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79 of 85 people found the following review helpful
on September 29, 2006
"In one moment the Norns changed the pattern they were weaving in the fabric of my fate."

From the first line of Viking Warrior, Book One of the Strongbow Saga, I was drawn into the story of Halfdan, a fifteen-year-old boy who starts life as a slave but soon must meet the challenges of becoming a warrior. Set in the world of the 9th century Danish Vikings, Halfdan's life story is changed radically when his mother offers to sacrifice her own life so he can become a free man.

As the illegitimate son of a captured Irish princess and a Viking chieftain, Halfdan labors as a thrall, or slave, in his father's household. His only escape is into the woods he loves, where he masters the use of a bow and arrow. Whenever possible, he works for the estate metalsmith, becoming skilled at creating fine weapons out of molten iron.

When his father, Hrorick, is mortally wounded in battle, the Norns, or fates, weave Halfdan's life in a new direction. His half-brother, Harald, and half-sister, Sigrid, are forced to acknowledge him when his dying father makes him a free man. In exchange, his mother is sacrificed and buried beside the father that Halfdan has despised.

After his mother's death, Halfdan struggles to adjust to wearing fine clothes, dining at the head table in the longhouse, and accepting his new status as master instead of slave. Harald trains Halfdan in battle arts. Soon Halfdan has mastered the use of a sword and shield. He proves himself superior to his brother in the skill of archery.

Halfdan is thrilled to learn he has inherited lands of his own from Hrorick. But before he can claim his inheritance, he must survive the treachery and deceit of Hrorick's stepson, Toke. In the heat of battle, Halfdan faces danger and death, and discovers the hidden depths of his own warrior spirit.

Viking Warrior is a page-turner. Once I started reading the book, I was hooked and found it difficult to stop. There's something for everyone here: history, mystery, action, danger, and even a little romance. Historical details give the book depth and a sense of immediacy that draws you into the story from page one. More books are promised in the series, but this book comes to a satisfying stopping place in what one hopes will be a continuing saga of Halfdan's adventures.

Readers should be warned that the book doesn't wince away from describing the heat and fury of combat. Parents of readers under 12 may want to read the book along with their children. Halfdan lives in a violent world, but nothing is gratuitous. Every detail moves the story along at a fast clip.

Viking Warrior is a gripping story for young and old alike, and will appeal to male and female readers alike. Teachers will definitely want to include this on a reading list for any study of Viking history. It left me wanting to know more about the Vikings, so I was happy to find that the author has set up a website, [...], where you can find interesting articles, bibliographies for further reading, and links to websites.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Judson Roberts has in this book started a historical series well worth reading, first and foremost because it's an enjoyable read but also because he takes the reader inside Viking society and culture as it existed in real history rather than in the inaccurate portrayal we are familiar with from the movies.

The characters are complex and well-drawn, and Roberts does not flinch from setting the stakes high for them or from killing off characters that you come to care about. I thought he was particularly good at showing Halfdan, the story's narrator and main character, himself has to reassess what he thinks of people as events bring sudden changes to his life, realizing that what he once perceived things was not necessarily the whole picture. His thinking is forced to change, sometimes in very difficult ways, as when at fifteen his situation abruptly evolves from that of a mere thrall (slave), to that of not only a free man but an acknowledged son of a Viking chieftan, and then all to soon to that of a fugitive fighting for his life. A passage towards the end provides a good example:

"Though my heart protested, in my mind I knew Einar's counsel was wise. It was ironic. I'd often dreamed, as a thrall, of crossing the seas as a Viking raider. I'd dreamed of it as a path to adventure and glory. Now, it seemed, it was to be my path to vengeance. I wondered how long a journey it would be."

Roberts does a very good job of taking his time to develop the characters as real people and to show what Viking life was really like, particularly in how they viewed themselves and the rest of the world. But at the same time the action parts of the novel, particularly when Halfdan and his brother Harald and their companions come under attack and later as Halfdan must survive on his own, are very compelling and draw the reader completely into the struggle.

The only reason I do not rate this as five-stars instead of four is that, while Roberts does a very good job in taking the reader into the heart of Viking times and culture, it is not quite on the level I have seen achieved by writers like Bernard Cornwell and Patrick O'Brien. This in no way detracts from the merits of the book as a read, however, and I do recommend it for anyone interested in that period of history and for anyone who just enjoys a good read. I very much look forward to reading the next volume in the series.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on August 14, 2006
At first this book was hard to get into for me because I am use to modern language, but after the first two chapters the intensity of the building situation involving the main character's mother drew me in. Soon I didn't even notice and the book was so good I couldn't put it down. There are only a few books that I have finished in a time span of two days (Harry Potter book 6 being one of them) but this one managed to make the list. With a wonderful historic setting this book creates the illusion of Denmark A.D. 845 so vividly you'd swear it were real. My only problem with the book is it is the first in a series and since it only just came out, it will be a while before I am able to read the next one. I will tell you it is not a cliffhanger ending so you will not die of anticipation. Other than that I loved the book.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
When the Vikings raided Ireland, they captured several women including Princess Derdrui, whom like all the prisoners was made a slave. Danish Chieftain Hrorik Strong-Axe took his needs with Derdrui leaving her pregant. She gives birth to Halfdan, but because his mother is a slave and his father refuses to free him, the lad is raised as a slave too.

