Where do I even start with the book? It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally I read a book that has so many less-than-redeeming qualities contained within its pages that I scarcely know where to begin. That, in a nutshell, describes Avelynn, quite possibly the worst Viking romance I’ve ever read.
So, who is Avelynn? Well, despite her improbable name, she is the daughter of a Saxon noble. Remember now that she’s Saxon because pretty much nothing else in the plot signals her as such. Despite being the daughter of a high-ranking Saxon, she inexplicably practices what appears to be some form of Celtic druidic religion. At some point in the story, she even becomes a high priestess.
Avelynn is also strong-willed and determined. Despite the fact that she lives in 9th century Wessex, she has no problem stepping up to the plate to help her father, the earl, make big decisions. Given that Avelynn essentially lives as a 21st century woman in medieval times, it naturally comes as something of a shock when she learns that her father has betrothed her to Demas without her having much say in the matter. In the background, we learn that Viking raids threaten the land and politically, the betrothal to Demas makes sense to Avelynn’s father.
At first it appears that the handsome Demas might be the hero of this book, but we soon learn that this is not to be. He behaves in an overbearing fashion to Avelynn and eventually cements his role as villain by threatening Avelynn on various occasions and by having skanky villain sex in the woods. In fact, the author even makes a point of it being gay villain sex. On reading something like that, one almost feels torn between feeling speechless and well, having all the cuss words.
So, is there romance in this novel? Well, Avelynn is billed as historical fiction, but there actually is a romance plot. While out performing one of her druidic rituals, Avelynn is discovered by a raiding party of Norsemen led by Alrik. Don’t worry, Alrik of course recognizes the sacredness of said druid rituals and even has one of his own men killed for disturbing Avelynn’s worship. [I think my fingers are even saying “WTF??” as I type this.] Alrik and Avelynn are so struck with lust or something like it that they whisper sweet nothings and Avelynn naturally manages to return to the beach for the raiding party’s next trip through, and she and her Alrik have random sex. As one does, I suppose.
Meanwhile, Avelynn is left with dreams of Alrik and no actual plan where they might be together. The Saxons find themselves at war, and of course the eeevil Demas keeps right on plotting against Avelynn, and the plot, which was already off the rails, just keeps right on going. For those who may wonder, this isn’t like the movie trailer that spills all the crazy details. This review but scratches the surface, and readers will find all manner of insanity continues well into the second half of the book.
The characters give one little to love. Avelynn has no doubt of her knowledge on how to deal with any situation whether it be making herself a druid priestess, second-guessing her father’s judicial decision, or fighting a war. Oh, and in case you were wondering, the war does bring Alrik and Avelynn back together, though Avelynn’s constant second-guessing of Alrik and just plain idiot behavior probably makes him doubt the wisdom of falling for her. Unfortunately, Alrik tends toward flatness of character that keeps him from jumping off the page or even seeming all that real.
So, with awkward prose and a ridiculous romantic plot, readers will likely find themselves limping to the end of the book with relief. And it really is a shame. The history of this period really is fascinating, and we get too few books using it. However, for those who want to explore the Saxons and Vikings further, I’d recommend Helen Kirkman’s excellent historicals over this clunker.