Wednesday, February 25, 2015

“Blood Eye” – My Take On A Fierce Viking Tale

As Season 3 of Vikings gets underway, it just so happens I’m immersing myself in Viking-related fiction. I just finished Blood Eye by Giles Kristian, a book about the Vikings in England that guest reviewer Bill Brockman introduced me to last year. A quote on the cover from Bernard Cornwell (who writes some of the best Viking fiction around) calls it “a powerful, lightning-paced tale.” I tend to agree, and my review follows this image of the book’s cover. 

Set in early ninth century England, Blood Eye is told from the viewpoint of Osric, a fifteen-year-old carpenter’s apprentice in the village of Abbotsend. It turns out Osric has a secret past, for the villagers found him left for dead near a burial mound with a pagan knife hanging around his neck. Unfortunately, he has no memory of his life before then. Even worse, his left eye is stained red instead of white, so the Christian priests believe he’s been touched by the devil. This makes his life less than blissful in Abbotsend, but everything changes the day two Viking longships arrive on shore.

The Vikings are led by Jarl Sigurd, who claims they are traders – while admitting that “sometimes they’re not.” In this instance, however, the Norseman have come in apparent peace, but that doesn’t stop the village priest from trying to kill them with poisoned mead. When Osric warns Sigurd about the treachery, the Vikings take their revenge, and take Osric with them. The good news is that Sigurd believes Osric’s “blood eye” is a blessing from Odin the All-father, so it’s no wonder that Osric soon prefers Sigurd and his men over the English who shunned him. 

Noble Vikings!
Sigurd gives Osric the name Raven, and the boy quickly finds he loves the Norseman and their way of life, which is precisely the theme of the novel. Put simply, this is a tale about Vikings told from a Viking perspective. They are portrayed as noble warriors, while the English priests and lords are a treacherous lot. Jarl Sigurd serves as the paragon of Norse courage and honor, and Raven grows to idolize the man. 

The story kicks into gear when a Wessex ealdorman offers Sigurd a fortune in silver to steal a Gospel book of Saint Jerome’s from the stronghold of the king of Merica. The Norseman are accompanied on this adventure by a fierce Wessexman named Mauger and an endearing priest named Father Egfrith, whom the author uses for frequent banter between the humorously judgmental cleric and the hell-bound “heathens” of Sigurd’s band. In Mercia, Raven helps save a young woman named Cynethryth, who serves as Raven’s love interest for the remainder of the tale. But this isn’t a romance story by any stretch. Rather, it’s a tale of battle and blood, and the fellowship Raven experiences with his new Viking family. 

The novel moves at a fast pace, from one thrilling battle scene to another, mixed with a few good twists and a whole lot a betrayal. The book ends in a way that sets up a perfect sequel, this time a Viking adventure in the empire of Charlemagne. Overall, I found Blood Eye to be a worthy read, and I look forward to the next book in the series.

By the way, for another take on Blood Eye, you can read Bill’s review here.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Return of Ragnar Lothbrok!

Television gets even better tonight as Season 3 of Vikings premiers on History. Vikings, along with Black Sails, is part of a quintet of great historical fiction and historical fantasy shows that will soon include Da Vinci's Demons, Outlander, and Season 5 of Game of Thrones. Needless to say, I love this time of year!

The last season of Vikings ended better than I could have imagined. Just when I thought Floki would betray Ragnar and side with King Horik, the writers executed a perfect twist: Ragnar, Lagertha, and their whole clan turned the tables on Horik, proving definitively that no one messes with Ragnar Lothbrok! Or is it "King" Ragnar now?

Ragnar and Lagertha are back!*
I love that History chose Ragnar as the series' protagonist. Ragnar Lothbrok may be more of a legend than a real historical figure, sort of like the King Arthur of Scandinavian Vikings. He, Lagertha, and Aslaug all appear in old Norse and Saxon poems, but whether they truly lived or were characters based on one or more real personages has never been settled.

Some of Ragnar's sons, on the other hand, were in fact real men. His sons Ivar the Boneless and Ubba, for example, led a Danish invasion of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in ninth century England. They are also characters in Bernard Cornwell's The Last Kingdom, which is one of the best Viking tales around.

In any event, I'm back to my research on Vikings for my next novel, and I'm looking forward to spending some extra time with them Thursday nights on History.

