Review: Bloodaxe – C.R. May

Bloodaxe C R May

Erik Haraldsson 1

My version:
Paperback
Historical Fiction Vikings
Publisher:
Self published
First published: 2018
Supplied by author


What you need to know:

Under the iron rule of Harald Fairhair, Norway has been a land at peace for half a century.

Groomed for the sucession, the king’s eldest surviving son has lived the life of a Viking prince; harrying wherever his longships can reach, from the frozen forests of Bjarmaland, to the rocky shores of Britanny and beyond.

But none expected Harald to live so long, and as the king enters his ninth decade, his powers begin to wane.

Seizing their chance, other Haraldssons move to snatch the crown for themselves, and a brother-war sweeps the land as Erik fights to defend his birthright…

Bloodaxe is the fist volume in a trilogy which will tell the story of one of the Viking Age’s legendary kings.


Swept up suddenly, you are grabbed bodily and thrown through the centuries and you land, with a thud, slap, bang in tumultuous 10th century Scvandinavia, in the area known as the North Way. You find yourself in a Viking village, pigs are grunting around you, men and women and thralls going about their daily chores. Down by the fjord’s edge, other men, bigger, burlier, bearded men are packing stores onto a longship, you hope it  is, then see it is – a Viking dragon ship. A ship that will sail you to new lands, to new battles to new conquests. You realise you are to go with them! The warriors crowding about you are so real, you can almost smell them. The tang you taste is from the wind-spray of the ocean crossing, the anticipation tingle in your stomach, and the glint of sun on shield and sword in your eyes – and you’re off, not caring where as long as these warriors are with you. To battles so vivid, you can feel the pain from hits on your shield, the blood on your tunic from wounds that may or may not be yours. There is blood, the whirl of sword and axe, the anguished cries of dying enemies….

that is what happens when you open this book, trust me. It picks you up and absolutely will not let you go until you’ve turned the final page. And when you have, after you’ve mopped your brow, well…

Yes, Bloodaxe, the first part of a trilogy, deals with the early part of Erik’s life, his early adventures, and his troubles succeeding his father Haraldr Hárfagri, Harald Fairhair. As the king’s chosen successor, his taking command and doing so with great aplomb at the age of 12, shouldn’t surprise you. At the age of 12 in the Viking Age Scandinavia, boys were legally considered adults. Before that age, they were often sent out to foster, with another family for some years, to create a bond between the families, providing help and whatever assistance might be required, to each other. Erik’s foster family is that of the Hersir (a local Viking military commander, who owes allegiance to a Jarl, or king), Thórir son of Hróald.

Norway Satellite
The English name Norway comes from the Old English word Norþweg mentioned in 880, meaning “northern way” or “way leading to the north”, which is how the Anglo-Saxons referred to the coastline of Norway. Anglo-Saxons of Britain also referred to the kingdom of Norway in 880 as Norðmanna land.

When he comes of age, Erik finds his father’s long life and promiscuity, has created a fair many obstacles to his assuming of power. Erik has to, cold-bloodedly even for Viking times, remove the obstacles – namely a seemingly endless series of brothers sired by his father with all and sundry, good and bad and really, really, really bad. Harald clearly wasn’t too fussy when it came to a warm bed. For a number of years, in pursuit of his ambitions – and often just for the Viking of it – Erik ‘visits’ the Baltic coasts – and those of Denmark, Frisia and Germany; Wales, Ireland and France, also Lappland and Bjarmaland (in what is now northern Russia). A regular package tour of mayhem, mead and more mayhem! He is sucessful in his pursuit of the crown, after a fashion, but in a sign of both his growing maturity and pragmatic nature, he also shows he knows when to remove himself and his followers from the problem and thus live to fight in another shieldwall, another day. He certainly took setbacks and all a lot more sanguinely than I did.

Bloodaxe has proved to me, that C.R. May is rapidly developing into one of the most important Historical Fiction novelists writing today. He has, as is a feature of his books (along with consistently superb covers), once more created an immediately immersive, this time Viking, world, believable, solid and – for the reader – utterly addictive. You want to go there, you don’t want to come back. In his Eiríkr Haraldsson, or Eiríkr blóðøx – as we scholars of Old Norse know him – Mr. May has brought to life a true Viking hero of the old school, one who promises to be more authentic, more believable and almost touchable, than any number of cartoon, Cutthroat Jake clones, or constant rainly, cloudy, doomy portents contained in constant bad weather and crows flying about telling fortunes. Just characters that are full of life, vigour and colour – not just to the main, here royal, characters, but all the other Norse and non-Norse Erik encounters on his way – a real band of Viking brothers awaits you.

Now, I’m no writer – no, seriously, I’m not – but if you too haven’t had a serious attack of the skalds by the time you’ve returned from 10th Century Scandinavia and finished this book, then my name isn’t Snorri Speeshson.


You can buy Bloodaxe and all CR May’s excellent books, from Amazon

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