Long before Christopher Columbus set sail, Northmen (also known as Vikings), settled in North America. In this first book of a planned series, Halfdan Ingolfsson, Gudbjartur Einarsson and their band seek a new home where they can live and prosper. Hoping to avoid the mistakes of those who traveled before them, Halfdan and Gudbjartur decide not to journey to their original destination, but to establish a home where there is plentiful game to hunt, fish to capture, and a bounty of natural resources. Earlier expeditions have been thwarted by tense relations with the Skraelings (Native Americans). As their leaders, Halfdan and his trusted advisor Gudbjartur, must make sure that all goes smoothly with the Skraelings, while also resolving conflicts among their own people. Can this new colony survive against such odds?
Having read nothing about Northmen since high school, I was excited to dig into J.A. Hunsinger's Axe of Iron: The Settlers. In this throughly researched novel, Hunsinger takes the reader on an adventure-filled journey back to a time when ships ruled the world. The author's passion for this subject and his extensive knowledge of Norse history are evident from the very first page. The reader is swept up into Halfdan and Gudbjartur's exploration, the establishment of new homes, and the day-to-day struggles of the new colony. Gaining insight into the customs and culture of the Northmen, the reader is also rewarded with an exciting adventure.
In addition to Halfdan and Gudbjartur, the author has created a cast of multi-dimensional characters; men and women whose struggles truly make this story all that it is. Perhaps the most complex, is Frida, who is happy to cause trouble for trouble's sake, yet is extremely useful in communicating with the natives and happily settles into a life no one might expect.
At times the dialogue communicates details that the characters should already have been aware of, such as this passage found on page 290:
"Ever since Iceland was colonized, a shortage of women has been a problem for our people..."
But this does not affect the pace of the story. And while the graphic description of sexual relations might not be everyone's cup of tea, these moments are not the center of the story and are few and far between.
The thumbnail of the cover art simply can't do it justice. This hand-drawn cover is stunning up close, and was one of the reasons I wanted to review the book.
Hunsinger includes an historical perspective at the beginning and a glossary of terms at the end--which adds a great deal to the wealth of knowledge to be gained--and also an excerpt from the next book in this series, Confrontation.
Historical fiction fans, history lovers, and those interested in Norse history may want to start their journey with Axe of Iron: The Settlers.
Title: Axe of Iron: The Settlers Author: J.A. Hunsinger Publisher: Vinland Publishing, LLC. ISBN: 978-0-9801601-0-9 SRP: $17.95 (U.S.)