Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Review: Rebecca Brandewyne’s SWAN ROAD – Exciting Viking Saga Incorporating Real Historical Events!

Set in 865-866 A.D., this is the story of Wulfgar Bloodaxe, the bastard son of a Norse king who, with the advice of the “wise woman” who raised him, rises to claim his place among his people as a jarl. When Wulfgar learns that Rhowenna, Princess of Usk (in Wales) has been betrothed to the Prince of Mercia, he goes down the “Swan Road,” (the path the swans take flying south to the southern isles) to capture and hold her for ransom. Rhowenna has the “sight” her dreams give her. So, she was forewarned the Vikings were coming and that a golden-haired one would claim her. Wulfgar and his men strike, taking Rhowenna back to the Northland.

To protect her from his father, Ragnar, and evil half brothers who he knows would use Rhowenna for their purposes, he suggests Rhowenna and her maid, Morgan, change places since they both have long dark hair. They do, and Rhowenna becomes Wulfgar’s chatelaine (mistress of his household), while slowly succumbing to his advances for he wants Rhowenna for his own. Wulfgar warns Rhowenna of what he believes will be the future for the southern lands if his father, Ragnar, is spurred to an invasion.

Brandewyne can tell a good story, there is no doubt about it. I have been a fan of her historical romances for some time. Like her others, this novel reflects much research and attention to detail. For us history lovers it’s a boon. You can learn much about the ways of the Norsemen who raided the coasts of England, Ireland (Eire) and Wales from reading this novel. She tells us how they built their longboats and of their religious practices (including the human sacrifices they engaged in). And, of course, central to the story is their practice of capturing Christians and using them as slaves.

It’s an exciting adventure with an intricate plot and great characters. Brandewyne takes advantage of all the legends surrounding Ragnar and his sons and turns them into a captivating, well-written story. Included is the Danes’ conquest of Britain (Northumbria, Mercia and East Anglia) in 866.

While Rhowenna is never raped, and Wulfar only treats her with kindness, her maid is, so there are definite bodice ripper aspects, as one might expect from a Viking tale. But there is also a captivating love story of the Viking and the Welsh princess. Wulfgar’s sweet words to Rhowenna are beautiful. (“I dream of waking every morning for the rest of my life to see you lying beside me, the waves of your raven hair rippling across the pillows, a black sea in which I would gladly drown forever.”) It’s a wonderful, well-written Viking saga. I recommend it.

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