* Image courtesy of History.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

5 Thoughts on Peter Jackson’s “The Two Towers”

As a follow-up to my recent post on 5 Reasons Peter Jackson’s “The Fellowship of the Ring” Was Better Than Tolkien’s Original, I’m offering my thoughts on the merits of Jackson’s second film, The Two Towers, as compared to the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien. (My daughter and I are still reading The Return of the King, so that blog post will have to wait.) This time, claiming that the film was superior to the book was a closer call.

To begin, however, The Two Towers stands with it’s fellow books in The Lord of the Rings as one of the most significant works of fantasy fiction ever written. In my opinion, it’s the second-best of the trilogy, and it’s frankly hard to imagine what the genre would even look like (or if it would even exist) had Tolkien not written his magnum opus. That said, Peter Jackson, viewing the book decades after Tolkien wrote it, made a number of improvements. Here are my thoughts:

This is my vintage copy.

1. Jackson’s structure is better than the book.

One of the things I liked the least about Tolkien’s second novel in the trilogy is the way he split the story into two parts that take place at the same time. The first part follows the tale of Merry and Pippin, who’ve been captured by Saruman’s Uruk-hai, and that of Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas who’ve gone off to save them. Frodo (the main protagonist) and Sam are nowhere to be found in the first half of the book. Instead, we must wait until the second half to find out what happens during their brave trek to Mordor. 

Most novels have no trouble switching back and forth between storylines from one chapter to the next. This allows the author to proceed with a chronological unfolding of the tale. Fortunately, Peter Jackson saw fit to do this. As a result, the film begins with Frodo and Sam and their encounter with Gollum, before shifting to the fate of Merry and Pippin, and then shifting again to the pursuit by Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas. The movie transitions between these storylines with ease, and the experience is better for it. 

Incidentally, the only other time I can recall an author breaking up storylines separately is what George R.R. Martin did between A Feast For Crows and A Dance With Dragons. By doing so, fans were left with a novel that omitted the storylines of favorite characters such as Tyrion, Daenerys, and Jon Snow, which is one reason why A Feast For Crows is considered by many to be their least favorite in the series. 

Eowyn was better in the film!

2. The human element is stronger in the film.

I mentioned before how Tolkien is not great with emotion. Well, The Two Towers is no exception. Jackson’s film, by contrast, does a tremendous job using the plight of the people of Rohan to portray the human suffering when civilians are caught up in the horrors of war. The scenes showing the refugees from Rohan heading to Helm’s Deep, and huddling fearfully during the siege, portrayed this perfectly and added a welcome human element to the story. Jackson also accomplishes this through the character of Eowyn. She is probably the most significant female character in the books (albeit among very few female characters in the trilogy), but Tolkien never tells the story from her point-of-view. Jackson, however, offers a very personal portrayal of Eowyn, and the film is richer because of it.

Legolas shot a few Wargs!

3. It’s hard to beat that battle with the Wargs!

In the novel, the threat of Warg riders during the journey to Helm’s Deep is merely hinted at. But Jackson turned these hints into one of the most exciting scenes in the film. Some may argue that he strayed from the book, yet by doing so he added an element of action the book sorely needed. Not all of Jackson’s departures from the book worked out as well, however – but more on that in a moment.

Helm's Deep was a climactic battle!

4. Helm’s Deep was the perfect climactic set piece.

Tolkien devotes a single chapter to the Battle of Helm’s Deep. He positions it near the middle of the novel, which happens to be close to the end of the Merry-Pippin-Aragorn-Rohan storyline. By doing so, he robs it of some of its climactic potential. Fortunately, Jackson saw the battle as an opportunity to create one of the best set pieces in the film.

Jackson’s battle makes it clear that it is for the survival of the people of Rohan. The stakes, appropriately, feel that high. He also enlarged the battle’s scope, and added an appearance by the elves (which had me scratching my head the first time I saw the film), but I must say it works. When Gandalf shows up at the end with Eomer (who replaces the relatively pointless character of Erkenbrand in the novel), you feel the triumph of good over evil. Jackson also transitions between the Helm’s Deep scenes and the Ents’ assault on Isengard, which creates a wonderful and exciting climax for the film.

In the book, Gollum's story comes full circle.

5. But Tolkien’s ending was better!

Here’s the kicker. As great as the film ended, Tolkien ended the book with an even more thrilling scene – but it’s one Jackson omitted from the film and saved for his third movie. The book ends with Gollum leading Frodo and Sam into Shelob’s Lair and the events that unfold there. This completes Gollum’s character arc from treacherous villain, to Frodo’s willing servant, back to treacherous villain. It also sets the stage for Sam to be the hero when he becomes the ring-bearer after believing Shelob has killed Frodo. 

