Updated: Jan 20
Not sure I've read much alternate history before, though I loved the concept of this book. What if the Vikings hadn't converted to Christianity? Would there have been crusades from the Christian west into Scandinavia? Entirely possible.
This then, is the base from which we begin our journey. We follow the life of a young blacksmith, Ordulf, who is drafted into the small army of blacksmith's that follow the Christian army on crusade. He is a likeable character, has his flaws, and his story was one that was enjoyable to follow.
I learnt far more than I had ever intended to about the forging of swords in the first third of the story (though I get the sword itself is integral to the plot) There is a passage where Ordulf is repairing a blade at his forge, and a whole paragraph of sentences which start with 'The blade' which grated a bit as I was reading. (Worth noting the book is a debut, these things are much easier to pick up as a reader than a writer) Once Ordulf is off on campaign though I felt his story really took off, and found him and the supporting cast around him more interesting as the plot developed and the army moved north.
We also get to see a POV from the Viking side. This to be honest I felt didn't add much value to the overall story, and I found some of the dialogue between the Northmen didn't quite have an authentic feel - hard to explain, but possibly because I never at any point felt much investment into their plotline.
Overall though the book is a solid read, there is plenty of action, all of which is well written, and at the end of the book we are set up nicely for what is to follow. (It also has a stunningly good cover, which wins extra points from this reader!)