28 Nov 2016

Heather Day Gilbert Viking Fiction Author- Interview and Giveaway!

1: So first off why Vikings? Is if for the relatively unknown connection with America?

HG: I became interested in Vikings as a child, when I realized my maiden name would've been Thorvaldsson if my great-grandfather hadn't changed it to "Day" when he emigrated to America from Norway. That side of the family was allegedly related to Eirik the Red and Leif Eiriksson, so I started reading up on the Icelandic saga accounts of Eirik's family. I stumbled into the tale of Gudrid, a ward of Eirik the Red and a Viking Christian who sailed to North America, where she gave birth to the first recorded European baby to be born on that continent. Although it seemed daunting, I wanted to write her story, as well as the story of Freydis, another (in)famous Viking warrior woman who was Eirik the Red's daughter. I wish American history included more about these brave women's stories.

2: This is really two questions, but I have noticed that your ‘Vikings of the New World’ saga alongside a lot of my favourite Christian Medieval novels don’t ‘fit’ the typical mould of Romance or Fantasy, and also tend to be self-published, or from smaller publishing houses. Do you think there’s still a gap in the market for these kind of books? 

HG: Of course, the one exception that I can think of in terms of the major Christian Publishers are Lion Fiction/Kregel who have produced a lot of non-Romantic and literary Medieval fiction in the last few years. Of course, what stands out about them is that they’re UK based, and they are prepared to accept more ‘edgy’ content. So do you think there’s a cultural difference in tastes and reception of these kinds of books (between America and Europe)? Why? 

To answer the first part: Yes, many authors go indie because publishers aren't looking for what they're writing—and I'd imagine women's fiction/saga historicals aren't nearly as popular as fantasy or romantic historicals. When I submitted God's Daughter four years ago, Christian book publishers were not looking for anything set outside the USA, much less a Viking-era tale.
That's an interesting observation about Kregel (the American imprint of Lion), because it is the one publisher that seriously considered God's Daughter. In the end, they didn't feel they could market it (keep in mind this was three years ago, before there was much Medieval Christian fiction at all. Also at that time, Regency was just getting popular, which finally featured a non-USA setting). 

Part of the reason I wanted to go indie is because I knew Vikings were on the upswing (the Thor and How to Train your Dragon movies were out then, and soon after I published God's Daughter, the Vikings miniseries released on The History Channel). I knew, from the interest in my posts and pins about Vikings, that I could market my book to a solid niche base of readers and hopefully build from there.

I know there are cultural differences between the US and UK Christian publishing houses, such as Kregel/Lion, but I appreciate that both Kregel and Lion are getting unusual books out to readers who are anxious for out-of-the-box tales. But in the end, it comes down to what an individual publisher is looking for, and often these more obscure time periods/locales don't fit the bill. This is where indie books definitely fill a gap.

3: Favourite character and why? What would you change about them if you could (though of course you cannot as they’re historical figures?) 

HG: Of the Viking characters I've written? That's tough! They really all seem to be alive and walking Vikings of the New World Saga, I'd probably say Freydis, since she really grew on me, although I will say that I'm also rather infatuated with Thorfinn Karlsefni (Gudrid's husband). Although Leif Eiriksson really cracks me up sometimes.

4: You may know that I harbour ambitions to one day write a novel about a very strong and formidable Anglo-Saxon Lady with a Christian slant, which would almost certainly have to be part of a series. Any tips and advice?

HG: I really hope you do, because I'd enjoy reading that series! I'd just say that it's really important not to info-dump on the historical reader, because you don't want your novel to read like a textbook. Yes, we might have invested countless hours of research into this topic, but we have to figure out ways to meld the facts into a driving storyline. This elaboration on the facts can lead to some lower reviews, but we have to be prepared to stand behind the integrity of our work. Also, I've found that when presenting paganism in a negative light, you can expect to have some harassment by way of reviews. But let's be honest—every author writes from a worldview. For example, The Mists of Avalon is decidedly pro-pagan. My worldview is Christian, so I add this to the end of my Amazon blurbs: This book is written from a Christian worldview.

5. I always try to ask this one, so I will ask you too. Can you think of anything interesting or unexpected you discovered when doing the research for this series? 