For me, this has always been one of the most memorable scenes in the entire series. But Jackson left the scene out of the movie. Perhaps he had to because he chose to end The Return of the King after the destruction of the ring (whereas Tolkien added an entire storyline about the Hobbits’ return to the Shire). Had Jackson included the Shelob story in the second film, he would have had scant material for Frodo and Sam’s tale in the final installment. 

But what Jackson chose to do in the second installment didn’t work very well. He created a scene where Faramir takes Frodo, Sam, and Gollum to Osgiliath, a city under siege by orcs and Ringwraiths. Then he nearly has Frodo captured by one of the Ringwraiths when Frodo is tempted to put on the ring, only to be saved by Sam, who delivers a rousing speech. It felt almost like a retread of the speech Sam gives at the end of the first film. 

Also, I’ve always struggled with that Ringwraith mounted on his dragon-like steed just yards from the One Ring. Methinks the Nazgul and his dragon would have grabbed Frodo regardless of whether he put on the ring. After all, Sauron sent all nine of them looking for Hobbits (“Baggins, Shire!”), and lo and behold, two Hobbits appear in Osgiliath of all places. The gig should have been up and Sauron should have won. That’s probably why J.R.R. Tolkien never included such a scene in his books. It wouldn’t have made sense. I think Peter Jackson got too cute with that one, even if he needed to find some way to create dramatic tension in the absence of Shelob’s lair.

But these are just my thoughts. Which take on The Two Towers did you prefer – the movie or the book?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The New "Game of Thrones" Trailer Looks Amazing!

Season 5 of HBO's Game of Thrones will premier on April 12, 2015, and last week HBO released the first official trailer. It looks absolutely amazing, but it also hints to some distinct changes from the books. For example, I don't recall reading about Ser Jorah fighting in Meereen's arena or Jaime going to Dorne, and it looks like Varys may be Tyrion's new travelling companion – which makes wonder if a particular Targaryen lad may have been axed from the show.

That said, I loved our first look at the Sand Snakes, and it looks like Season 5 will delve deep into A Feast for Crows and A Dance With Dragons. Last season already ventured far into those books, and it wouldn't surprise me if this season ends with the conclusion of those two novels. (I'm having a hard time imagining how the writers would find a good place to stop in the middle of either book, especially since much of the two books cover the same time period.) But where will that leave us with Season 6?

Coming in 2016???
According to reports, the next book in George R.R. Martin's series, The Winds of Winter, is not scheduled for release in 2015. Who knows if it will even be published in 2016? Martin is the anti-Stephen King in terms of being prolific  he's not, not even close. Which makes we wonder whether the show will start to reveal events from The Winds of Winter before the book is released, or whether the books and the show will diverge permanently after this season? 

I hope it's not the latter. Although there have been plenty of divergence so far, the core story has basically remained in place. I've read that Martin briefed the producers on how the books end, but I'd hate for the show to spoil what has been a series of great reads. I suppose, however, only time will tell.

But let me know what you think. What are your thoughts on Season 5, and how soon the show will outpace the books?  

Thursday, January 29, 2015

5 Reasons Peter Jackson’s “The Fellowship of the Ring” Was Better Than Tolkien’s Original

For the past few years, my daughter and I have been slowly making our way through J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece The Lord of the Rings (this is the third time for myself, the first for her). After we’d finish a part of the trilogy, we followed it up by watching the movie version by Peter Jackson. In many ways, I believe Jackson improved on Tolkien’s original. Here’s my take on the first part of the story, The Fellowship of the Ring.

As I wrote several months ago in my post on Rediscovering Vintage Fantasy Fiction, the publication of The Fellowship of the Ring in 1954 helped revive fantasy fiction as a literary genre. It’s probably the single most influential fantasy work ever published. For that reason alone, it’s a must read for anyone interested in the genre and should probably reside on the top shelf of every fantasy lover’s collection. That said, Tolkien’s trilogy was written more than a half-century ago and storytelling in the genre has evolved considerably since then. As a result, it’s not too surprising that a gifted director like Peter Jackson was able to tell the story better. Here are five ways in which he accomplished that task.

Here's the  vintage cover from my first edition!

