Hermannson’s historical fantasy sees a young warrior seduced toward adventure by the promise of treasure.
In Saxon Germany in the year 109, a band of youths trap a giant white aurochs (a type of cattle) in a cave. Then 15-year-old Sunu arrives and mounts the aurochs before it charges off into the village. During the wild, destructive ride, Sunu manages to subdue the animal, killing it with nothing but his bare fists. Villagers shower the young man with adulation, and he derives great personal pride from the accomplishment. Later, after some sport with his fellow hunters, Sunu hears a voice in his head say, “You are better than this life.” He then determines that the Saxons should possess and display great wealth, so that other tribes, such as the Marcomanns, will fear and respect them. Then he sees a rainbow leading to Thunor’s Grove. He follows his goat, Blicsmo, into the area and encounters a glowing white mare that speaks with him telepathically, introducing herself as Runa (a word meaning “mystery”). He also finds a golden brooch on the beach that looks like a wheel—a fortunate event that reinforces his hope to become “the most powerful man in the world!” The next day, Runa carries Sunu on a series of heroic adventures, using the rainbow bridge (called the “Bifröst”) to appear wherever injustice rears its head. In many cases, however, the young champion is distracted by the very same spoils that have inspired oppression throughout the Roman Empire.
Hermannson offers a cautionary tale, set against the backdrop of Roman emperor Trajan’s systematic corruption; after Sunu saves a family in Bohemia from abusive soldiers, he’s shocked to learn that the local king strong-arms people to pay rent and taxes. But glory and its beautiful accoutrements quickly go to Sunu’s head; at one point, for example, he assures King Riki of the Southwest Swabians, “If I told you everything I did today, the last thing you would doubt is my significance.” Readers will be intrigued by the parallels between the god Thunor (aka Thor) and Hercules, as explained in the line, “They also have a heavenly father and an earthly mother, who produced a quick-tempered, far-traveling son who can out-eat and out-drink anyone in the cosmos!” The resulting commentary declares that those with faith have more in common than not. Hermannson will draw in action fans with a scene in which Sunu raises an army of 312 retainers to rescue three sisters from Colonia Agrippinensium. There’s also an engaging secondary character in the warrior Keresaspa, who sees through Sunu’s callow attempts to woo her. Throughout, the author makes sure to focus on his primary theme: that material gains can frequently be detrimental to familial bonds. Sunu’s character arc, while epic in scope, is charming and fun; Runa often brings the hero back to Earth with lines such as, “This guy is hopeless.” The hero learns much through experience, however, and further exploits would be welcome.
An enjoyable, well-researched historical adventure.