Blood Eye (Book 1 in the Raven series)
by Giles Kristian
Plot Summary:In a thrilling adventure of brotherhood, warfare, and treachery, Giles Kristian takes us into ninth-century England, a world of darkness, epic conflict, and an unforgiving God served by powerful priests. On ships shaped like dragons, bristling with oars and armor, Jarl Sigurd and his fierce Norsemen have come in search of riches. And riches they are promised, by an English ruler who sends Sigurd and his wolves to steal a holy manuscript from another kingdom. Osric, an orphan boy, sees beyond the terror of these warriors, and somehow knows the heathens’ tongue. Renamed Raven, rechristened in blood, he will join them. They are his people. And they will be his fate.
Expectations:I’ve not read much Viking fiction, though perhaps because of a certain tall, blonde vampire from Bon Temps, I’ve been more recently interested in reading more about them. I love mythology but I’m not very familiar with Norse mythology so I was interested in seeing how those beliefs tie into the story.
Review:This story felt very well researched and accurate so that the Vikings and the English of the 9th century were very vividly portrayed, down to the muck and filth that must have been prevalent in that time. While the realistic details certainly put off any attempt to romanticize that time period for me (no woman should want to live during that time anyways!) it was interesting to see how much the equally vividly portrayed characters made me almost envy the simple, honorable lifestyle of the Norsemen brotherhood. Osric, the English, but perhaps really Norse, captive of Sigurd and his men, is our narrator of what it means to come to belong to such a brotherhood, and their acceptance of him brings a lot of heart into this novel full of detailed violent fighting scenes, and less detailed (thankfully) rape and pillaging.
Although the novel started off slowly in the beginning, it picks up pretty quickly and I really enjoyed how Osric, or Raven as he is now called, develops from a cowardly boy to an honorable fighter committed to his Jarl; becoming instrumental when the Norsemen are forced by the English to steal the valuable Gospel of St. Jerome from another English county. The English as characters are generally not very sympathetic and their motivations and actions are somewhat unpredictable, adding suspense to the story as the poor Norsemen, who just want to go home, are forced to complete one task after another. Not all the Norsemen are trustworthy though, and in-group dissension increases the drama. I found myself rooting for certain people to die horrible deaths and for love to bloom between two deserving characters in this harsh, unforgiving time. It was also funny to read the constant jibes the Norse warriors made at each other - usually involving comparing their brothers to animals, women, and cowards. There are some inventive insults!
The attitudes of the Norse towards the Christian “gods” made me think of how much religion is a product of culture. It’s thought-provoking to read the Norse and English clash on their beliefs in this novel and this added another layer of historical realism to the story that I really appreciated. This is a well-written, vivid and richly detailed historical drama with gory violence, but also sharply realized characters who make up the heart of the drama.
review copy kindly provided by the author in connection with TLC Book Tours. Click the image below to visit the book on its other tour stops.
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