HG: Yes—many things! The one I stumbled onto at just the right time was that sometimes Vikings dug escape tunnels under benches in their longhouses. As you know, I integrated that fact into Forest Child, hopefully in a memorable way. We don't have access to many facts about the Vikings, but the more that turn up, the more it looks like the saga accounts were true, which warms my heart since I really tried to stick to those accounts when writing God's Daughter and Forest Child.
Thanks so much for your thoughtful questions! Nice to visit today!


HEATHER DAY GILBERT, a Grace Award winner and bestselling author, writes novels that capture life in all its messy, bittersweet, hope-filled glory. Born and raised in the West Virginia mountains, generational story-telling runs in her blood. Heather is a graduate of Bob Jones University, and she and her husband are raising their children in the same home in which Heather grew up. Heather is represented by Rebeca Seitz and Jonathan Clements of SON Studios in FL.

Heather's Viking historical novel, God's Daughter, is an Amazon Norse Bestseller. She is also the author of the bestselling A Murder in the Mountains mystery series and the Hemlock Creek Suspense series. Heather also authored the Indie Publishing Handbook: Four Key Elements for the Self-Publisher.
Guess what! As a special extra Heather has agreed to do a Giveaway of a copy of the Boxset of her Vikings of the New World Saga. That's right! One lucky person can win a copy of God's Daughter and Forest Child together. Enter using the form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

25 Nov 2016

My Enemy, My Heart by Laurie Alice Eakes - New Release

The Ashford Chronicles #1 
Waterfall Press, November 15th 2016, 385 Pages
Print, Ebook and Audio 

The sea is Deirdre MacKenzie’s home, and the crew of her father’s Baltimore clipper is the only family she loves. She’s happier wearing breeches and climbing the rigging of the Maid of Alexandria than donning a dress and learning to curtsy. But when the War of 1812 erupts, the ship is captured by a British privateer, leaving her father, the captain, dead. Deirdre watches her crew herded into the hold, destined for the notorious Dartmoor prison in England. Though her fate as a noncombatant is uncertain, she knows she must find a way to free her crew.

Kieran Ashford has caused his family one too many scandals. On his way to exile in America, he is waylaid by the declaration of war and a chance to turn privateer and make his own fortune. But he regrets his actions as soon as the rich prize is secured. Now his best chance at redeeming himself in the eyes of his family is to offer Deirdre the protection of his name in marriage.

But love and loyalty clash as Kieran begins to win Deirdre’s heart despite her plot to betray him. Will Kieran’s plan mend the relationship with his family, and can this fated couple find true love despite the secret lies between them?

This was a fair story, as far as Romantic Fiction goes, and it even worked quite well as a cross-cultural Romance with protagonists whose nations are at war. Yet it also represented everything I do not like about this author's work: An overly simplistic, nationalistic version of history which ignores the complexity and moral ambiguity of many wars and conflicts,  coupled with a woeful lack of familiarity with the history, politics, culture and society of Great Britain in the Nineteeth century. 

It begins with a note blaming the British for starting the War of 1812, by picking on and bullying the Americans and continues in the same kind of bent. The Americans are depicted as the wronged innocents, whilst no mention is made of American aggression, including the invasion of Canada by the United States which occurred early in that conflict. 
The first forty percent or so of the book follows Deidre aboard her father's ship after it is seized by British Aristocrat Keiran Ashford and his crew in the Caribbean. Sadly, it also involves a lot of Romantic 'mush' with kissing, touching (which was really not appropriate for a person who said he would not behave dishonourably towards any woman), and talking about 'stirring up feelings', alongside escape attempts, a proposal, and eventually a marriage of convenience between the protagonists. 

As another reviewer says, the British characters do sometimes 'read as American', and use Americanisms. One example is how Keiran at one point refers to the heir to the throne as: 'The Prince Regent of England'. That was not his title: he was the Prince Regent of Britain, or Great(er) Britain. This inability to distinguish between England and Britain, even on the part of British characters, is common to this author's work: along with the fact that the Brits talk like Americans with posher accents.

