Bracelet of Bones (Viking Sagas) by Kevin Crossley-Holland
|Bracelet of Bones (Viking Sagas) by Kevin Crossley-Holland|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Beautifully researched historical novel with a quest theme, a strong female central character and an epic tone. Great stuff - and what else would we expect from Kevin Crossley-Holland?|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 272||Date: March 2011|
|External links: Author's website|
It's 1036 in Trondheim, Norway. Solveig lives with her father, stepmother and stepbrothers. Her mother died many years ago and neither Solveig nor her father Halfdan have ever truly recovered. Before his injury, Halfdan was a Viking mercenary and his dearest wish is to rejoin his old commander, Harald Hardrada in Miklagard (Constantinople). He promises Solveig that, should the call ever come, he will take her with him...
... but the call comes. And he doesn't.
So Solveig - rising fifteen summers - follows him. She joins up with a boatload of Swedish travellers as they make their way from Trondheim across the Baltic and down Russia's rivers to the Black Sea itself. Along the way she must contend with slave-traders, thieves, bandits, white water rapids, and even human sacrifice. And even after all this, will she ever see her father again?
The book has the feel of epic and high romance - especially as Solveig herself is very introspective at times and feels a real and almost spiritual connection between her thoughts and feelings and the natural world she inhabits. Simultaneously, though, it's also very down-to-earth, thanks to the magnificent research you'd expect from Crossley-Holland. The ins and outs of sailing are beautifully described and reading of Solveig's carvings gave me a real understanding of what Norse art signified to the people who made it.
But the main thrust is the journey - and how it represents both the strength of attachment between a father and a daughter and the many trading missions Swedish Vikings made to the south which eventually led to the colonisation of Russia. This is something readers may find surprising - in children's books, we're used to the stories of Danish Vikings raiding down from the north of England, but we don't see much about this other wave of trade and conquest.
Some may feel the book ends too quickly - but I think this is rather the point. For Solveig, and for her people generally, the journey was everything.
I'm looking forward to the next in the series.
My thanks to the good people at Quercus for sending the book.
They might also enjoy Slave Girl by Jackie French, another Viking story with a strong female central character on a life-changing journey. I can also see them liking Katherine Langrish's Troll series, which blends tales of Vikings with the supernatural.
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