Untamed continues Helen Kirkman’s Warriors of the Dragon Banner series. These men serve King Alfred, King of Wessex and the lone English kingdom to hold out against the Viking invasions. Untamed explores issues of family estrangements, loyalties and what binds us to another person. Kirkman also adds an element of mysticism to the series as the leads feel a psychic connection to each other.
Aurinia has dreamed of a dark warrior for weeks now. She sees him in his daily life, as he battles the Vikings, and sees glimpses of their future together making love. Mascen has had the same dreams as well, dreams of a beautiful healer hidden away from the world. After a skirmish with the Vikings, Mascen carries a wounded boy off the field, knowing he must find the healer. He feels his way toward her, through the mystical defenses of Wytch Heath that surrounds her keep. No one has made it through before, and Mascen’s arrival has a feeling of inevitability to it. The wounded boy turns out to be Bertred, Aurinia’s cousin, who brings the news that Aurinia’s father died in the battle.
Aurinia’s mother was also a great healer, but was repudiated by her husband, frightened by the whispers of “witch” that surrounded her and banished to the abandoned hall where Aurinia was born. Aurinia has been completely alone since her mother died five years ago, save for a faithful retainer. She is lonely, has had no contact with the outside world, and is terrified of leaving her safe isolation. But leave she must, for two Vikings followed Mascen through Wytch Heath, and while he managed to dispatch them, more will soon arrive. Mascen feels a possessive connection to Aurinia; she has been a part of his dreams for weeks and now that he has found her, he cannot let her go. He must take her to safety – a safety which will include marriage.
They go to Aurinia’s father’s hall, now the inheritance of Bertred, and transformed into an army camp from which Alfred is engaging the Vikings. The Vikings aren’t the only obstacles Aurinia and Mascen face; whispers about Aurinia’s abilities abound, and Mascen has his own familial issues. Mascen’s family is descended from the Roman Britons. His father opposes Mascen’s alliance with the Saxon Alfred and there are new rumors that his father has joined the Vikings against Alfred.
Untamed had a wonderful sense of place, and an atmosphere of peril. Alfred’s lone kingdom and few men face almost insurmountable odds against the Vikings and the feeling of balancing on the edge of survival is well done here.
The relationship between Aurinia and Mascen is very sensual and while Kirkman’s language does at times border on Purple Prose, it doesn’t quite cross over. Kirkman’s style leans more heavily on the narrative end of the spectrum, rather than dialogue. Much of Aurinia and Mascen’s dialogue is internal conversation with themselves and each other, leaving their actions to speak louder than their words. While this fits in with the psychic connection motif, I, personally, would have liked to have had more words. However, the ending of the book is very romantic – there is lots of talk and enough words to satisfy anyone and I have since reread that closing scene twice.
This is a very good series. If you are looking for historicals with a different setting, meaty conflicts and sensual relationships, I highly recommend this one. Untamed is the fourth book in the series and all received good grades from AAR reviewers. I consider these books to be real buried treasures.