In the second part of the book, Keiran brings the pregnant Dierdre home to his family's estate in Cornwall, and there is much conflict and angst between them because of misunderstandings, his past, and a mutual failure to communicate or trust each other. Although Keiran's family accept her, Dierdre does not fit in, a did act like a bit of a brat.
At the start, she got huffy because Keiran did not her he was an aristocrat- though I'm fairly sure other characters had previously referred to him as Lord- so it should have been obvious. Like the good Republican she is, Dierdre does approve of the aristocracy, because all the Newspapers she has read say they are the oppressors of the working classes (she had previously compared people in domestic service to slaves)  and- even worse, the unelected rulers of Britain. This is another common assumption in novels by this author- that nineteenth century Britain was some kind of backwards, feudal state still ruled by the nobility.
Clearly, Deidre had not heard of the elected House of Commons, the Second Chamber of Parliament, or the Middle Classes, for that matter.

Anyway, from the outset, Deidre plans to break her crew out of Dartmoor Prison, where they have been incarcerated with lots of evil, brutal redcoats as their guards. I'm gonna be honest: the continual griping by the characters about the horrible conditions in Dartmoor and inhumanity of locking people up there really got my back up- its not as if Britain was the only country in history to incarcerate Prisoners of War. France was doing the same thing at this time, and I'm sure even America did. And for goodness sake- what else were we meant to do: let enemy combatants go into the countryside?

It is at this point that the attitude of the characters becomes most hypocritical and reprehensible. Whilst agonising that American and French Prisoners might be cold or hungry, they do not even spare a thought for their countrymen- the British soldiers and sailors fighting Napoleon. Whilst Dierdre condemns Britain for attacking America, she has no qualms about setting her crew free knowing full well that they intend to go to France and fight for them against Britain.

She is troubled by no pangs of conscience so that her men are going to go and help the French fight against and kill the sons, fathers, and brothers of the local people who take her under her wing- and neither are the British characters who are prepared to assist her mission for that matter. There is no understanding or comprehension whatsoever of why Britain was fighting France.
At one point Deidre even assumes it is to protect the wealth and privilege of the Upper Classes, which is patent nonsense and even offensive. Not even mentioned is the very real existential threat to Britain posed by a man- Napoleon Bonaparte who had conquered much of Europe, and wanted to invade with a huge army.
We were fighting for our survival: not our convenience. It just something that many American authors who write about this period don't seem to get, and its incredibly annoying.

Overall, My Enemy, My Heart is a reasonable Romance novel.  but its not a favourite. No doubt the intended audience would go in for it, but I hope they don't learn their history from it.

I received an ebook of this title from the publisher via Netgalley for review, and purchased the audiobook of my own volition. I was not required to write a positive one and all opinions expressed are my own. 

24 Nov 2016

The Shattered Vigil - Patrick W. Carr - New Release

The Darkwater Saga #2
Bethany House, 1st November 2016 
464 Pages, Print, ebook and Audio 

Victory over the dark forces during the feast of Bas-solas should have guaranteed safety for the continent. Instead, Willet and the rest of the Vigil discover they've been outsmarted by those seeking to unleash the evil that inhabits the Darkwater. Jorgen, the member of the Vigil assigned to Frayel, has gone missing, and new attacks have struck at the six kingdoms' ability to defend themselves.

Just when the Vigil thought they had quenched the menace from their enemy in Collum, a new threat emerges: assassins hunting the Vigil, men and women who cannot be seen until it's too late. The orders of the church and the rulers of the kingdoms, fearing the loss of the Vigil's members altogether, have decided to take them into protective custody to safeguard their gift. On Pellin's orders, the Vigil scatters, leaving Willet to be taken prisoner by the church in Bunard.

In the midst of this, Willet learns of the murder of an obscure nobleman's daughter by one of the unseen assassins. Now he must escape his imprisonment and brave the wrath of the church to find the killer in order to turn back this latest threat to the northern continent.

 My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Audiobook Cover
I’m quite picky with fantasy, and I don’t always like much of what I read. To be brutally honest, I found the first book in this series The Shock of Night a bit of a slog, to the point that I stopped enjoying it and just wanted to get it over with towards the end.