1. Jackson Trimed the Fat from the Story’s First Act

In the film, the initial scenes with the Black Riders were intense. In the book, not so much. 

After the first scene with a Black Rider trying to catch the Hobbits’ scent, Frodo and his companions encounter a group of elves. They decide to eat dinner with their new elven friends (why not, they’re only be hunted by a Nazgul) and learn that the elves’ leader, named Gildor, has spent time with good ‘ole Bilbo. Then, after another brief Black Rider sighting, they wander onto Farmer Maggot’s farm, where they stay for another dinner and bit of ale, only to learn that the Black Riders are looking for a “Baggins.” (Through these many encounters, they learn bits and pieces of what Gandalf tells Frodo in the film about the Black Riders before he and Sam ever set off on their journey.) Instead of racing to Buckleberry Ferry with the Nazgul in fast pursuit, Farmer Maggot gives them a ride, and when they think a Black Rider may be following them, it turns out to be Merry riding a pony (Pippin, in the book, is with Sam and Frodo the whole way). 

Upon bidding farewell to Farmer Maggot, the hobbits spend time with a fifth hobbit, Fatty Bolger, in Frodo’s new home at Crickhollow. (In the book, he sells Bag End before embarking on his journey; but the fact he had time to close this real estate transaction just shows how little tension Tolkien infused into the first part of the tale.) Next, the four of them (sans Fatty) decide to travel through the Old Forest, where they fall victim to Old Man Willow (a hobbit-eating tree), only to be saved by the quirky Tom Bombadil. At Tom’s house, they get dinner with good ‘ole Bombadil and his pretty wife Goldberry. Only then does the story get interesting again, when they encounter the Barrow-wights before being saved by Bombadil and his animal friends. 

Jackson was smart to cut out these scenes and make the Black Rider encounters more of a harrowing and frantic chase. These cuts are one of the reasons the first book could fit into a three-hour film. Without them, the movie would have lasted and extra hour or more and half the audience would be asleep before Frodo and Sam reached Bree. And while the book’s barrow-wight scene is a good one, it’s not central to the plot and would only have interrupted the heart-pounding pursuit of the Nazgul.

This was well done in the film!

2. Jackson’s Scenes With the Nazgul Were Way More Intense

Even the scene with the Nazgul at Weathertop, which kicks the film up a whole other notch, is far less dramatic in the book. Instead of building tension, Tolkien has Aragorn recite a two-page poem about some elven woman, followed by a page-long info dump that looks as if it was plucked right out of the Silmarillion and dropped in here to diffuse any inkling of dramatic tension. I realize that readers were more patient back in 1954, but writers like Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard wrote tales decades earlier with far more dramatic energy and conflict. Peter Jackson, by contrast, vastly improved on this scene, making it one of the most intense in the film until the characters are deep within the Mines of Moria. 

The last two pages of the first “book” (the first half of the The Fellowship of the Ring) involves the race to Rivendell and the pursuit of the Nine, ending with their devastation at the river. This scene is fast paced and accurately portrayed in the film, except that the relatively pointless character of Glorfindel was wisely replaced by the character of Arwen in Peter Jackson’s take. 

The movie's scenes with Gandalf were better!

3. Gandalf’s Scenes Were Superior in the Film

The film featured an exciting scene where Saruman betrays Gandalf and imprisons him at the top of Orthanc. In the book, this entire story is told by Gandalf at the Council of the Ring, which deprives it of almost every ounce of tension and suspense since we already know that Gandalf survives. So too must we wait until the Council scene to learn that Gollum had been captured in Mordor and tortured until he betrayed the words “Baggins! Shire!” Jackson, however, reveals this information before the Black Riders even arrive, giving much more logic to their purpose and creating much more tension up front both for the viewer and Frodo.

We felt what Frodo felt when Gandalf fell.

4. The Emotional Element is Far Stronger in Jackson’s Film.

In the book, once the Fellowship gets on its way, the story starts to hum. The scenes in Moria are exciting and even fast-paced, especially the scene with the Balrog on the Bridge of Khazad-Dum. Jackson makes these even better on film (seriously the cave troll scene is one of the best in the movie), but Tolkien gave him a ton to work with. Even Gandalf’s dialogue is straight out of the book: “Fly, you fools!” The game-changer for me, however, was when Gandalf falls at Moria.

