• By Raegen Luntz
  • Posted Saturday, August 1, 2020

Books We Like

About a year ago I ran across a television series at the library that I kept picking up and putting back down again. I noticed it every time it was returned in our book drop or on display, but I continued to leave it for someone else to find. And then one morning a colleague came in raving on and on about how intriguing and captivating the series was. It was fate. I couldn’t put it off any longer. I just had to find out why this series kept piquing my interest. I am so glad I did. The show is BBC/Netflix’s “The Last Kingdom” and after watching it I’ve become obsessed with Nordic history, mythology, and conquests. I find myself reading, researching, and discussing this time in history with others from all over the world who also share a love of the Dark Ages. Naturally, my reading habits have also shifted to include my newfound passion. I’d like to share a few of my favorites.

“Itchy, Scritchy, Scratchy Pants!” by Steve Smallman -- Five hilarious Vikings are in need of new underpants thanks to a snowstorm, but alas the Knitted Undies store is all sold out. What’s a Viking to do? Sounds like a quest is in order to find more wool to make new undies, but perhaps they get more than they bargained for in the end. My sons loved this one, especially before bedtime.

“Sky in the Deep” by Adrienne Young -- Riveting! I read and then listened to this debut when it was first released. I was completely enthralled both times. The companion book, “The Girl the Sea Gave Back,” was released this past fall and was just as mesmerizing.

An ancient blood feud between the Aska and Riki clans requires that they go to war every five years at the behest of their gods. Death and battle are all that 17-year old Eelyn has ever known, until the day she sees her brother, Iri, fighting with the Riki--her brother who has been dead these past five years. Wounded by betrayal and blade, Eelyn is taken captive and enslaved by the Riki. Determined to save herself and regain her honor, Eelyn has to first survive the harsh winter with her enemy and now that enemy includes her brother. At its center “Sky in the Deep” is a tale of love, forgiveness, and, most importantly, righting past wrongs. Brutal and yet beautiful, the author sucks you into this world with her captivating prose, complicated characters, and visceral emotions. I know this is a story that I will read again and again.

“Wolfskin: Saga of the Light Isles” by Juliet Marillier -- Ms. Marillier is one of my favorite authors. She is a master storyteller of folklore and magic. I pretty much read everything she writes because I know she’ll craft a world that I long to escape to.

Oaths and honor are put to the test as two blood brothers find themselves on opposing paths. Young Eyvind has only ever wanted to be an elite Wolfskin (Víkingr or Viking), and serve his gods and chieftain. When he is given the opportunity to train and gain reputation, Eyvind meets Somerled, the chieftain’s brooding brother. Eyvind is tasked with training Somerled and over time the two become bonded, swearing lifelong loyalty to each other. When the friends are selected to accompany their lord on an expedition to the peaceful Light Islands of Orkney, suspicion of Somerled’s dark ambition to become a king by any means necessary starts to haunt Eyvind. With the aid of a young local priestess, Eyvind finds himself on a difficult path to choose between his oath and reputation, which is everything to a Wolfskin, or his sense of honor. This enthralling tale expertly captures the heart of the Dark Ages and a man’s brutal struggle to find his own path.

“The Last Kingdom: The Saxon stories” by Bernard Cornwell -- At last, the reason for my Nordic obsession. I quickly discovered after starting the show that it was based on this book series by international bestselling author Bernard Cornwell. Naturally, I had to discover if the book lived up to the standard of the show, and of course, it is even better. The intrigues and adventures will come to a glorious end with the release of the 13th and final book, “War Lord,” out this fall.

Long ago, England was not the united land that we know today. It was a fractured, quarrelsome island of four kingdoms (Northumbria, East Anglia, Mercia, and Wessex) who would eventually unite to fight a common enemy, the Great Heathen Army. The ninth-century was the start of the tumultuous period in which the Danes and Northmen went a-víking to capture the coveted British Isles. Ten-year-old Uhtred, a Northumbrian and nobleman’s son, is taken hostage and later adopted by warlord Ragnar the Fearless. Raised to be a warrior and loved by his adopted family, Uhtred is torn between his new life and his desire to reclaim his birthright, Bebbanburg (Bamburgh Castle). After a heartbreaking betrayal, Uhtred finds destiny leading him further and further away from his birthright and into the service of King Alfred of Wessex (Alfred the Great). Uhtred’s and King Alfred’s relationship is complicated at best, but they both recognize that neither will achieve his goal without the other. Cornwell’s ingenious mixture of history, battles, humor, and intrigue will keep you on the edge of your seat and begging for more. Wyrd bið ful ãræd - Destiny is all.

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