I requested this one partly because the Audiobook had just been released, so I hoped to listen to that alongside this, in truth though, I think I listened to the whole thing as an Audiobook. This second instalment in the Trilogy seemed stronger than the first, with better characterization, and not so much of an emphasis on the main protagonist Willet Dura.
It was more interesting to learn something about the lives, personality and motivations of the other members of The Vigil.
(For those unfamiliar with the last story, they are mysterious group, who called themselves the Guardians of the realm, who seem to belong to the Church, but really act on their own authority, possess the frightening power to read men’s minds, delve their memories, and profess to live for Hundreds of years.)

The nature of the evil powers present in the story, and the supernatural abilities of the Vigil and others seem to become more clear and understandable in this story, unlike the last one which was more confusing, although I suppose there is meant to be some blurring of lines to reflect the flaws in human nature. The Vigil do what they think is for the best, but sometimes it backfires or their actions raise serious questions about the morality of their motives. If people were ‘gifted’ by God with superhuman abilities, as they are in this story, would it be right to use their power and ‘gifting’ to punish evil or escape danger, if it meant destroying others, and such a course was forbidden to them?

The characters’ wrestle with these issues and their own demons throughout the story, which adds a more credibility and depth. Also, I appreciated that Willet did not seem quite so smarmy and cocky in this story. It got annoying after a while in the last one. He doubts himself here, and had to rely on the help of others.
One or two other reviewers said they would have preferred more action in this story, but I think many stories rely too much on non-stop action, and it often detracts from other aspects of storytelling, such as world-building, or character and plot development. Sometimes a slower-paced story with depth and well-drawn realistic characters is better than a fast- paced thriller.

I confess, this is not my favourite pseudo-Medieval fantasy series (it feels too modern to be in any sense ‘historical’). I still prefer The Traitor’s Heir by Anna Thayer, but this one is worth a read (or a listen) for lovers of Imaginative Fantasy which explores moral themes.

I requested an e-book version of this title from the Publisher via Netgalley for review, and purchased the Audible book of my own volition. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

19 Nov 2016

The Jazz Files- Fiona Veitch Smith

Poppy Denby Investigates #1
Lion Fiction, 360, Pages, November 27th 2015 
Print and Ebook 

Introducing Poppy Denby, a young journalist in London during the Roaring Twenties, investigating crime in the highest social circles!

In 1920, twenty-two year old Poppy Denby moves from Northumberland to live with her paraplegic aunt in London. Aunt Dot, a suffragette who was injured in battles with the police in 1910, is a feisty and well-connected lady.

Poppy has always dreamed of being a journalist, and quickly lands a position as an editorial assistant at the Daily Globe. Then one of the paper's writers, Bert Isaacs, dies suddenly--and messily. Poppy and her attractive co-worker, photographer Daniel Rokeby begin to wonder if it wasn't a natural death, but murder.

After she writes a sensational exposé, The Globe's editor invites her to dig deeper. Poppy starts sifting through the dead man's files and unearths a major mystery which takes her to France--and into deadly danger.


Excellent Historical mystery from a British author (which is of course a real boon for me), set in the midst of the Jazz Age.

Methodist Pastor's daughter Poppy Denby comes to London after recieving a letter from her Aunt, who is secretly planning on helping her find a career.
At first she, but faces discrimination when she turns up at her interview for the role of a Manager.
They don't want a woman- a situation which the strong and independent niece of the former Suffragette Dorothy Denby is not willing to put up with.
With the help of some friends and new contacts Poppy is quickly introduced the enigmatic but eccentric Canadian editor of 'The Globe', as it quickly offered her first assingment- to report on New play showing in a top London Theatre.

Soon after meeting the leading lady, the fiesty Delilah Marconi and the death of another journalist Poppy learns of a possible cover-up involving the shady dealings of a corrupt peer, Melvyn Dorchester, in which her Aunt, Delilah's mother and several other members of a women's sufferage movement may have been embrioled.

Adventure, mystery, intrigue and danger ensues in this delightful mystery rich in historical details, and plenty of fiesty ladies, a flapper or two, and even a cameo by Marie Curie!
Readers may wish to note that although there are Christian themes in this story, it does not shy away from the tougher issues of life, or the realities of human nature.
So there is mention of characters losing their faith, having affairs, and one character accuses Poppy's Aunt of being a Lesbian (although I do not remember any indication that it was true).

