Cover art: Paul Young
Cover design: Patrick Knowles
Published: 21 July 2011
On the cover:
The Vikings are laying siege to Paris. As the houses on the banks of the Seine burn a debate rages in the Cathedral on the walled island of the city proper. The situation is hopeless. The Vikings want the Count's sister. In return they will spare the rest of the city. Can the Count really have ambitions to be Emperor of the Franks if he doesn't do everything he can to save his people? Can he call himself a man if he doesn't do everything he can to save his sister?His conscience demands one thing, the demands of state another. The Count and the church are relying on the living saint, the blind and crippled Jehan of St Germain, to enlist the aid of God and resolve the situation for them.But the Vikings have their own gods. And outside their camp a terrifying brother and sister, priests of Odin, have their own agenda. An agenda of darkness and madness. And in the shadows a wolfman lurks.
This is a continuation of the story in Wolfsangel, but it is not the usual direct sequel we are so used to from fantasy. Instead it is the next installment in the cycle of the story. And the cycle is also the central theme of Lachlan's fantasy series. The protagonists here are not the same as in Wolfsangel, but they are aspects of them. The story is moving on with different players, and I found this worked well.
Lachlan maintains the saga-like quality of his prose, which is a good thing. It worked very well in Wolfsangel, and if anything it works even better here.
The story is really fast-paced. There's quite a lot of action, and even in quieter parts of the novel the story is moving along steadily. I can't think of any part of the book that was really a "rest-period", and this makes it a book that can be difficult to put down.
There's a lot of magic in this book. But Lachlan doesn't use this as a prop, it is integral to the story he is telling, and it never feels like it is out of place. As with Wolfsangel there is also a presence of gods here, the dark and fallible Viking variety that will be familiar to students of Norse mythology.
The characters we encounter in the book have their separate tales to tell, and all of them are interesting. There are several main characters here that could easily have carried a novel by themselves, and they are propped up with supporting characters that are interesting in their own right.
Lachlan makes use of several points of view. This can be annoying in some stories, but here they add up to giving a much greater whole than the sum of the individual viewpoints. The different protagonists are used to great effect to draw the story together and form a single narrative.
This time the location is outside the Scandinavian homeland of the Vikings, mostly in modern day France, but we also get to go to Russia. As someone who is Norwegian and interested in history I think it was really refreshing to see these lesser known locations for Viking activity used to great effect here. And it also makes me excited to find out where we are heading next in Lachlan's saga.
I can't think of anything I disliked in this book, it is very close to a perfect novel. For anyone who feels that modern fantasy is getting a bit stale this will be the perfect antidote. And if you have any interest in Vikings or Norse mythology Lachlan has created an excellent fantasy for you. This is a perfect read for dark winter evenings.