In 1066, the death of King Edward put the right of the English to choose their own king in jeopardy. Normans were set to invade England and claim the throne. The Vikings were preparing to launch raids against the British to grab land and wealth. One tiny island stood trapped between two opposing forces.
Lady Julia Cruithne is left with the responsibility of Aurelius, an island rich in trade but poor in defense, when her older brother is killed defending England. She has to secure the continued freedom of her people – through the meager means available to a woman in Medieval Europe. She believes she will have only her own sharp wits and determination at her disposal, and she must consider sacrificing her own freedom to an arranged marriage in order to keep the war from spreading to her island.
Eric Vandalsson is a man well-used to battle. He has won honor, wealth, and reputation fighting across Europe, but he has never earned the prize he covets most: a home. He agrees to invade England on the condition that he be the first to select lands and a woman from the spoils. Unfortunately for Eric, the invasion is not as easy as was promised, and he finds himself without his prize, without a king, and in desperate need of a safe harbor.
When the war spills over to Aurelius, Julia will forge a desperate, unlikely alliance to protect her people. The huge, taciturn Viking is skilled enough take on any opponent, but Julia did not expect to want to consider him as more than a guard. Eric will protect her from invading armies, but their agreement is tested when old allies become enemies and a new king, William of Normandy, casts his eye towards a rich island and an unmarried Lady. Eric will have to convince Julia that she does not have to give up everything she desires in order to save what she loves.
Pros – so finely written, the give/take relationship of Julia & Eric, the strength of the secondary characters
Cons – slow start, you sometimes want to tell Julia to take what she wants screw everyone else
Spoiler – Its a historical romance with a heroine who wants to live her life the way she chooses with the man she loves. How else do you think this will end if not happily?
Review – Early English history is not exactly my thing. I say this being a big fan of various mini-series like “The Last Kingdom” (9th century), “Pillars of the Earth” (12th century), “World Without End” (14th century), and the movies “War of the Roses” (15th century) and “The Lion in Winter”(12th century). To be honest Viking history is not my thing either, nor do I normally read Viking romances. What drew me to Amund’s book is from an entirely different interest. Amund wrote one of my absolute favorite Sesshomaru/Kagome fanfic sagas of all time, “Second Alliance“. It quite honestly is not just a powerhouse as a fanfic, but so meticulously crafted that taken on its own is a true wonder.
It made me want to seek out more about her which led me to her author name, which led me to NORTH SEA DAWN, which leads me to this review. Fanfiction – the true six degrees of separation for any devout reader.
At first I had some trouble getting into the book. Amund’s writing is engaging, her characters are enticing and I won’t lie I want an Eric of my own – but this reads almost like historical fiction with a heavier dose than normal of romance, then a historical romance. I can’t speak to the page count (since Kindle has that screwy system in place now), but it feels longer than an average historical romance. That said Amund’s careful research and obvious interest in the time period shines through.
Eric and his crew are not the “raping, pillaging” Vikings of stereotype – they fight their leader’s battles and enemies because they want to build a future and legacy. Their leader has made them many, many promises in regards to if they win him this or that battle the land and money they will be given. Like any bureaucrat though he keeps dangling the carrot just close enough in reach that Eric feels no choice but to keep pushing his men in hopes that this time the promises will be fulfilled. They’re tired of the endless battles though, tired of being away from their families. Tired of not moving on with their lives.
Julia is not your typical Court Lady – raised away from the Courts, treated as an equal to her brother (in most aspects), she feels deeply connected to her people and their island and will let no one take that from them. With her brother away (and feared dead) in defense of the English King’s greed, Julia does what she has to in order to secure her Island’s safety.
In some ways, having gone from “Second Alliance” into this, I can see the spillover effect. Julia is a more mature, more confident and assured Kagome – one who is certain of her place and certain of where she belongs. Echoes of the story bleed over at times, certainly in the give and take nature of Julia and Eric’s relationship. I’m perfectly content with this because as I mentioned earlier “Second Alliance” is a powerhouse of writing. Strip away the ties to Inuyasha and you’d never guess SA was anything but a brilliantly written novel.
As I can’t speak to the historical aspect of this, all I will say is that obvious love and research went into this novel. The setting, the conflicts and resolutions, the people feel authentic. Julia’s need to protect the island was keenly felt, to the point where even though I knew her and Eric would wind up together I still felt some amount of anxiety when an alternative route is offered. Her sense of duty was such that even Eric felt a bit of anxiety (and though I think he would have honored her decision, he wouldn’t have gone off quietly).
Currently Amund is working on a science fiction story called “Barghest“, you can read it for free on her site as a serial. Part 1: Siege Engine is completed, while Part 2: Depredation is currently being worked on. (there is also “Nordic Diner“, though this is currently on hiatus until Barghest is completed).
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Published by: Author Published
Release: May 2014
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