cover image Runestone


Don Coldsmith / Author, Don Goldsmith / Author Bantam Books $2

In an epic novel that, with its emphasis on the Plains Indians of the 11th century, can be considered a prequel to his popular Spanish Bit Saga novels (see Child of the Dead, reviewed below), Coldsmith provides a gripping and imaginative account of the earliest days of the Norse exploration of North America. At the same time, he offers an enjoyable examination of the very contemporary issue of cultural diversity. Nils Thorsson, commander of the ship Snowbird, survives an attack by Indians along the St. Lawrence River; the only other survivors are Nils's steersman, Svenson, and an Indian who had joined their band after escaping an enemy tribe that had gouged out one of his eyes. Jeeringly nicknamed after the Norsemen's one-eyed, supreme god, ``Odin'' has been regarded by the Norse as subhuman, an ignorant barbarian. But Nils and Svenson grudgingly change their opinion as Odin leads them inland, away from their pursuers and to his village. There the two foreigners find themselves in a civilization far different from their own, yet with its own extraordinary attributes. Finally managing to arrange a voyage that he hopes will take him back home, Nils leaves Odin's people only to discover, after great danger, that his heart belongs to his adopted civilization and the family he has established there. Coldsmith weaves a wealth of fascinating historical detail into his narrative, deftly re-creating a long-ago world enlivened by believable characters, realistic (and often witty) dialogue, vivid prose and nonstop action. (Mar.)