Over the years Halfdan dreamed of becoming a warrior like his dad, but only a free man learns to truly use weapons. When he was fifteen, the Saxons invaded and killed Hrorik. Derdrui wanting her son to live free strikes a bargain with Hrorik as he is dying; she would accompany him on his death ship provided that he frees Halfdan. The clan leader agrees making his second offspring a free man.

Already quite proficent with some weaponry especially for a slave, Halfdan undergoes rigorous training beyond that seen by anyone but may not be enough to persuade the clan, especially his half-brother Harald ,that a former slave can truly become a free warrior. Still in spite of the skeptics and his grief over his mother's sacrifice, Halfdan puts his heart into achieving his goal of acceptance as a free warrior.

The first Strongbow Saga tale, VIKING WARRIOR, is a vivid look at the Viking culture during the Dark Ages through the efforts of a teen to become an accepted warrior. The story line is extremely graphic not trying to dumb down or hide abuses from the targeted audience, high school teens. Thus historical fiction readers of all ages will appreciate this deep look at a bygone way of life in which the flow of blood is the norm.

Harriet Klausner
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on June 12, 2012
When I read any book, I appreciate it for the craftsmanship that went into creating it, along with the story itself. In that regard, it's a good book. But I had a lot of trouble clicking with the main character.

If you've read the blurb/reviews/description, you'll already know that Viking Warrior (book 1 of The Strongbow Saga) is an work of historical fiction - set in the times when Vikings plundered the coast of Britain & Ireland taking slaves and riches home to their longhouses. The main character, Halfdan, tells the story in past tense. It's his journey from the bastard son/slave of a Viking chieftain to a freeman and warrior. Nice concept, reasonably well written.

But...

Maybe I'm spoiled for choice, but I found many of the characters lacked that personal touch. Not sure how to explain it... there were too few descriptions about raised eyebrows and facial expression that help to bring a character to life. I think the author may have gotten a little lost in the side stories too. There were long detailed descriptions of battles across the seas's and his mothers background story. I love a little background detail...but it detracted from Halfdan's story, from his point of view.

It was a little impersonal for my liking - for example, at one point, Halfdan's mother tells us how she came to live in this distant, heathen land....but I didn't pick up on the emotion. There were no hands shaking with nerves or distant looks as she envisioned scenes from long ago or sad smiles for her son during that story. Just the facts and Halfdan's shocked reception of them.

I wanted to know more about the land itself too - I wanted descriptions about the sounds and scents of the forrest, about how the smell of cooking venison made tummies rumble & mouths salivate, about the feel of warm summer winds in the sails or sea spray in the hair. I don't even remember what colour the water of the fjord is.

Maybe I'm being unfair. I wanted more history in my historical fiction.... I wanted to come away knowing more about the culture and way of life. Religious beliefs and customs were skimmed over - mentioned but not really explained.

On a brighter note...

It's not all bad. It's an interesting read in it's own right (I'm probably comparing it to some others I've read recently). There's plenty of bloodshed. There's a hint of romance. For the younger readers, it's a great introduction into a fascinating culture - all the facts are there along with the action. In fact, those action/battle scenes are when the author - Judson Roberts - really comes alive. Those are the scenes that have the most page turning, pulling power - those are the pages that are historically detailed and fictionally funtasic..

Overall - I've got to give it three stars. I know I've been a hard arse and this review is a little damning... it's only my opinion! See that button up there ^^^ Right up the top?? Click on it, read your sample and judge for yourself.

Happy reading everyone. xx
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 1, 2009
Simply engrossing, I couldn't put it down, and neither can all my friends whom I have lent the three books to. The story and journey of Halfdan, a young Viking thrall whose life greatly changes with the death of his father, a famous Viking chieftan. If I thought the first book was great, " Viking Warrior", the second book "Dragons from the Sea" was even better, and the third book "The Road to Vengeance" even better than the second!
Wonderful descriptive writing, interesting characters, and an imaginative and engrossing plot. If you like Vikings you don't know what you're missing! I would give all three books 10 stars and wish writers could write as fast as I can read. Quality writing from page one.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 5, 2009
Wow, what a great surprise this book was! I guess the reason it's marketed as a teen book is because the main character is fifteen and there are no graphic sex scenes. Otherwise, this book is every bit as bloody and action packed as anything written by Cornwell or Iggulden. If you like historical fiction based on solid research, don't hesitate to buy Viking Warrior. I couldn't put it down. Judson Roberts is a gifted storyteller; I enjoyed Viking Warrior as much any historical novel I've read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 22, 2011
First and foremost, I really liked this story. I think the author does a really good job as a writer and storyteller, and it seems to be well-edited. I have already bought book 2 of the series, and downloaded it to my Kindle.

