Sunday, September 15, 2013

New Review: Violetta Rand’s BLIND ALLEGIANCE – Absorbing 11th Century Viking Tale!

This is Rand’s first novel and book 1 in the Blind series.

Set in the early 11th Century, near the end of the Viking era, this is the story of Randvior Sigurdsson, a jarl from Norway, who has a dream when he is in the Orkney Islands (off the coast of Scotland) of a honey-haired woman. Months later, he and his men attack the castle of Noelle Sinclair’s father in Durham (northeast England today) and he claims the tawny haired beauty as his, no matter she’s English.

The story of a Viking capturing an English maiden works for me every time, and Rand did it well. She is obviously a superb storyteller and I’ll read more of hers. The chemistry between the two and the sexy way Randvior feels about Noelle was very well done. The beginning was a bit of a scramble as I tried to picture all that was going on (the castle being attacked and Nicole’s brother betraying her), but once I got past that, the story flowed smoothly and kept me turning pages. It’s a tale of conquest, treachery and betrayal as Randvior tries to do what is right in the face of so much wrong, and Nicole attempts to adapt to Viking ways for the man she loves.

Rand says she intentionally used more modern language and that threw me a bit. Phrasing such as “live with it,” and “just a pretty face” were not what you’d expect a Viking to say. Then there were words like “zigzag,” “nerve ending,” “bodyguard,” “honeymoon,” “climatic” and “bookshelf” that took me a while to get used to. If you are a stickler for historical accuracy, there were a few other things too:

--The castle (most of the castles in England, including Durham castle, were built by the Normans who came with William I in 1066, and did not exist at this time. French kings built castles (to keep out the marauding Norse), but the first recorded motte castle in England was in 1051 when French castle builders constructed one for the English king in Hereford.);
--The reference to Nicole being Saxon (the Saxons were in the south in Wessex and Durham is in the northeast, or Northumbria, where the Angles lived—we now think of them collectively as “Anglo-Saxon” but at the time they were separate);
--The mention of wine in bottles with labels (though you can find glass bottles during this period, until the 17th century, glass was too fragile to use for storing or transporting wines; they used wooden casks for the most part and clay jars and other pottery containers for serving).
--The mention of books: bound books as we know them today, the kind you carry around, weren’t available in the early 11th century. Although the codex had replaced the scroll, and monasteries preserved the scripture on parchment, “books” were large and had to be hand copied (the printing press came centuries later).
--The use of surnames (i.e., “Nicole Sinclair” which the author intentionally used). In Britain, surnames weren’t adopted until the 13th century.

Still, for all that, it’s a good story and did keep me turning pages.

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