I was invited to download this title from Netgalley by the publisher, Lion Fiction to read and review. I was not required to write a positive one and all opinions expressed are my own.

13 Nov 2016

The Silent Songbird by Melanie Dickerson - New Release

308 Pages, November 8th 2016
Thomas Nelson, Print, ebook and audio

Evangeline is gifted with a heavenly voice, but she is trapped in a sinister betrothal—until she embarks on a daring escape and meets brave Westley le Wyse. Can he help her discover the freedom to sing again?
Desperate to flee a political marriage to her cousin King Richard II’s closest advisor, Lord Shiveley—a man twice her age with shadowy motives—Evangeline runs away and joins a small band of servants journeying back to Glynval, their home village.
Pretending to be mute, she gets to know Westley le Wyse, their handsome young leader, who is intrigued by the beautiful servant girl. But when the truth comes out, it may shatter any hope that love could grow between them.
More than Evangeline’s future is at stake as she finds herself entangled in a web of intrigue that threatens England’s monarchy. Should she give herself up to protect the only person who cares about her? If she does, who will save the king from a plot to steal his throne?

I have read everything by Melanie Dickerson, including all her fairy-tale retellings. This one is the long-awaited sequel to her earlier novel The Merchant’s Daughter, which I was looking forward to as its set-in England. Sadly, I was disappointed as I felt this was one of her weakest stories in terms of historical accuracy and certain details of the plot. That's just my opinion, take it or leave it, but let me elaborate further.

First off, I don’t like forced marriage stories. Why? Because the common assumption that forced marriage was normal in the Middle Ages is totally wrong. The church banned it from the twelfth century, so that any marriage which was conducted without the free consent of both parties was totally illegal.
So the fact that right in the first chapter, the heroine starts whining about her lack of freedom- before being faced with a forced marriage which then features very prominently throughout the story was sort of off-putting. (The legal ban is even mentioned- but hastily dismissed as though everyone could just ignore it when it was the church, not the King who had the jurisdiction over marriage.)
Ok so I could accept that in this instance, it was essential to the story- but not that the heroine was some kind of exception to all the weak, downtrodden, doormat Englishwomen who willingly accepted forced and unhappy marriages because they had not right to refuse.

Most of us Englishwomen are more contentious than that! We're a stubborn race. Also, the sources from the time show many examples of Medieval English noblewomen who married people of their own choice- including royal wards, judging from the number of fines made for marriage without Royal consent.

Moving on, I though this was, overall a decent story. As an adventure and fairy-tale retelling, it’s even quite good, and I could see the parallels with the Little Mermaid although it’s been a long time since I saw the movie.
I don't think I ever totally warmed to the heroine Evangeline though. She came across, at least at first, as shallow, self-centred and a childish brat. Her initial objections to her marriage were a good illustration- because her suitor was old and ugly. So, her love was dependent on looks and age, as if nobody ever found happiness with someone older, or not good looking? Shouldn't real love look past that?

Then, all of a sudden, Eva transforms into a strong, independent warrior woman when she takes some instruction in self-defence. OK, so that’s not improbable and we are told she had a rebellious streak. Yet mastering the longbow in 2 hours did not seem plausible at all. Medieval longbowmen trained for years, starting from when they were 7, with a weapon that had a draw weight of close to 90 pounds. Nobody learns to use one in 2 hours.
And her foot stomping when Westley told her to stay behind for her own safety? That did not make her look independent or capable at all. Really, why do female characters have to behave like utter brats, or do really reckless things to prove how 'strong' they are?

Westley was a better character, and it was nice to 'meet' his family again, although I did not feel that the details about their involvement in the Peasant's Revolt rang true. Primarily it about tax, not 'Freedom', did not involve villiens, and it was not just like a modern worker's strike. It was terribly violent, and culminated in the Archbishop of Canterbury being beheaded by a mob in the streets. I can totally understand why Westley's friend was so resentful over what happened to his father- someone in that situation does not need sanctimonous platitudes about equality of the classes.

