Intriguing alternate-world yarn set in England during the turbulent ninth century, from the veteran author of the Stainless Steel Rat series, etc. King Ella, having deposed Osbert, now rules Northumbria--but his rule is swiftly challenged by invading Vikings, while the Christian Church absorbs all wealth and destroys any who dares oppose it. King Edmund of East Anglia is soon defeated and killed by Vikings led by the avenging sons of Ragnar (he was a mighty Viking jarl tortured to death by Ella), who have sworn to conquer all England. Fleeing from the battle is Shef, a young, despised smith, bearing a blade he has forged himself, and upon which Viking swords break. Seeing no future with the broken East Anglians, Shef joins the Viking encampment, where he discovers practitioners of the Way--a civilized version of the old Norse religion eager for new ideas and offering freedom of worship. Shef sides with the mighty warrior Brand, whose allies of the Way intend to dispute the leadership of the Vikings with the Ragnarssons. An inventive genius, Shef rediscovers ancient Roman war-machines and develops some new ones of his own. To supplement the Viking battle-fury, he invents new tactics based on stealth, misdirection, and cunning, and uses untrained but keen and biddable Saxons to man his machines. Finally, the Church appeals to Rome for help, and stirs up the kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex to battle Shef. Shef maneuvers the Mercians, however, into fighting the Ragnarssons, while Alfred of Wessex sides with Shef. But then Rome sends a great force of Franks across the Channel to expunge Shef's hybrid armies and whip Alfred into line. Fascinating sinewy, brutal, and fine--and never mind the sometimes wobbly plot and rather thin characters: few historicals are as powerfully evocative of time and place as Harrison's tremendous saga.