Thursday, July 9, 2015

“The Lord of Vik-Lo” - Another Viking Adventure in Ireland!

Once again I'm pleased to feature a guest review by Bill Brockman, this time of The Lord of Vik-Lo by James L. Nelson. 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. Here's his take on this new Viking tale:

I have previously reviewed the first two books of The Norsemen Saga by nautical fiction and history writer James L. Nelson. Now, he presents us with a somewhat less complex story in the third book, The Lord of Vik-Lo. I found it to be probably the best of the three, perhaps due to the author deciding to limit the scope of the work somewhat compared with the first two.

The volume opens by introducing a new set of characters and a new place – still set mostly on the Eastern Coast of 9th Century Ireland. The Danish, or Dubh Gall, Norsemen of Vik-lo are heading home from raiding the Fearna Monastery for a rich haul. Being well upriver from the coast, this particular place had not been previously raided; the Dubh Gall under Jarl Grimarr Giant worked their dragon ships far up river to surprise the monks and work their usual destruction and pillage. On the way home, Grimarr’s ship has been delayed for emergency repairs and he is hurrying to catch his fellow “Lord of Vik-lo” Fasti Magnusson, into whose ship has been placed all the spoils of the raid. What Grimarr finds instead is Fasti’s ship under attack by several Irish curraghs under the command of minor Irish king Lorcan, who rules the lands around Vik-lo and desires to rule much, much more. Lorcan knows about the treasure and plans to have it.

Grimarr arrives in time to drive away Lorcan’s men – but not to save Fasti or his crew. The only survivor is a young Irish woman who had been captured as a slave on the raid. Even worse, the treasure is nowhere to be found.

Few things are more fun than a dragonship!
Meanwhile, our hero of the series, Thorgrim Ulfsson, also called Thorgrim Night Wolf, wants nothing more than to return to the life of a peaceful farmer in Vik, Norway. And, it looks as though he may finally achieve his desire. Readers may recall that in Dubh-lin, the second book, Thorgrim lost his longship, Red Dragon, and was forced into the life of a supplicant. However, fate intervened, and assassins were sent to kill Brigit, whose father, King Mael Sechnaill mac Ruanaid of Brega, had died in the first book. Fighting off the Dubh-gall assassins, Thorgrim, his son Harald and companion Starri the Deathless had gained a new longship he has named Fair Voyager through right of conquest. So, with Harald, Starring, his father-in-law Jarl Ornolf, and a crew made up of both survivors of his original ship and some newly recruited Norsemen from Dubh-lin, Thorgrim at last is underway for Vik by way of England across the Irish Sea.

As usual with Thorgrim, the gods have other ideas and a violent storm soon finds the Fin-gall forced to seek shelter in Vik-lo (Thorgrim has sworn to never return to Dubh-lin) where they find a suspicious but ultimately welcoming Grimarr. Thorgrim and his crew will be allowed to stay long enough to repair Fair Voyager. Grimarr remains in mourning for his two dead sons with only less favored Sandarr still living. Sandarr has schemes of his own.

Thorgrim and company soon find themselves involved in a struggle to retrieve the treasure, the location of which is known to the Irish girl to whom only Harald can communicate. Lorcan also hasn’t forgotten and plots his own scheme. Then, changing everything, Grimarr discovers a dark secret about Thorgrim’s longship and the story behind his sons’ deaths. Thorgrim and crew will soon be fighting for survival against two sets of enemies.

If you, like I, enjoy a rousing adventure involving Vikings and Irishmen, and strongly drawn characters, both admirable and despicable, you will love The Lord of Vik-lo.

I would add – since Joseph’s blog leans toward works that involve fantasy and the supernatural to a certain extent – that Thorgrim is not called “Night Wolf” for purely symbolic reasons. Whenever things seem to get really desperate – something happens.

Note: Vik-lo is now a county and town on the Irish east coast known as Wicklow, south of Dublin.

Thanks, Bill, for the review. I recently finished Finn Gall, the first book in the series, and plan to offer my take on it in the next few weeks. One thing I'll say now is that James L. Nelson is an author worth reading!


Benjamin Thomas said...

I concur that James L. Nelson is a writer worth reading. I've long been a fan and consider him a hidden treasure. His Revolutionary War and his pirate series are also worth checking out.

Joseph Finley said...

Thanks, Benjamin, for the comment. I've been looking for some good Revolutionary War fiction and plan to look up Nelson's works. I didn't realize how prolific he was until Bill got me into his novels.

Bill said...

Concur completely, Benjamin. His next novel, "The French Prize" is set during our country's quasi-war with France. It's due out next week.

Bill said...

Today's WSJ features a review of Nelson's new book.