Now I travel way back in my reading to the days of Harald Fairhair, said to be the first king of Norway, and his early times – late Viking times – 850-932 AD as he fought and made treaties to unite Norway. Actually, this little story probably takes place around the year 866, when Harald made the first of his conquests and it took him about 20 years. (So Hartsuyker has a trilogy planned – next one up is The Sea Queen – due out in August of 2018).
But this novel is not about Harald himself, it’s more about a bunch of characters living their lives with Harald as a kind of bit player around whom much of the action focuses. It boils down to will Harold unite Norway into a single kingdom? Is that what they all want to attain? Can it be done?
It’s mostly the fictionalized story of Ragnvald Eysteinsson (who was a very real assistant to King Harald), and his sister Svanhild who, in The Half-Drowned King, were left fatherless and under the care of their mother and her new husband, their step-father, Olaf.
The Half Drowned King
by Linnea Hartsuyker
2015/ 453 pages
read by Matthew Lloyd Davies – 15h 33m
rating: 7.5 – historical fiction
These are not peasant folks but large land owners, seamen and fiercely ambitious fighters. Olaf was supposed to hold Ragnald’s inherited lands in trust for him until Ragnald came of age, but Olaf turned out to be rather treacherous. As a matter of fact, he was downright murderously underhanded as he arranged for Ragnvald to be killed by a guy named Solvi. That didn’t work out quite as planned. Instead, Ragnvald was only “half-drowned” and had a vision of revenge. So Ragnvald took the matter to the “Things” (the court system) and … well … (that’s the start of the main story line)
Meanwhile, Svanhild does not want to marry the much older man Olaf has picked out for her. She has been raised to do the things Viking wives do – sew and cook and garden and – ta-da – keep the homefires burning while she runs raiders off the lands. Svanhild found her own favorite guy, but as it turns out, he’s not friendly with her brother (to say the least). Oh what does she do? – (This is NOT primarily a romance although there is a strong romantic twist to it – especially toward the end.)
There’s a lot of fighting and stewing as the plot moves along and battles are fought. Harald finally gets involved – he’s still a child really, and the sides are drawn, re-drawn and drawn yet again as there are always turncoats.
It took awhile for me to get into this novel, but if you’re interested historical fiction about the Vikings and their times it’s pretty good. I happen to be descended from Vikings (or close enough) on one side of my mother’s sides.
When I went to Norway and visited the area where that side of the family had their farms I was surprised to see it was on a major fjord and there was a monument put up by some queen to honor her Viking sailors sons. – My genealogy only goes back to the 16th century – not the 9th. lol –
If you enjoyed this book you might really like “The Long Ships” by Frans G. Bengtsson. It takes place around about a hundred years later, but follows some fictional Vikings on their foreign battles and how they got Christianized. (I may read it again,)