Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Golden Wolf by Linnea Hartsuyker concludes her epic trilogy of 9th-century Norway

With expertly described settings spanning late-ninth-century Norway, Iceland, and the Orkney Islands, this satisfying finale to Hartsuyker’s Golden Wolf trilogy, following The Sea Queen (2018), expands into the next generation.

After a mistake results in a man’s killing, trouble erupts, tangling Ragnvald of Sogn and his family in a lengthy conflict. With the goal of uniting Norway, Ragnvald has fought King Harald’s battles for years and feels the cost of his continued loyalty, and both have many sons seeking their own alliances and kingdoms.

Hartsuyker again displays skill at evoking the complexities of human relationships and the different facets of masculine and feminine strength. Unlike her adventurous mother, the sea-queen Svanhild, Freydis Solvisdatter is a gentle spirit. She endures hardships after a Norse warrior claims her, and Svanhild, one of Harald’s wives, faces tough choices herself. Gyda of Hordaland, Harald’s long-betrothed bride, is another intelligent, admirable woman.

The number of characters and subplots threaten to affect the novel’s cohesion initially, but Hartsuyker’s smart storytelling soon takes over as the threads overlap and come together in a fitting conclusion.

The Golden Wolf was published by Harper in August, and I'd reviewed it for Booklist in July, so this review is long overdue to appear here. I was fortunate to be sent the entire trilogy to review. The novels came out a year apart: The Half-Drowned King (2017), The Sea Queen (2018), and now this final concluding volume. All are definitely recommended; they're well balanced between male and female viewpoints and are not just for fans of historical adventure. I'd wanted to read the trilogy ever since I read about the original book deal, and I can't wait to see what subject Hartsuyker turns to next.

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