This is clearly a book written for males, both adults and young adult. I unashamedly admit I'm a junkie for those sorts of adventure stories. I'm the guy folks write these sorts of stories for. In addition, I have a huge love of historical fiction. This book falls into both categories, so I'll enjoy even mediocre writing.

That said, Mr. Roberts has clearly written a story that is well above mediocre. Like I said, it's well-written, well-told, and well-edited. It's the story of a young slave in Scandinavian culture of 1000 years ago, who rises to warrior status. It's not overly graphic in its violence, and certainly not graphic sexually. I felt it did a really great job of painting a picture of Scandinavian culture of that era that Mr Roberts appears to have researched well, often dispelling popular myths about said culture. It's right up the sweet spot of what I love to read about.

I want to use this as a point of comparison to the Cave Bear series that I struggled with. In my review of those books, I admitted that I was probably not the audience - the author seemed to be aiming at women, and in particular adolescent girls. If someone were addicted to genres that targeted that audience in the same way I'm addicted to adventure stories and historical fiction, they probably overlooked a lot just because the story was written for them.

Mr. Roberts has written these stories for me. If you're not a fan of either historical fiction or adventure stories, you might find many faults that I never noticed - I can't predict that. If you like either of these genres, I think you'd really enjoy this story.

Now, for some additional information. If you read my blog (at NeilHanson dot com) you know I'm a writer who publishes independently. This means I write what I want and publish it myself. It also means I don't have a big publishing house providing lots of marketing muscle to get my book out in the market - I depend on loyal fans who love what I write.

There are pros and cons to traditional publishing (big publishing houses and literary agents) vs the independent route I take. One of the big cons to the traditional route is the control the publishing house has over your life, your career, and what it is you write. I've already pointed out one of the pros to the publishing house route - a big gorilla pushing your book in the marketplace...

That fact is relevant here. In reading Mr Roberts' website, it appears that he had a "deal" with a big publishing house to publish the first 3 books in the series, and an option on the fourth book. After 3 books, they apparently sat on the option - preventing him from publishing it - before finally releasing the option recently. This allows him to now publish the 4th book, and it will be interesting to see whether he publishes it independently or through another contract with a publishing house.

I'd certainly encourage him to go independent. He has a great story and a great brand, and it seems to me he could make a good go of this on his own. Of course, here again, I have a bias toward the independent route, due to the freedom it gives an author from both a business perspective and a creative perspective. As writers, we each must decide whether we want the big sales numbers that a publishing house might bring to the table, or the freedom to give what our core audience wants from us.

The key in this is the core audience - the fan base. As independents, we absolutely survive or perish based on the support we receive from you - our core fan base. If you like what we write, we really depend on you to spread the word, to "like" us on Facebook or Google+, to read and comment on our blog, and to recruit other fans who might buy what we have to offer - or at least read what we write.

I'm a new fan of Mr. Roberts. I'll buy his books, and assuming they stay as good as the first one, I'll try and get others to read his stuff as he publishes more in the series (assuming he does so independently).

Thanks for reading!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2010
Having posted a review on "how can an eBook be out of stock", the author contacted me to explain it had to do with the publishers and should be available shortly. Appreciated the time and effort to explain and from the reviews, it will be worth waiting for Book 1 to start the series on Kindle. Thanks you Judson.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 10, 2008
Halfdan is the son of a captured Saxon Princess and a Viking Chief. Although a love match his mother is officially a slave and so is he. His father acknowledges him on his death bed elevating him suddenly to heir to part of a chiefdom. When the unexpected occurs Halfdan must make his way in the world as a Viking Warrior a feat that he is adept in.

Robert's is knowledgeable of the viking culture and time period. His attention to descriptive details makes the world in which Halfdan is trying survive colorful and realistic. This time period does seem to be fairly violent and that is reflected in the writing. It doesn't seem over done but may be more graphic then some are used too.

It doesn't seem like this book has much "buzz" which is unfortunate because I think those who try it will enjoy it. I think Middle School boys would also like this story. Robert's has just released the 3rd book and I am hoping their will be more books in the future. I would love it anyone could suggest a read-alike for me.
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