cover image Shield Maiden

Shield Maiden

Sharon Emmerichs. Redhook, $18.99 trade paper (452p) ISBN 978-0-316-56691-9

Emmerichs’s thrilling debut picks up where Beowulf leaves off, turning the focus onto a young female niece of the epic’s hero. In 987 CE Geatland (modern-day Sweden), 13-year-old Fryda tries to convince her disapproving father, Weohstan, Lord of Eceweall, that she is ready to be a shield maiden—even after a fall down a crevasse during an earthquake leaves her with a shattered hand. Never losing her resolve, Fryda trains in the ways of the warrior in secret, in the process uncovering superhuman strength and ability. This talent stems from a mysterious link between her and the dragon Frýdraca, who has a long and bloody relationship with Beowulf’s bloodline but who is kept at bay by the Lone Survivor’s Curse that keeps her entombed in nightmares. When Fryda is 20, the clans gather to celebrate Beowulf’s 50th anniversary as king, leading to tense political machinations—including a kidnapping attempt against Fryda. As schemes and betrayals are revealed and Fryda finds forbidden love with Theow, a Celt enslaved by her father, Frýdraca begins to wake from her cursed slumber. Emmerichs’s plotting is commendably complex, and, after a slow start, exciting twists keep the pages turning. Fryda is admirably witty and resourceful and the dash of romance adds appeal. This should win Emmerichs many fans. Agent: Kristina Pérez, Zeno Literary. (Oct.)