Thursday, December 8, 2011

Harald Hardrada: The Last Viking by Michael Burr

Title: Harald Hardrada: The Last Viking

Author: Michael Burr

Published: Knox Robinson Publishing, September 2011

Pages: 295

First Line: "It is Yuletide in Nidaros, Norway in the year of our Lord, 1066."

Summary: In the dead of night, a band of Vikings ravage a lonely convent on the Brittany coast –and their fearsome leader makes a decision that will eventually lead to his downfall. 

Ranulf de Lannion is fifteen years old. Crippled, deformed and abandoned by his family to the charity of the convent, he is seized by the Vikings during a midnight raid. Contemptuously nicknamed 'The Scraeling" by his captors, his future appears grim. 

Harald Sigurdsson, or 'Hardrada' as he will come to be known, is the leader of the Viking band. A violent mercenary with designs on the throne of Norway, Hardrada abducts The Scraeling on a whim. 

Ranulf grows into an invaluable asset, smoothing Hardrada's path over their thirty-five years together from mercenary to commander of the Varangian Guard, all the way to king of Norway. 

But all is not as it seems in the heart of Ranulf de Lannion. Having sworn secret revenge upon Hardrada for the murders at the convent, he vows to end the day of the Viking forever. When the king of Norway launches an attack against the Anglo-Saxon throne of England in 1066, what role will The Scraeling play in bringing the age of the Viking to an end?  (Taken from Goodreads)

Thoughts:  I started reading through Harald Hardrada and I found myself taking ages just getting through the first few pages.  I think by about page 50 I was really struggling with the book because I thought it was a bit boring.  However, it reached a point a little after that where things started to get really interesting.

I have to say that before I read this book I didn't know anything about Harald Hardrada so it was definitely a learning experience for me.

I thought the story line was really interesting.  I thought that all of the events that occurred were really intriguing and I enjoyed reading about them.  The Scraeling was an integral part of the story as well as Harald so it was really enjoyable in that sense.

I think that my biggest issue with the book was the way it was written.  It jumped back and forth between perspectives of who was telling the story of Harald Hardrada and it was done in a way that I found to be a little awkward to follow.

Harald Hardrada: The Last Viking surprised me a little bit in that it didn't really show the glorified Viking warriors that you usually see; instead it shows them in more of a gritty sort of way.  There are some scenes of rape and violence which are quite detailed so if you're not really interested in reading about that then you'd best avoid this book.  However, I would say that it does depict the sort of attitudes at the time really well.

Overall, I thought that the events in the book were really interesting, I just wasn't a fan of the writing style.  Which made this book an alright sort of read for me.  However, if you're a fan of historical fiction, in particular Norse fiction with a political theme then you would enjoy this book.

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