Overall them, The Silent Songbird was worth a read, but the German- set stories are better, especially the last two The Golden Braid and The Beautiful Pretender. I do plan to read her next few books, I just hope they get better.

I requested a copy of this title from Booklook Bloggers with the intention of reading and reviewing it. I was not required to write a positive one and all opinions expressed are my own.

9 Nov 2016

Courageous by Dina L. Sleiman - New Release

Valiant Hearts #3 
Bethany House, 389 Pages, July 5th 2016 
Print and Ebook 
Inspired by the vision of the Young Lady Sapphira, Rosalind of Ipsworth joins a group of men, women, and children as a defender of the cross, seeking to free captives from prisons near Tripoli. She gladly gives herself to the cause, as she's haunted by a tragic mistake and no longer deserves such joys as marriage and family might bring.

Sir Randel Penigree was reared to serve in the church, but dreams of protecting the innocent as a knight. Joining a crusade to escape humiliation at home, he finds himself drawn to Rosalind as they partner to train and protect a group of young adolescents. When they face political machinations, danger, and an unknown enemy bent on their destruction, they are forced to reconsider their priorities and the very nature of the God they serve.

Courageous was a good read with an unusual setting, but I did feel that it was not as strong as the first book in this trilogy, Dauntless. Those who have read the previous titles will have come to know Rosalind, and the reasons why she felt she urgently needed forgiveness, and will have met many of the other characters including Sir Rendel.
The characterization was good and realistic, with both the protagonists wounded from past misdeeds and mistakes and yearning for redemption. As before, the children, with their individual personalities and foibles added a lot to the story, and the exploration of love, loss and relationships would appeal to the Young Adult audience (as well as older readers).

That said, I did not feel there was a lot to make this stand out from many other stories in this genre. Yes, it was set in the Middle East at the height of the Crusading period (in the early 13th century), but one gets the impression that with a few modifications it could have been set anywhere. Some of the cultural details about food, clothing and local religions were interesting- and trust me, I have visited North Africa, and I love the culture and food.
However, I did not appreciate how everything ‘European’ seemed to be cast as boring, stale or backwards, whereas everything Eastern was vibrant, exiting and exotic.
The wealthiest people would have had access to spices like cinnamon and even Cane Sugar in Europe by this time, so I found it hard to believe these were so new to everybody from that backwater of Europe.

After about halfway, the I felt the story became rather too politically correct and delved too much into mysticism for my liking, for example, the claim that the Crusaders had thrown the native people, the Saracens out of their homes. Well, it is true that there were atrocities on both sides, but the Arabs are not the indigenous people of most of the Islamic world, and in many places, they first came as invaders and conquerors. I’m not sure about Lebanon, but I think this applies there as well.

Also many of the conversations seemed ‘staged’ and contrived, just to explore the ‘issues’ which might be relevant to today, or the teachings of different religions, as did the whole ‘we all believe pretty much the same things and are all searching for love and truth so let’s get on’ spiel. Don't get me wrong, the portrayal of Muslims as normal human beings who wanted to live in peace was fine, but the way this content was delivered seemed to be more in line with modern ideas.

I was not comfortable with it in a lot of mystical prayer meeting scenes. Even some of the passages relating the Gospel seemed forced, contradicting a lot of the earlier content, as though they were put in just to make everything orthodox.
I’m not into mysticism at all, but there’s a heck of a lot of it here. Again, relating how the Grace of God can work in the hearts of hurting people was great, and even the idea of the lead characters being driven by visions, but all the other stuff I was not comfortable with.

Also, I did not appreciate the way that the Mainstream church was portrayed. The clergy corrupt, and the bad and mean character is the one who disapproves of mysticism- the other has leaning towards paganism. Also, bringing up the writings of Augustine just to pour scorn on them as ‘stupid’ and ‘ridiculous’ for being anti-sex was too much. Honestly, what is the point of historical fiction if we are just going to show contempt for every belief, practice, or idea from the time that does not line up with modern attitudes?

At the end, there were a lot of important messages about forgiveness and not having to earn salvation, and it was a decent story, but I did not appreciate a lot of the wishy-washy stuff. Other people might enjoy it more, but it does not rank amongst my favourites.

