The Viking's Sacrifice
In history books I’ve read, the Medieval mindset in some ways seems quite foreign to the modern American way of thinking. The veil between the physical world and the supernatural feels a bit thinner; it’s a world where curses and magic coexist with daily life. The Viking’s Sacrifice is not a paranormal historical in the sense of inserting werewolves or vampires into what would otherwise be a typical Viking tale. Instead, we enter a world that reads largely as a straight historical but where the characters allow for a supernatural world in their thinking and see it woven deeply into their lives.
As the story opens, Wilda’s Saxon village falls victim to a Viking raid. However, it’s not just any Viking raid. Mixed into the raid itself, the reader sees treachery within the Viking ranks. And at least one of the Vikings sees it, too. Young Einar is on his first raid and he not only witnesses the treacherous act of his older brother, but recognizes it for what it is. Einar manages to save Wilda’s life in the midst of the raid, but he is cursed by his older brother.
The action then switches to another raid, several years later. Wilda is now grown and was married to the local thane. Her husband murdered, Wilda must go with the leader of a Viking raid as his prisoner. When she arrives in the village that will be her new home, Wilda understandably finds herself lost. She does not speak the language, she is now a slave (or thrall) rather than a high-ranking lady, and she lives among the people who killed her family. The owner of the farm where Wilda stays treats her at least somewhat kindly and another Saxon thrall takes Wilda under her wing, trying to teach her the skills she must learn to survive.
In the village, we learn of the cost Einar has paid in the wake of the earlier raid as well. Cursed into silence, the other Vikings led by his brother condemn him as coward and he lives as an outcast. We learn too that Einar has accepted his fate in order to protect the lives of his younger siblings, whom he loves. The farm where Wilda lives is one of the few places where Einar is welcome and it is there that the two finally cross paths again.
Needless to say, this story runs at a slower pace than many historicals. It takes time for Einar and Wilda to meet, to recognize one another again, to build a rapport, and finally to fall in love. However, this pacing feels natural given what has happened to the characters. In addition, Knight writes a deeply atmospheric story and a reader needs space and time to simply sink in and absorb the rather ominous atmosphere of the Norse village. While the story does have some supernatural elements related to the curse on Einar, they are woven naturally into the story and it reads more like a straight historical rather than a paranormal.
A few things did irk me, though. First of all, the relationship development felt a bit stunted. One can understand the emotional power of Einar and Wilda meeting again years after the initial raid on Wilda’s home. However, their romance lacked a certain depth and what should have been the continuing, deepening connection between them was sometimes a little hard to see. This issue probably had something to do with the other problem I had with this story. While it made sense due to hero and heroine speaking different languages, this book did rely heavily on narrative. Sometimes it works because the author does a good job of painting pictures with her words. However, by the end of the book, I found myself wishing one or the other of the leads could be a better student of languages so that we could have some more dialogue.
Still, even with these quibbles, I enjoyed The Viking’s Sacrifice overall. If you cannot handle scenes of cruelty to people or animals, this may not be the book for you because the author does bring the era – and some of its brutality – to life. However, if you’re looking for something a little different in your historical reading, you may want to give this one a try.