Michael Cadnum, Author . Scholastic/Orchard $17.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-439-35224-6

Although readers will enjoy the sensation of being swept to another time and place in this thrill-a-minute historical drama, they may have trouble staying on course as Cadnum (In a Dark Wood; The Book of the Lion) leads them through ancient Nordic coastal villages. Clunkily weaving together two stories—that of Hallgerd, a rich jarl's daughter kidnapped by Danes, and that of fellow villager and bear hunter, Gauk—the author introduces an onslaught of minor characters and events. It is clear that the paths of the young heroine and hero are destined to cross, but the plot's continually shifting focus grows burdensome. Adventure buffs may be enthralled by some action-packed scenes (e.g., Gauk kills his first bear; Hallgerd makes a daring escape from her captors). However, the plot seems to advance from one scene of bloodshed to the next, and these become almost run-of-the mill. While it sheds light on Nordic customs, rituals, beliefs and the value placed on heroism and loyalty, the narrative lacks the humor and multidimensional characterizations that the author's fans have come to expect. Ages 12-up. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 07/14/2003
Release date: 08/01/2003
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