Review: A Sacred Storm – Theodore Brun

Series: The Wanderer Chronicles 2

My version: Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction, Early Eighth Century Sweden
First published: 2018
ISBN: 9781786490032
Pages: 682
Supplied by author

Eighth-century Sweden: Erlan Aurvandil, a Viking outlander, has pledged his sword to Sviggar Ivarsson, King of the Sveärs. But violence is stirring in the borderlands. As the fires of an ancient feud are reignited, Erlan is bound by honour and oath to stand with King Sviggar.
But, unbeknownst to the old King, his daughter, Princess Lilla, has fallen under Erlan’s spell. As the armies gather, Erlan and Lilla must choose between their duty to Sviggar and their love for each other.
Bloodied young, betrayed often, Erlan is no stranger to battle. And hidden in the shadows, there are always those determined to bring about the maelstrom of war…

Well, I think I’ve calmed down now. I’m ready to come down off the ceiling long enough to write this and wait for the next one. Where to start?

I’ve racked my brains time and time again, for a way in to writing this other than this is utterly superb! But I can’t think of one that comes close to doing full justice to the utterly superbness of A Sacred Storm, so I’ll stick to – A Sacred Storm is utterly superb!

It’s a continuation of the saga, and it is turning into a Saga in the great Norse tradition like the Sagas, of Erlan, or Hakan, as he was before he exiled himself from ‘Denmark,’ as he tries to settle in the court of the, shall we say, increasingly unstable, King Sviggar. The one constant – apart from the evil ranged against him, is his friend, whom he found on his way north to Uppsala, Kai Askarsson. He comes into his own here, out from the shadows of Erlan, as it were, and into the shadows of thwarting all the dirty-dickery. The good is still good, but the evil is more evil, more extreme, more thoroughly, even thoughtfully, evil than before. The traces of (the mighty) Robert E. Howard and the Nameless Evil I mentioned then, are still here – in spades. But… well, this time the nameless evil actually does have a name. Several. I’m not giving anything away in saying in A Sacred Storm, evil has three (or more, when I think of…) names, but especially Sigurd Sviggarsson, the Lady Saldas and especially Sigurd’s man-servant (maybe demon-servant would be more appropriate) Vargalf. Now he is one of the most twisted and deviously, fiendishly detestable characters you’re ever likely to come across on a dark night in downtown Uppsala. The twists and turns – and the prisoners and enemies they twist and turn – will have you looking away a couple of times, hoping that the story has moved on while you looked at pictures of cupcakes. But no! They’re still there and it takes Erlan to the outer edges of his strength, patience and anger, to … well, you need to read it yourself to find out if he can pull the story back from the brink and the icy (or searing) grips of hell. I’ve lost it! Back in just a moment…

It perhaps doesn’t have the huge gob-smacking, Sweet Cheeses! (say it out loud), drop the book on the floor, shocks and outright fuck-me surprises of the first book – the first half of that book especially – but it doesn’t need it/them. This book subtly ratchets up the tension and tightening of the plot screws from the very start, never letting off until the last page, with major explosions of what the fuck-ness shooting up every so often. In my version anyway. The characters have been established now, and Theodore starts to flesh them out, while pushing the saga on and introducing us to new ones, hinted at, or behind the scenes – read back in Jylland (OK, Jutland for you reading the book, but I live there/here, and it’s Jylland to me!) – in A Mighty Dawn. The young princess Lilla especially is developed very nicely. Even the complete and utter cad, close you ears Erlan: Ringast, is treated sympathetically, even though you want him to fall of his horse onto a sharpened stake every time he turns up. Then, how could I not mention Getti and Gellir, Aleif Red-Cheeks (all that horse sitting’ll do that to you), Einar the Fat-Bellied, of course the lovely Rissa, “the Wartooth” and the can’t quite know what to make of him, Branni, his ‘oathman.’ As this is earlier than Harald Bluetooth, it would seem they had a thing for teeth back then, eh?

A Sacred Storm is a hugely impressive massively enjoyable book. A continuation and maybe an improvement on A Mighty Dawn – as if that were possible! Still, Theodore Brun has, for me, written a(nother) fascinatingly brilliant book. An arresting, unsettling, full-on, flat out adventure of a novel, A Sacred Storm delivers on all the promise of A Mighty Dawn and leaves you (the ‘you’ that means you and I and especially, me) salivating for the next. And there’s no reason I can see for it not continuing after that! We can hope.

You can buy A Sacred Storm from The Book Depository

Photo by Louise Hill on Unsplash

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