Destiny is set in 875AD – and the Vikings hold most of eastern England. When the story begins Elena, a captive of the Viking leader Kraka, has just escaped and is found while on the run by Berg, an East Anglian warrior now exiled from his lands. Elena then saves Berg in a skirmish with the Danes, and he takes her with him when he travels to Winchester where the Wessex King Alfred resides and where, Elena hopes, she may be reunited with her parents. Along the way, they are followed by Kraka and his men.
Berg, whose real name is Edmund, is a former Prince of East Anglia whose face was badly scarred in the battle which saw him lose his home, much of his family, and his future kingdom when the Vikings invaded six years ago. His life is now one of fighting in the service of Alfred, but he remains mired in a sense of deep grief and loss. However, he still maintains a small spark of optimism which is kindled when he meets Elena, for he recognizes her as a person from his past, even though she does not recognize him.
Elena shut down emotionally in order to survive the past brutal, humiliating year as Kraka’s sexual slave. She is surprised at her attraction to Berg, and Kirkman does an especially nice job of showing the physical pull between Elena and Berg, how they are drawn to each other almost against their wills. Elena offers herself to Berg in return for keeping her safe, and though he is very tempted, he refuses. He will not treat her as simply a vessel as Kraka did, an attitude which only serves to confuse her more.
With Berg, Elena begins to feel again and to have hope, which only angers her. With her sense of fatalism, she knows that this time with him is simply an interlude, that it cannot last, and if she comes to care for someone, to feel hope again, it will be all the harder to be numb again when the time comes. Elena is a great tormented heroine.
As the title suggests, there is a sense of destiny between the two and their past connection is unfolded slowly throughout the book. When the full story is revealed some may find the coincidence of their coming together as too Romancelandy improbable, but I suppose that’s where the destiny part comes in. Kirkman creates an atmosphere where, although impossible, it does seem inevitable that her complex, emotionally layered characters will be together, and I was pleased that Kirkman didn’t take the easy way out when it came to resolving Elena and Berg’s problems.
Something I liked about Kirkman’s writing style is also, ironically, something that bothered me about the book. Kirkman doesn’t connect all the dots, she doesn’t treat the reader like they don’t have a brain. She creates a scene or drops some information, and allows the reader to draw her own conclusion. I hate reading those books where the author beats the reader over the head with the equivalent of big, neon signs saying “Look here – something important happening!”
On the other hand, this style doesn’t work as well for me when it came to the love scenes. The vagueness of the descriptive passages and the slightly flowery language left me thinking things like “now, where – exactly – is her hand?” and “what’s he doing?” I like a bit more definition to my love scenes.
I enjoyed the unique setting of the Dark Ages in Destiny, and the fact that it is a Viking romance with English protagonists, rather than a Viking and his English captive, made for a refreshing change as well. Late in the book we are introduced to a character from a previous book who is another one of King Alfred’s men, so I’m off to find his book and will be on the lookout for Berg’s sister’s story later this year.
If you’re looking for a romance that takes place in a little used era and setting, with emotionally complex characters, I can recommend Destiny. It’s a good read.