Debut author Marshall offers a historical novel set during the time of Alfred the Great, the Anglo-Saxon king of Wessex in the late 9th century.
When a group of Vikings aims to lay siege to the village of Gains in what is now present-day Lincolnshire, England, it seems like a great pillage is about to take place. After all, the Vikings are fearless warriors of Odin, and what chance does a settlement have against such men of violence? As it turns out, the villagers manage to stage quite a routing. With the aid of a boy named Herd, who commands his dogs to harass the intruders, the townsfolk ultimately defeat the Norsemen with arrows and eggs filled with quicklime. As the Vikings fearfully flee back to their homeland, the victors back in England celebrate. A Welsh monk brings the news that King Alfred will soon be coming to the village to speak with the leader of Gains, AEthelred. Marshall goes on to weave a plot that includes King Alfred’s wedding and the rule of Viking king Harrad Bluetooth, shedding light on an oft-neglected period of European history. He frequently provides information on unfamiliar words, such as “Holliwells is Lincolnshire for a ‘holy wells,’ ” and details, such as an explanation of the process for turning goose eggs into weapons. However, the book’s bizarre penchant for question marks and awkward phrases (“Within any tribe, there’s only an infinite number of warrior class, from the group?”) makes for difficult reading. The author is clearly passionate about the period (“Historians force-feed students to believe Lincolnshire, was overrun by Vikings. Not so, both our folklore and the Viking Sagas, tell a different tale”), but that passion often translates into peculiar prose.
An often muddled take on an intriguing era of clashing cultures.