Tolkien gives us no emotional reaction from Frodo’s viewpoint—or any of the hobbits. Instead he gives us a stilted speech by Aragorn. Jackson, by contrast, makes this one of the most emotional scenes in the entire film. You almost shed a tear when Frodo does, and the hobbits are so distraught, Aragorn orders Boromir and the others to carry them.

The film brought Boromir's tale full circle!

5. The Ending Is Much Better

The Fellowship of the Ring ends with Frodo and Sam setting off alone to Mordor. The attack by the Urak-hai, the capture of Merry and Pippin, and the death of Boromir actually take place in the first chapter of the second book, The Two Towers. Jackson, however, was wise to include that scene at the end of the first film.

For one, it completes Boromir’s personal journey, from his temptation for the ring, to his dark moment when he tries to take it from Frodo, to his heroic redemption in the battle against the Uruk-hai to save Merry and Pippin. Tolkien, by contrast, ends Boromir’s tale as almost an afterthought by moving it into the second book. 

Secondly, including Boromir’s death in the first installment creates a more exciting climax for the first film. Without this scene, which Jackson infuses with plenty of emotion, the movie would have ended on a bit of a whimper. While it’s great to see Sam loyally following Frodo at the end, this scene has more weight when it’s played against the death of Boromir, emphasizing the true danger posed by the Dark Lord and his servants. This only adds to the gravitas of Frodo’s quest and it sets up everything perfectly for the next film.

But these are just my thoughts – I’m curious to know yours. Do you think Peter Jackson improved on Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

5 Questions Going into Season 2 of “Black Sails”

This Saturday marks the return of the Starz original series Black Sails. It is the first of what should be an incredible run of shows in the first half of 2015, including seasons 3 of Vikings and Da Vinci’s Demons, as well as the return of Outlander and the next season of Game of Thrones. It rarely gets this good! Here are five questions I hope get answered this season as Captain Flint and the remains of his crew set their sights on the shipwrecked Urca de Lima!

1. How Will Flint Survive?

Since Black Sails is a prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, we should have always known that Flint was an evil bastard. After all, in Treasure Island it’s revealed he murdered his crew after hiding his precious treasure. Through the first half of Black Sails, however, Flint comes across more as the hero of the story. That is until he murders Billy Bones and Mr. Gates. After that last shocker, I was fully on the side of Mr. Dufrense and the rest of the mutineers, ready to see Flint hang for his crimes. Yet, for some reason, when he woke up on the beach after the Walrus was blown to bits by that Spanish man-of-war, his crew spared him. Is it because he was correct in his belief that they’d find the Urca? Or do they still plan to kill him once they seize the treasure? Who knows, but I suspect he’ll live and Long John Silver will have a big hand in his fate. 

2. Will Eleanor Guthrie Get Her Revenge?

Eleanor Guthrie is one of my favorite characters on the show. She’s tough, takes no crap, and outmaneuvers most men – that is until her ex-lover and hated enemy, Captain Vane, seized the island’s fortress and ruined all her plans. But I wouldn’t count her out for too long. My money’s still on Ms. Guthrie!

3. Can Billy Bones Really Be Dead?

Last season, we saw Flint push him overboard into a stormy sea. Also, he doesn’t show up among the cast of characters on Starz’s website for this season. But could we truly have seen the end of Billy? Not according to Treasure Island, where the appearance of Billy Bones at the Admiral Benbow puts the entire story in motion. Unless, of course, the man who claims to be Billy Bones in Treasure Island is actually some other pirate who has stolen his name! I hope Starz clears this up before the series ends.

4. Will Jack and Anne Bonny Rebound?

By the end of season one, Jack Rackham and Max took over the island’s brothel, balanced the books, and fired its cheating madam. Jack’s girlfriend and former crew mate on Vane’s ship, the beautiful and mysterious Anne Bonny, was none too happy about this, yet she appears to stick with Jack. But when Vane reappears, he renounces both of them. I have to believe Jack and Anne will either get back in Vane’s good graces (though Vane appears to be a fairly unforgiving man) or side with Ms. Guthrie against him. I look forward to finding out which it is.

5. Will Silver Outwit Them All?

Long John Silver, played by Luke Arnold, may be my absolute favorite character on the show. He’s a charming and conniving rouge who’s destined to become one of the most notorious pirates in literary history. But how will he get there? Somehow he needs to get crosswise with Flint. And there’s still the matter of the parrot and a missing leg (though, I’ll note, the real “cook” on the Walrus has already lost one). I suspect there are big things in store for Silver this season, and I look forward to seeing if I’m right!

