For all that I usually don’t read many historicals, I seem to review a lot of them lately. But… Vikings! Warriors! Wandering Minstrels! Medieval Magic! (and yes, the capitals are intentional) Who could resist them? Not me obviously. And with writing of such quality… okay, enough with the rambling, this actually belongs into the review, so I’ll just get to the point.
Author: Alex Beecroft
Cover Artist: Kanaxa
Rating: 4.75 of 5 Stars
Manhood is about more than who’s on top.
Wulfstan, a noble and fearsome Saxon warrior, has spent most of his life hiding the fact that he would love to be cherished by someone stronger than himself. Not some slight, beautiful nobody of a harper who pushes him up against a wall and kisses him.
In the aftermath, Wulfstan isn’t sure what he regrets most—that he only punched the churl in the face, or that he really wanted to give in.
Leofgar is determined to prove he’s as much of a man as any Saxon. But now he’s got a bigger problem than a bloody nose. The lord who’s given him shelter from the killing cold is eyeing him like a wolf eyes a wounded hare.
When Wulfstan accidentally kills a friend who is about to blurt his secret, he flees in panic and meets Leofgar, who is on the run from his lord’s lust. Together, pursued by a mother’s curse, they battle guilt, outlaws, and the powers of the underworld, armed only with music…and love that must overcome murderous shame to survive.
Warning: Contains accurate depictions of Vikings, Dark Ages magic, kickass musicians, trope subversions and men who don’t know their place.
Actually, let’s start with the writing.
This story is set in the Viking age, where storytelling (the actual telling of stories) was a highly esteemed art form and where prose and poetry often blended together to form a seamless whole in an epic tale that could take the narrator–often a wandering minstrel–several nights to complete. The writing here recreates the epic feeling of one of these sagas, portraying the world it’s set in with such authenticity I became completely immersed in it. Everything fits together–the language, the food, the music, the characters’ mindsets and issues, the weapons, the settings. And although the narrative is in-style, poetic prose, it never veers into the kind of exaggerated flowery writing that overshadows the actual story. No, the plot is always moving forward, interspersed with breathtaking action scenes and moments so tender they made my heart ache.
The main characters, Wulfstan the warrior and Leofgar the harper, are true children of their time–and at the same time not, seeing as both don’t really fit with the complex social structures and the rules about what makes a man, a man. Fate’s twisted path brings them together as they, each in his own way, break under the pressure and rebel against their predestined places in society. Two misfits who might make a perfect match for each other, if they could only overcome their deeply ingrained convictions and insecurities… their slow-burn romance is beautiful to watch, fraught with all kinds of dangers as it is. I thoroughly enjoyed accompanying them on their journey, up until the last step, where obstacles that seemed forever insurmontable were wiped away by divine intervention (literally) and the solution appeared a bit too convenient. But in view of the overall awesomeness of this book, even something that is normally one of my pet peeves appeared quite minor.
Not only the main characters are fully realized, this book is full of multi-dimensional side characters. Nothing is black and white, even the villains have saving graces, and they all live and breathe the spirit of time and place. Not to mention the wonderful, detailed descriptions that lent the setting depth and color.
All in all, this is a book to sink into, to become engrossed in and to get carried away with. Highly recommended.
This review is based on a copy purchased by the reviewer independent of any review copies offered.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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