Vikings of the New World Saga #2290 Pages, November 1st 2016, 290 Pages
Woodhaven Press, Print and Ebook
Viking warrior. Dauntless leader. Protective mother.
Determined to rise above her rank as the illegitimate "forest child" of Eirik the Red, Freydis launches a second voyage to Vinland to solidify her power and to demand the respect she deserves. She will return home with enough plunder to force her brother, Leif, to sell her the family farm in Greenland.
But nothing can prepare her for the horrors she must confront in Vinland...and nothing can stand in her way when her family is threatened.
In her race to outrun the truths that might destroy her, Freydis ultimately collides with the only enemy she cannot silence—her own heart.
Historically based on the Icelandic Sagas, Forest Child brings the memorable, conflicted persona of Freydis Eiriksdottir to life. This immersive tale is Book Two in the bestselling Vikings of the New World Saga.
Finally, after two years, the sequel to God’s Daughter has been released- and what a sequel it is! It tells the story of Freydis, the daughter of Erik ‘the Red’ of Norway, a figure only known from legend, and notorious in said legends, indeed, she is probably one of the most controversial females in all of Norse literature.
Other reviewers have called this book ‘daring’, and the author herself asserts in was hard to write, and I could see why. Instead of going in for ‘gritty realism’ and excessive, almost absurd amounts of violence to shock the readers, Gilbert portrays a world far removed from the Christian sensibilities of Europe at the beginning of the eleventh century.
The first half of the book is taken up a sojourn in Vinland (the region where it has now been proven that Vikings settled in North America), and the strained relationship between the Icelandic and Norwegian crews as well as their native allies. Strong, warlike Freydis tries to keep the two together, but faces competition from Valdis, an Icelandic priestess, who seeks to gain control of the settlement.
When in Greenland, Freydis and her crew are far beyond the reaches of law, justice, and civilisation, and that means making their own rules. They live, and often die by the sword. As such the author is not willing to shy away from the more unpleasant aspects of what the priestesses might have done when they were removed from all restraining influences- including strange sex rites in sacred groves- and yes, human sacrifice. This was not Britain of France, where such practices had been renounced centuries before- its harsh, its brutal, and it’s what might well have happened in the circumstances.
Freydis is tough, cold and as hard as the Scandinavian forests in which she grew up, she has to make tough decisions- like what to do about the Icelanders that oppose and threaten everything she holds dear. Yet this background also covers a wounded heart- Freydis, the illegitimate ‘Forest Child’ was unloved and largely rejected when she was a girl, she had to make her own way in life, and so she struggles to feel love towards another, and cannot forgive any wrong. She often treats her husband poorly because he will not do things her way, or does not feel she can trust him with her plans. She has few friends, and even fewer can get through to her.
Thus Forest Child is anything but the usual soppy, mushy Romance, it is about a wounded, but self-reliant young woman in a cruel world and her journey to love, redemption and hope. On the way she makes many choices and takes many actions which are hard to stomach, or would not normally be accepted in the Inspirational Fiction Genre.
For all this, Freydis proves to be a very sympathetic heroine. She is very much the outsider, has made a desire for money and fame the goal of her life to gain acceptance, and to live independently. Underlying it all a core of vulnerability, a craving to be loved an accepted, and that is something which the audience can identify with.
Even as a reader who is not ‘into’ the Vikings, I loved this story for the way it brings to life little known events and figures (even semi-legendary ones whose existence is questionable), and the people behind them. I have said before that I like to feel ‘immersed’ in the period and the world the characters inhabit when I read historical fiction, and not be jarred out of it by modern language, attitudes or general silliness. Aside from a few hiccups this novel was thoroughly immersive.
Recommended for those who love the period, but also want to see another side of the Vikings, far removed from the modern idea of brash, uncouth marauders who were weakened by and derided Christianity.
I requested to be part of the Early Readers team for this book, and was provided with a digital ARC. I was not required to write a postive review and all opinions expressed are my own.