Obsession. Treachery. Revenge. Redemption. Certain themes resonate across the centuries.
In ninth-century Ireland, Selia is a girl on the verge of womanhood, frustrated by the confines of her gender and resentful of the freedom her brother boasts of. Intelligent and resourceful in a time when neither is valued in a female, she longs for an escape from her sheltered existence. Fascinated by the tales of Viking raids told by her maidservant, Selia’s hunger for independence is fed through the stories of heathen ferocity she hears at the woman’s knee.
A decision to sneak to the city’s harbor to view the Viking longships leads to an encounter with Alrik Ragnarson, a charismatic Viking warlord whose outward beauty masks a dark and tortured mind. With the knowledge that her father is about to announce her betrothal to a man she doesn’t love, Selia marries Alrik and within a day is on the longship bound for Norway and a new life.
While Selia’s relationship with her new husband grows, her friendship with his brother Ulfrik grows as well. And as Alrik’s character flaws come to light and tension mounts between the two brothers, Selia begins to have misgivings about her hasty marriage . . . especially when a secret from the past is revealed, one that threatens to destroy them all.
I have always been intrigued by the past, and the lives of the Vikings have ever fascinated. Like Selia, I found myself compelled by their honest brutality, and often in spite of it, and, although I cannot imagine loving a man quite as treacherous as the man she chooses to love, I understood her naïve decision. Youthful Selia, who is facing marriage to a man far older than she, takes matters into her own hands; yet it does not take long for her to realize that her rash choice may not have been the correct one.
What I liked about this story was the historical accuracy. Up until very few years ago, women were property to be bought and sold, and Odin’s Shadow lays this truth out there for all to see. The integrity of the men in her life, whether father, husband or in-law, is questionable at best, but the story shows, often with painful clarity, how women in the ‘dark ages’ (and still so often today) are forced to make difficult choices in a world ruled by testosterone.
In spite of the sometimes shocking brutality, which is probably also historically accurate, if difficult to read through; I find myself curious to know where the tale goes next and look forward to reading the next book in the series.
My rating: 4 Stars