Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Shieldmaiden by Marianne Whiting

Sigrid is the daughter of a runaway Norwegian princess and a warrior who was once Harald Finehair’s housekarl. She grows up on a farm by Loweswater but her childhood comes to an abrupt end when her father is outlawed and killed, her home is burnt and the rest of her family disappears... 934. Cumbria is in turmoil. The English fight Vikings for political supremacy in the North, whilst the traditional Viking way of life is threatened as Christianity advances against the worship of Norse gods. Against this background, Sigrid embarks on a quest for justice and security for herself and her children. Her only option is to appeal to the King of Norway to reverse his judgement on her father and allow her to inherit the family farm, but Norway is far away and Sigrid is a daughter of an outlaw with only her wits and her sword skills to help her cause.Recruiting a small but gallant force of allies, she sets out to regain her birth-right. During her quest, she encounters kings, warriors and villains. While her fighting skills earn her admiration and rewards, she also begins to understand about duty, honour and loyalty, changing from a headstrong teenager into a respected warrior woman. Shieldmaiden is a well-researched and realistic tale that will appeal to fans of historical fiction, as well as young adult readers. Marianne has been inspired by Nordic sagas and legends and the Icelandic sagas, as well as Frans G. Bengtsson’s The Long Ships, Robert Low’s The Oathsworn series and Manda Scott’s Boudica novels.

Shieldmaiden is set in 10th century Norway. The heroine, Sigrid, is caught in an abundance of turmoil when her father is named an outlaw and killed, her home is destroyed, and her family has fled and disappeared. Her only hope is to present herself to the King of Norway, a relative through marriage, to reverse the judgement against her family and restore her family’s lands to her. Sigrid is no ordinary young woman, however. From the time she was young, she was trained in the skills of a warrior and learned to wield sword and shield as good as any man. On her journey to clear her father’s name, she uses her skills and gains respect and loyalty of the people she encounters along the way especially that of Ragnar, a strong man whom she soon falls in love with.

There is much to keep readers entertained with this adventure story. A courageous, strong heroine, a valiant hero, and plenty of romance and conflict. The 10th century England and Viking setting is unique and interesting. The plot is realistic and believable, drawing on historical detail and the political rise of Christianity against Norse paganism to really make the story come alive. I especially enjoyed the intriguing characters who never do what one expects them to do. A good tale with plenty of twists and troubles. 

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