“The story of a young Viking boy who wishes to prove himself a worthy warrior at the time of the Norman invasion.” (from Goodreads)
I can’t quite put a finger on what makes this book so timeless for me. Is it the idea of a last stronghold in the hearts of men? A hero who is brave in more ways than the battle kind? A young woman who loves him with the fierce love of deep loyalty? Or the sprinkling throughout of music to express loneliness and stir hearts?
Something. Bjorn and Frytha, Aikin the Beloved and Garm, Gille and Ari Knudson, and the mazelin have shaped me and my ideals and my writing much. I didn’t realize how much until this re-read.
There were so many key pieces of the story I had forgotten. A quote here, a line there. Even the onomatopeia-ic beauty of the word “holmganging”. This time it was not just an adventure, but I saw more clearly the struggle and the growth of Bjorn. I caught the lines I had missed at Bjornsthwaite and again at the end. I remembered what finally happened with Erland.
I love books that I can read more than once and enjoy just as much. There was a double-edged beauty of looking back on the ten years since I first read it and seeing how the book shaped me while discovering the story all over again.
My older self understood the negatives of the story more clearly as well. The feminism, sadly accurate to their pragmatic and desperate culture. The meshing of the “old gods” and a watered down version of Christianity. The justifiable but sorry idea of revenge.
I have an old copy of this book. The dust jacket is gone, showing the lovely gray-blue cover with three swords and shields. Inside, there is an old library checkout card. A “Michelle B” was the last to check it out in 1975. Such an old story, but a good one.