My monthly newsletter book reviews can be found on my Reviews of what I’m Reading page. But as I read more than one book a month, I leave other reviews here on my blog. They also get posted to Amazon and Goodreads.
A book for adventure-hungry readers!
Confession: I read Thorfinn and the Witch’s Curse, but Kara Shieldmaiden of Eire, book 4 in the Forerunner series, is the next one I’ve read. This wasn’t a huge problem, given the author has kindly provided the reader with a summary to date, and, if truth be told, this could be read as a standalone.
While Thorfinn was targeted at younger readers, by the author’s own admission Kara is very much YA and adult reading. While the sex is subdued (and very nicely done including a good sense of humour where warranted) there are violent scenes and descriptions of happenings which you might not want to read over breakfast. This isn’t surprising, given the book celebrates a warrior and you won’t be disappointed to discover fight scenes abound!
Kara Shieldmaiden of Eire carries on the tales of several characters, some more closely entwined than others, but all contributing to an action packed read.
Thorfinn and his guide, the spirit Raga, find themselves left behind when Uncle Karl, warrior and seafarer, is called to war to support King Harald in his efforts to unify the kingdoms of Norway. That doesn’t mean Thorfinn has no adventures – I truly feared for him and his lindwyrm (which reminded me of a bright and faithful dog), when the bloodthirsty witch Knetta set about seeking her revenge with the aid of a dead, putrefying giant. The build up in tension is exquisitely rendered.
Then there’s Sorvenn and Dun, who end up in a remote Welsh village after escaping bandits, and find themselves on two different paths. The descriptions, from Sorvenn’s point of view, of farm life and especially the aged farmer’s buxom wife and lusty, growing daughters were delightful and often funny, although I always felt an underlying sense of threat in this story line. Which, as it turned out, was correct, but not in any way I anticipated.
And of course, the character of the title, Kara, who has run away from home and is now in Dublinn serving the king there as a shield maiden. The story of Kara and Kaelan, the farmer’s son forced to turn soldier, is one of youthful love and what it means to love to extreme – poignant and gut wrenching.
Mr Veloso Batista does several things well. His characters, and there are many of them, are well rounded; even the minor ones come to us with personalities and an array of human strengths and weaknesses, and this is exaggerated among the non-human players. He’s also carried out huge amounts of research into this era, utilising figures such as Alfred of Wessex and Harald Tanglehair to set the story in time. The research carries into the daily lives of the characters, including food, weaponry, fighting styles, housing and clothing, all of which gives the reader a strong sense of authenticity. But this is not straight historical fiction. Norse gods, demons, witches, spirits, trolls and dark elves are all here too: some for good, many not with their cold hearts, straight malice and unpredictable, capricious natures.
In fact, unpredictable is a good adjective to apply to the story line overall. You can never tell where Mr Veloso Batista will take you next, and you always worry it might not be cosy!
Finally, there is some lovely writing and excellent imagery. This is one I might have to steal: ‘scattered shreds of fog striped the surface of the ocean.’
This is a book for lovers of history, of action, of the weaving of the supernatural and divine into the threads of mortal lives, and for those who like to read with bated breath! Highly recommended. Pre-order here.