But those are just my quick thoughts – let me know yours. What big questions are you hoping to have answered in the second season of Black Sails!

* Images courtesy of Starz

Thursday, January 15, 2015

To Miklagard the Vikings Go in “Odin’s Wolves,” Book 3 of the “Raven” Trilogy!

To kick off the New Year, guest reviewer Bill Brockman has reviewed Odin’s Wolves by Giles Kristian, and it looks to be another fantastic Viking tale. Bill is an avid reader of historical fiction, but he’s also devoted his life to public service as a Battalion Chief of the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department and a 31-year part-time airman in the Air National Guard. His review of follows this image of the book’s cover.

Odin’s Wolves is the third and final volume of a trilogy, but may not be the final word in the story of “Raven”, the young Wessexman taken and adopted by Jarl Sigurd and his Viking raiders in the first volume, Blood Eye. I have already reviewed Blood Eye and Sons of Thunder (2nd volume) on Fresh-scraped Vellum (you can read it here and here).

Author Giles Kristian claims Viking ancestry in the author’s note and although he never uses the term Viking (he explains in an historical note to the first volume), there is no doubt who the primary characters are – Norsemen or “Vikings from Norway.” The narrator is a teenage orphan boy who had been named Osric by the villagers of Abbotsend in Wessex in the year 802. He has no real memory of his life before and had been shunned and feared by the other villagers due to his “bloodeye” (one of his eyes is red instead of white). In this third volume he has long left his past behind and become a proud member of the “Wolfpack” of Jarl Sigurd, blooded in battle both in Britain and France.

A motley and enlarged Wolfpack it is, too. In Sons of Thunder, the Norsemen who made up the original band had already been joined by Raven; several Wessexmen led by fierce warrior Penda; a Christian priest named Father Egfrith; and Raven’s love Cynethryth - daughter of the treacherous Wessex Ealdorman Ealdred, who was killed in Sons of Thunder. During that adventure in France, a forlorn group of Danes had been rescued following their imprisonment – along with Raven – by Emperor Karolus (Charlemagne). At the end of that book, we see the two Norse and two Dane longships barely escape from the pursuing Franks by the expedient of leaving behind their fortune of silver to distract the pursuers. This stratagem of Raven’s, although successful, does not endear him to the Vikings and they constantly remind him of their loss. The Danes are weak from starvation and nearly unarmed, but seem a hearty lot and Jarl Sigurd doesn't have it in him to abandon them. Thus the Wolfpack of Sigurd grows.

The solution to their poverty? Well, of course they decide to travel to Miklagard, the Great City!  Also known as Constantinople and today called Istanbul, this city is said to be made of gold, just the thing for “silver-light” Vikings.

Sailing along the coast, as ships nearly always did in those early years before better navigation methods became known, the Wolfpack spend weeks either sailing or rowing as the wind allows, beaching each night. Cynethryth has become a very different woman from the daughter of a prosperous Ealdorman that we met in Raven. Her ordeal at the hand of French nuns has forever darkened her outlook and she falls deeper and deeper into the orbit of the Godi (Norse priest) Asgot. She has little to do with a confused and dismayed Raven. Will she return to the normal world, or be lost into the darker side of the Norse religion? Only time will tell.

Along the journey, the Wolfpack will come into contact with Moors in the Emirate of Cordova (Spain); deal with Moorish pirates in the Mediterranean; visit a fallen Rome, and come into contact with all sorts of characters. The time in Rome, which is a nearly ruined shadow of its former glory, is eventful in several ways. Still populous, the city has lately been in an uproar. There has even been a return of gladiatorial contests to the Amphitheater! Being fierce Viking warriors, these Wolfpack will find a way to enter these contests once a substantial prize is offered by the mysterious Greek who sponsors them.

Their journey to Miklagard will take the nature of a quest to restore and Emperor to the throne, and perhaps lead to the riches Viking always crave. Will Raven and the Wolfpack survive? Will Cynethryth and Raven reconcile? Odin’s Wolves is a welcome and satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, which leaves open the possibility of future adventures. Raven has matured, become wiser and less naive about life and death. His ties with the Wolfpack are tested almost to the breaking point and at times he even wonders if Jarl Sigurd still supports him. Without any more spoilers, you’ll have to read Odin’s Wolves to find out.

Thanks, Bill, for the review. I just started Blood Eye this month, and it looks like there’s a great third book to look forward to in this series!