In 799 A.D. Viking warband leader Asgrim Wood-Nose sails his prized longship Sea Eel south along the coast of Frankia to raid the island of Noirmoutier—the Black Monastery.
Banned from his homeland following a night of rage-filled murder, Asgrim has been declared outlaw. Unless he can raise a princely blood debt, he will never see Denmark again. When a Saracen merchant brags of a great treasure hidden deep within the monastery, Asgrim realizes fate is offering him a chance to go home again. But Asgrim has led his men into a trap: somehow, the monks of the Black Monastery have released a dark supernatural force, an eastern demon that wears the skins of its victims. Hunted by this monstrous evil and tormented by the ghosts of those he has slain, Asgrim’s only ally becomes another lonely soul, a Frankish woman abandoned by her people under suspicion of witchcraft.
The Viking north clashes with the supernatural east in an epic historical fantasy tale of heroism and redemption in the face of unimaginable horror.
I was really taken by the main protagonists in this novel, each of them are damaged in some way, both emotionally and physically, but by working with and caring for each other they are able to begin to repair their wounds in the most unexpected of ways. Set in Viking times, I found the characters to be believable as far as my knowledge of these people went, but there were some aspects of them that didn’t ring true; gone were the hard living, hard fighting characters I had learnt about in history lessons to be replaced by a softer, more political correct Viking that I wasn’t particularly fond of. However, through a skilful use of words and phrases the Author has you right there next to the main character travelling with him on his journey of growth and self-realisation. What detail the Author did include in his main characters that immersed the readers into their lives totally was, unfortunately, not extended some of the lesser characters in the book and these had a tendency to feel a little one-dimensional to me.
I enjoyed the plot of the novel, and the horror aspects of this book were very well written, especially the ‘Vikings’ reaction to things they knew nothing about and attributed to their Gods. Descriptively the Author sets a chilling aura over the pages as the novel progresses, and this seeps into the reader affecting their ability to concentrate on what is happening. I’m not sure if this was an intentional move on this Author’s part, but if it was it worked well to jolt the reader into action and attention when the plot picks up, as if they were actually involved in the plot. Most times however, this inability to concentrate for me was due to the fact I felt at times the plot was going nowhere.
I did enjoy this novel despite some issues, such as the naming of the characters. I’m not sure if the ‘Vikings’ in this novel were supposed to be Danes, Norwegians or Swedes; such was the nature of the naming protocol used. I feel that if a little more research had been done into this, or the book had been looked at by an editor with some knowledge in this area the rating I gave would have been higher.
If you like a good historical novel with a touch of horror, I recommend this book to you.