I requested a copy of this book via Netgalley to read and review. I was not required to write a positive one and all opinions expressed are my own.

3 Nov 2016

Forest Child by Heather Day Gilbert - New Release

Vikings of the New World Saga #2
290 Pages, November 1st 2016, 290 Pages
Woodhaven Press, Print and Ebook

Viking warrior. Dauntless leader. Protective mother.

Determined to rise above her rank as the illegitimate "forest child" of Eirik the Red, Freydis launches a second voyage to Vinland to solidify her power and to demand the respect she deserves. She will return home with enough plunder to force her brother, Leif, to sell her the family farm in Greenland.

But nothing can prepare her for the horrors she must confront in Vinland...and nothing can stand in her way when her family is threatened.

In her race to outrun the truths that might destroy her, Freydis ultimately collides with the only enemy she cannot silence—her own heart.

Historically based on the Icelandic Sagas, Forest Child brings the memorable, conflicted persona of Freydis Eiriksdottir to life. This immersive tale is Book Two in the bestselling Vikings of the New World Saga.
Finally, after two years, the sequel to God’s Daughter has been released- and what a sequel it is! It tells the story of Freydis, the daughter of Erik ‘the Red’ of Norway, a figure only known from legend, and notorious in said legends, indeed, she is probably one of the most controversial females in all of Norse literature.

Other reviewers have called this book ‘daring’, and the author herself asserts in was hard to write, and I could see why. Instead of going in for ‘gritty realism’ and excessive, almost absurd amounts of violence to shock the readers, Gilbert portrays a world far removed from the Christian sensibilities of Europe at the beginning of the eleventh century.
The first half of the book is taken up a sojourn in Vinland (the region where it has now been proven that Vikings settled in North America), and the strained relationship between the Icelandic and Norwegian crews as well as their native allies. Strong, warlike Freydis tries to keep the two together, but faces competition from Valdis, an Icelandic priestess, who seeks to gain control of the settlement.

When in Greenland, Freydis and her crew are far beyond the reaches of law, justice, and civilisation, and that means making their own rules. They live, and often die by the sword. As such the author is not willing to shy away from the more unpleasant aspects of what the priestesses might have done when they were removed from all restraining influences- including strange sex rites in sacred groves- and yes, human sacrifice. This was not Britain of France, where such practices had been renounced centuries before- its harsh, its brutal, and it’s what might well have happened in the circumstances.

Freydis is tough, cold and as hard as the Scandinavian forests in which she grew up, she has to make tough decisions- like what to do about the Icelanders that oppose and threaten everything she holds dear. Yet this background also covers a wounded heart- Freydis, the illegitimate ‘Forest Child’ was unloved and largely rejected when she was a girl, she had to make her own way in life, and so she struggles to feel love towards another, and cannot forgive any wrong. She often treats her husband poorly because he will not do things her way, or does not feel she can trust him with her plans. She has few friends, and even fewer can get through to her.

Thus Forest Child is anything but the usual soppy, mushy Romance, it is about a wounded, but self-reliant young woman in a cruel world and her journey to love, redemption and hope. On the way she makes many choices and takes many actions which are hard to stomach, or would not normally be accepted in the Inspirational Fiction Genre.
For all this, Freydis proves to be a very sympathetic heroine. She is very much the outsider, has made a desire for money and fame the goal of her life to gain acceptance, and to live independently. Underlying it all a core of vulnerability, a craving to be loved an accepted, and that is something which the audience can identify with.

Even as a reader who is not ‘into’ the Vikings, I loved this story for the way it brings to life little known events and figures (even semi-legendary ones whose existence is questionable), and the people behind them. I have said before that I like to feel ‘immersed’ in the period and the world the characters inhabit when I read historical fiction, and not be jarred out of it by modern language, attitudes or general silliness. Aside from a few hiccups this novel was thoroughly immersive.

Recommended for those who love the period, but also want to see another side of the Vikings, far removed from the modern idea of brash, uncouth marauders who were weakened by and derided Christianity.

I requested to be part of the Early Readers team for this book, and was provided with a digital ARC. I was not required to write a postive review and all opinions expressed are my own.
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