A Tale of Two Vikings
A Tale of Two Viking is a flat-out farce. Like a lot of farces, it has its share of lines that induce groans as well as laughs, but it moves so fast that the laughs far outweigh the groans. Don’t mistake this for an accurate picture of Viking life, just sit back, relax and prepare to be entertained.
Toste and Vagn Ivarsson are identical twins. They had the same wet nurse, the same teachers, got into trouble together and pretty well drove their father crazy. He outlawed them, so they became iterant soldiers for hire and have done pretty well, amassing gold and glory. But they are getting kind of tired of the Viking life and are about ready to settle down – right after this battle.
In the battle they are both wounded and think each other dead, but they are rescued. Vagn is taken in by Gorm, father of Helga, whom Toste had called Helga the Homely when they were both children. Gorm wants her to marry since he wants some grandchildren. But Helga is an independent trader and likes her freedom, thank you. Vagn notices that Helga is no longer homely, and he hasn’t had any bedsport for a year.
Toste is rescued by a group of nuns, one of whom is Esme, who is hiding from her horrid father. Esme’s mother had left her some land, which her father wants; he would probably not stop at killing his daughter to get it. Esme is waiting for a good time to take her case before the king, and in the meantime she’s being sheltered in the convent. She is the one who nurses Toste, and can’t help but notice what a handsome man he is. Toste notices that under the black habit and wimple, Esme is a beauty. Even if she were ugly, well, he hasn’t had any bedsport for a year.
There’s enough plot to nudge things along, but most of A Tale of Two Vikings is how Toste and Vagn do anything, say anything, and plot anything to get Helga and Esme into bed. At first neither of the women want anything to do with them, but any reader who has read one of Sandra Hill’s Viking romances knows that resistance is futile. They will yield eventually (and have a marvelous time)!
Several characters from Hill’s earlier Viking books show up, most notably Bolthar, the world’s worst skald (we get enough of his poetry to see his reputation is well-deserved). Vagn and Toste are scamps but they are lovable as can be. Esme and Helga try their best to resist, but really, can anyone resist a Viking bent on conquest?
A Tale of Two Vikings is simply fun. The nunnery where Esme stays makes money by selling holy relics and the products of Sister Margaret’s brewing skills (Margaret’s Mead). Toste and Vagn are rather like Sabatini’s Corsican brothers in that they can feel each other’s emotions and pains (Vagn keeps seeing visions of his brother surrounded by crows). If you want a serious medieval, try Susan Squires’s Danegeld, but if you want to laugh, this book is the one for you.