Icefall – Matthew J. Kirby

I love Viking books and this is now one of my favorites.  Solveig is the oft-forgotten second daughter of a Viking king.  The king’s oldest daughter, Asa, is beautiful and his young son will be his heir, so he has no need of Solveig.  Rival king Gunnlaug declares war because he wants beautiful Asa for his wife and the king refuses.  The king whisks his children to the safety of a remote holding in a hidden fjord with a few servants and his berserker troops to defend them just before they are iced in for the long winter.  Alric, the king’s skald/bard/storyteller  arrives as well and he teaches Solveig to become a skald.  During the difficult months of dwindling supplies and dying men, the Vikings take comfort in stories of their gods and warriors.  Traitors and treachery come to play and yield an exciting climax.  Icefall is more than a glimpse at Viking culture; it is the story of Solveig discovering her own strength and worth.  This book has berserkers for all the berserker fans but this is the first that I’ve read that portrays the berserkers as complex men, not just fighting machines.  Hake is the leader of the berserkers.  Who wouldn’t want this bear of a man responsible for their safety?  He is the father figure that Solveig never had in the king.  I highly recommend this book for the richness of the landscape, the characters, the plot and action.  Readers who enjoy Farmer’s Sea of Trolls or Cadnum’s Raven of the Waves will also enjoy Icefall.

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