cover image Kings of the North

Kings of the North

Cecelia Holland, Forge, $27.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-7653-2192-3

Raef Corbanson and his companions return to England in this Viking-era sequel to The High City. England is going through tumultuous times as power struggles first put Ethelred the Unready on the throne, then Sweyn Forkbeard, and a raging civil war follows between Ethelred's son, Edmund, and Sweyn's son, Knut. Raef has his work cut out for him: be a good foster father to Knut; struggle with his daughter, Gemma; and face his fear of the Lady of Hedeby. While Holland's novels are always immersive and set in chaotic times rife with drama, unfortunately, once again, Raef is a hopeless protagonist, too passive and far from the action. His mysterious spiritual powers destroy any dramatic tension because he can foretell the future and also mysteriously defeat his opponents. The characters around him, however, particularly hottempered Knut, are fantastic. Readers of Holland's last works will be a little confused and may finally be frustrated, assuming they have any investment in Raef as a character at all. (July)