cover image The Sea Queen

The Sea Queen

Linnea Hartsuyker. Harper, $27.99 (464p) ISBN 978-0-06-256373-6

Hartsuyker’s second volume in her trilogy (after The Half-Drowned King) continues the saga of Ragnvald Eysteinsson, set in ninth-century Norway, a turbulent period of bloody unrest. Ragnvald is one of Norway’s collection of minor kings. He is loyal to King Harald, who owns the most land and wants to unite all Norway under his rule, but the rivalries of rebellious petty kings and the threat of Swedish invasion could mean all-out war, and he needs Ragnvald’s help. Their greatest enemies are Solvi and King Hakon; their greatest ally is Svanhild the Sea Queen, Ragnvald’s sister and Solvi’s estranged wife. Amid Norway’s shifting warlord loyalties, Ragnvald and Harald are cruel manipulators, but Svanhild proves that Norse women can be just as vicious and cunning as Norse men. Blood oaths, feuds, insults to honor, betrayals, and greed fuel the story’s instances of torture and murder, and the Norsemen are merciless in punishment. Though overlong, this is an ambitious tale of Norwegian medieval warfare told in richly colorful and accurate historical detail. Hartsuyker’s novel reveals just how tenuous life is when disputes are settled with sword and battle-axe. (Aug.)