The English countryside in the haying month was a sight to lift the downhearted. Gentle winds brushed the tall grasses of cultivated fields and wild marshlands, rippling them with sea-like waves of green. The darker hues of oak and beech on the rolling landscape gave balance in color and form, while winding rivers and brooks curved round hillock and knoll. Silence ruled, save for birdsong and the clop of the horses’ hooves.
– The Dane Law (Locations 535-538)
From Amazon: After a peaceful year running their Frisian estate, Harald and Selia are called to Engla-lond.
Their return is marked by violence and intrigue. The king has vowed to Queen Emma that their son, Harthacnute, will inherit the throne, but the atheling is cruel and reckless. Many view Harald as the better choice, which makes him a target for the unseen supporters of his half-brother. King Cnute urges Harald to be prepared to assume the throne should Harthacnute prove inadequate. Harald resists being swept up by forces beyond his control, but doubts he will survive the reign of King Hartha.
And what of his older brother, Sweyn?
I was apprehensive when I was asked to review this book. I wasn’t sure that the historical language would work, because generally speaking using historical language (spelling and pronunciation) can be a shit-show. And then to find out that this is also a first person narrative. Pettersen blended the historical languages, formal English and antiquated spellings to perfection in this book. I was impressed and the historian in me was simply giddy. Moreover, the language became a character in itself. It helped to set tone, scene and shaped the world that the characters were moving around in so beautifully.
“The cry of a bearn took him from his thoughts. A man who could have been retainer or ceorl or both, approached with the fretting child. The father bounced and patted the lytling, trying to calm her.” (Locations 2338-2340)
“Pearce was unused to losing in clashes with weapons, even if the weapons were fists. Days later, his face still gave him distress, his nose had swollen and his eyes blackened. A good disguise, he thought.” (Locations 3720-3722)
The writing for this book, in addition to the use of language, was flawless and easy to read. I thought that the book might be cumbersome, or difficult to follow, especially as I had not read the first book in the series but I was mistaken. The easy writing style and pace of the plot made this a true page-turner. I struggled to put it down. This is a hefty book but I honestly didn’t feel like it dragged me along.
A big bonus for this book is that I never once felt that I was missing information that might have been contained in the first installment of the series. This often happens to me. Authors want a review their most recent book, which is part of a series, but they write as if the reader absolutely knows what happened in the previous installment. This was not the case here and I appreciate that.
I would highly recommend this read to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, easily. The story is not something unique, as the time period lends itself to betrayal, power-grabs, deception and war. It all about how the story is told. I knew a little about the period covered in the book, so this was also a lovely mission of discovery, where I took the time to research the period, events, conflicts, people and place as I read the book. Other readers may not want to do this but if you are like me and need to know as much as possible, this was a really fun exercise.
I can’t remember the last time I read a book where I actually used the glossary and map in the preface. It truly felt like an adventure. I’m looking forward to reading more installments in this series and maybe back-tracking and read the first book.
My rating: 4/5
The Dane Law is available on Amazon.
This review was requested by the author.