According to this story, based on fact, things got pretty hot in Iceland in the tenth and eleventh centuries. A harsh land and hard heroes make a grim story as swords, bows and axes are wielded in a series of engagements that make our Hatfield/McCoy feuds pallid by comparison. Njal the Wise said ""With laws shall our land be built up, but with lawlessness laid waste."" This prediction comes true, inevitably, when stubborn pride and battle-oriented, blood-thirsty clans struggle to save face by seeking revenge with a vengeance. The book deals with the special heroes of the day: Gunnar, seemingly indestructible, who failed to heed the advice of Njal, preferring to solve his problems with brutal simplicity; Skarp-Hedin, son of Njal, who inherits Gunnar's reputation; Kari ""who never forgot friend or forgave an enemy."" It also deals with the odd code of justice prevalent at the time and the unique structure of the courts. As a result of his son's pride, Njal dies a martyr's death along with the rest of the family. The Icelanders found the way- not the why of his death particularly barbaric (the reader will too) and a legend was born.