A Minnesota boy with a Scandinavian heritage has vibrant dreams of becoming a Viking in this debut novel.
When Sigurd is born, his parents recognize immediately that there is something special about him. He opens his “beautiful luminous eyes” and cries out “in celebration of his arrival in the world.” Growing older, he displays a precocious sense of empathy toward others, and an almost seerlike awareness of life around him. As a young scholar, he begins to experience intensely vivid dreams in which he is a Viking living in 10th-century Scandinavia. He bonds with Ole Magnusson, a wise explorer, cartographer, merchant, and shipwright. Sigurd joins Ole and his crew on a series of voyages that include charting the west coast of Britain, sailing to Normandy, meeting with a Buddhist monk, and arriving in Constantinople. Meanwhile, in his waking life, Sigurd shows signs of developing into a dazzlingly talented student, gaining acceptance to the University of California at Berkeley, where he plans to focus on Scandinavian studies. But he cannot hide his astonishment when he discovers how his dream world and reality intersect. This short novel is an imaginative and charming amalgam of Viking history and New-Age spirituality. There is a specific focus on mindfulness and the journey of inner discovery. Pearson’s writing displays a captivating simplicity, tranquility, and sense of contemplation, exemplified by the Buddhist monk’s quiet counseling of Sigurd: “Examine your desires, make sure that they come from your heart and not your mind….An open heart can see through delusion, allow yourself to see things as they truly are.” The major disappointment is that the tale feels heavily underdeveloped. The author has a frustrating tendency to gloss over events—for instance, Sigurd heads to Norway, but this odyssey is described in a matter of lines, and by the end of the paragraph, he has returned to California. There is a prevailing sense that Pearson is creating a sketch, albeit an accomplished one, rather than an elaborate portrait. Still, there are some tantalizing ideas here—unfortunately, they require considerable expansion.
A far-reaching and profound but all-too-brief Viking tale.