Friday 1 April 2022

A Discovering Diamonds Review of The Queen in the Mound by Johanna Wittenberg

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Fictional Saga
9th Century / Vikings
Ireland /Norway

The Norsewomen Series Book 4

"Raider Bride is headed to Tromøy, where Ragnhild hopes to gain Åsa's aid in taking Gausel. But the voyage takes them through perilous waters where enemies lie in wait, and Ragnhild carries a secret that could ruin everything. On Tromøy, an ancient evil wakes and a forgotten enemy gains strength, threatening to destroy all those Åsa loves."

I love these stories. This one continues the tales of Ragnhild the shield-maiden and Asa, the Norse warrior queen. We are treated to several longboat journeys, fierce battles, and a selection of Irish mythological stories. With her Irish husband by her side, Ragnhild and her ‘hird’ of warriors travel in their longboats to do battle with her brother, Harald, to reclaim her ancestral land.

As with all these books, this one is liberally sprinkled with strange Norse words like hnefatafl (a board game), hudfat (a sleeping bag), haugbui (a ghost), and hamingja (luck or fate). All are fully explained in the text, and the author provides us with a list of the characters and an extensive glossary at the end of the book.

A couple of comments: being unfamiliar with sailing terminology I found myself somewhat at sea at times. I picked out an example of the sort of thing that had me reaching for my dictionary: ‘Off to leeward the pursuing ship luffed up and spilled their wind to avoid a knockdown.’ I did find the storyline a bit threadbare in spots, but the queen in the mound – a ghostly walk-on part – does her best to tie the various strands of the story together. 

That said, I love these stories. I can hear the clash of seax on wootz steel; I can see the longboats emerging from the mist in the fjord; I can taste the small beer in my drinking horn; and I can smell the Jól log crackling and spitting on the fire.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© JJ Toner
 e-version reviewed

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