mission and a purpose, I cared about whether they lived or died, I cared about the characters, I was sad/pissed off when one of them died, and the pathos of several scenes was beautifully and thoughtfully written and affected me quite deeply. This is a proper Giles Kristian book, after the shaky start. What happened, who knows. Maybe someone looked over his shoulder and said ‘just because you’ve got a couple of yards of that sort of stuff left over from the first book, doesn’t mean you have to use it. Get on and write like you know you can.’ I imagine. Whatever, whoever, it was, I thank you. As I said, I have the next one ready and waiting and I’m going to be anticipating the reading of it very much indeed.
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