"Professor Cassie Larson leads a life her undergrad students hope to
attain, until she tumbles into the North Sea and is sucked down into a
swirling vortex...and a different century. Alarik, son of a Viking
chieftain, is blamed for a murder he didn't commit-or did he? He can't
remember. On the run, saving a half-drowned foreign woman wasn't in his
plan. Ragnar is a converted pagan shunned by many but determined to
prove his Cousin Alarik's innocence. He didn't count on falling in love
with Cassie or the deadly presence of evil that threatens his village in
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Undercurrent Michelle Griep ★★★☆☆
Opinion: This was one of those novels for which I had rather mixed
feelings when reading it. Some parts I really enjoyed others I disliked
intensely. The setting, overall was quite original, most Christian novels set
in the medieval period seem to be set in the 1300s, so having one set in the
Later Viking Era was in some ways
different, and probably made it more interesting.
The best Viking characters were
Alarik and the Christian Ragnar, of whom Ragnar was arguably the most
interesting as the only non-pagan in his territory (or almost the only one).
The exploration of what it meant to be a Christian in a culture, time and
society so different from our own, and the way in which Ragnar remained firm in
his faith was one of the better aspects of the story. Indeed, if Viking
Christians really were like him, they would indeed put modern Christians to
This said, some of the other Viking could be seen as little more than typecast barbarian savages who just get drunk or get into fights.
The novel could be slow and the
narrative rather weak in places, it really seemed to me as though nothing of
particular significance happened (aside from Ragnar meeting Cassie) until about
two thirds of the way through the book, and the characters spent most of their
time trudging through the countryside (apparently York/Jorvik was the only
settlement for miles).
There were some humorous scenes
with Cassie and the Viking men, in which she tried to speak their language and
got words mixed up, or introduced her surname as ‘Larson’ which would be
masculine in Medieval Scandinavia. Her relationship and openness to Ragnar is
touching, albeit a little predictable.
Overall, Undercurrent is well
worth a read, but could have been better and I did have a few concerns, which
are highlighted below.
Christianity/Morality: Some Christian concepts, such as
forgiveness, and the depth of Christian commitment are well presented and thoughtfully
explored in this novel. The necessity of faith in Christ and repentance to
salvation also seem to be presented clearly in the novel.
One of the most annoying aspects
of the novel (and probably the main reason why I disliked it in parts) was the
nature of the interactions between men and women. For the most part the men
just seemed to leer at or lust after the nearest pretty girl, and the
descriptions of them doing it could become rather tiresome, or
Even Christian Ragnar’s repeatedly fantasising about Cassie gets a
little bit much after a while.I know such things happen and are a sad reflection on human nature, but Viking men with only one thing on their minds who cannot look at a girl without ogling her, or women who want to throw themselves at the nearest strapping Norseman could just prove annoying and shallow after a while.
Alarik is more committed to the
idea of only having his betrothed, but even he cannot keep his hands off her
when they are reunited in Norway, and has relations with her in front of Alarik
and Cassie, though thankfully this is not described in detail and they soon
Another things that was worrying
was the ability which of one of the Viking characters apparently had to
foretell future events. This was called ‘foresight’ and was events were usually
presaged by him having ‘bad feelings’. Although the character in question named
Magnus does mention Jesus, it is not certain that he is a Christian, and so the
source of his ability is extremely dubious.
In the beginning of the novel,
the mysterious peddler whom Cassis buys the wooden clasp which is so significant
to the story from disappears soon afterwards, and reappears in Viking York to
give her advice and guidance. It is strongly implied therefore that he is
supposed to be some king of guardian angel or angelic guide, but the way he is
presented and behaves just seems weird and not in agreement with the way the
Bible presents such beings.
Finally, readers may wish to note
the villain engages in some very dark practices, such as a form of pagan black
magic which seemingly allows him to ‘shape shift’. This is described, but not
gerneally in detail and is in no way glorified.
History: I personally know very little about the Vikings, and I do
not know how historically accurate and plausible the story is, though the
period details do seem authentic for the most part, there were a few things
that were questionable. I would have thought for instance that there might have
been more Christians (at least nominal ones) in Scandinavia by the time when
this novel was set, approaching the year 1000, and perhaps more in Viking areas
of England, such as Jorvik.
The violent, ‘backwards’,
unhygienic and ‘barbaric’ nature of the environment in which some of the characters
lived (especially in England) did seem a little exaggerated or overdone at
times, and I would have thought there would be more than one substantially
sized city in the North of England which the characters would have come across,
instead of traveling for days and only encountering a rare village or two.
Thanks to the author for giving me a free PDF edition of her book to read.