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West Oversea: A Norse Saga of Mystery, Adventure and Faith Paperback – May 2, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Nordskog Publishing; 1ST edition (May 2, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0979673682
  • ISBN-13: 978-0979673689
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.4 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,102,980 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Lars Walker, a frequent commenter on this blog, is a novelist of note. He is also a Christian and a Lutheran. His faith comes out loud and clear in his fiction, but, unlike many Christian novelists, he is not preachy or sappy or didactic. With Lars, the Christian themes don t substitute for a good story; rather, they contribute to the good story. Lars specializes in historical fantasy. He is especially interested in Vikings, writing about the ancient Norse seafarers and warriors at the time when they were first getting converted to Christianity (around the year 1000). In addition to all kinds of swordplay, battles, and adventures, his characters are involved in spiritual warfare, as the old heathen magic, lore, and demons array themselves against the followers of Christ. Lars has a new book out, West Oversea, that I enjoyed greatly. Like his earlier Viking novels, Erling s Word and Year of the Warrior, it features the characters of the warlord Erling, a historical figure, whose dedication to doing what is right sometimes gets him into trouble, and Father Aillil, an Irish priest with a vivid personality (who reminds me somewhat of Martin Luther in his self-deprecating but life-affirming faith). This time, they journey to Iceland, then Greenland, then Vinland, a.k.a. America. They connect with the discoverer of that rich but dangerous land, Leif Erikson. (I did not realize that he was a Christian. His father, Erik the Red, was not.) At one point, Father Aillil has a vision of the future that perfectly captures and refutes the particular kinds of Godlessness of both modernism and postmodernism and suggests what might come next. The book is full of fascinating lore, thought-provoking ideas, memorable characters, exciting action, and just good story-telling. I could hardly put the thing down. Gene Edward Veith, Author, The Spirituality of the Cross --Nordskog Publishing's website

West Oversea, by Lars Walker (Noble Novels 2009) has more than its share of magic, and at first, I thought Walker was cheating. Would the Eye of Odin that Father Aillil is asked to dispose of in approximately the Year of Our Lord 1002 become as troublesome a bauble as the Ring of Power that nearly up-ended J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth? Would the blood and iron proper to a Viking saga take a back seat to psychological adventures of the kind written by Ursula K. Le Guin? Might a promising tale shipwreck on the iceberg of "magical realism" where Gabriel Garcia Marquez reclines with the tote bag he got from a pledge drive on National Public Radio? I need not have worried. Without quite rising to "Gates of Fire" levels, Walker delivers the goods. Scandinavian mythology plays an important role in this novel, but like the late Tony Hillerman did for Navajo detectives in the American Southwest, Walker uses otherworldly elements (such as a shape-shifting villain) to shed light on the strengths and weaknesses of his characters, most prominently Father Aillil, the Irish priest who narrates the story, and his friend Erling Skjalgsson, chief man of west Norway. This chronicle of a voyage that ranges from Norway to Iceland, Greenland, and the hitherto-uncharted lands that would later become parts of Canada is set in motion by two things: Erling's unusual willingness to peacefully surrender most of his landholdings to a rival with a stronger (by dint of battle and inheritance) claim, and Fr. Aillil's ardent wish to find and free his enslaved sister Maeve (she's a thrall, actually, but "enthralled" does not have the meaning it once did). Walker adeptly uses several characters to describe the tug-of-war between pagan and Christian (Catholic) impulses throughout Northern Europe in that era. Although West Oversea is part of a series of novels that Walker calls "romances" in the older sense of the term, it can also be enjoyed by people whose only previous exposure to Vikings in fiction comes from the more-determinedly-secular stories of Bernard Cornwell. Some previous exposure to Vikings in literature provides a useful yardstick for measuring how well Walker succeeds as a historical novelist, which in my opinion is well enough to belong to the "A" team, a little shy of Jeff Schaara, but shoulder-to-shoulder with Ellis Peters and her Brother Cadfael boooks. I chuckled at the artistry of one scene where Father Aillil's German bishop mocks the Irish priest's uncertain grasp of ecclesiastical protocol by saying that "It took you Irish long enough to learn the proper date for Easter and how to shave a decent tonsure." In a response that only readers are privileged to hear, Fr. Aillil thinks, "I might have replied that the Irish brought the faith to the Germans, but I thought it wiser to hold my tongue." Per the dictates of medieval hospitality and the rigors of sail-powered travel in the North Atlantic at the turn of the first Christian millenium, Walker's characters spend more of the story ashore than at sea, but he handles geographical and maritime detail as deftly as he handles the finer points of combat in a shield wall. The relationship between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law is a main theme of this novel, and that, too, is handled well, with unforced philosophizing sandwiched between home truths like "A man is known by the greatness of his foes," and "The law is like a sword; it can be well- or ill-balanced."... (N.B: The original version of this post incorrectly referred to William Goldman as a writer of historical fiction, but on reflection, I realize that the novel I had in mind while thinking of him belongs to the fantasy or "alternate history" genre). Posted by Patrick O'Hannigan --Nordskog Publishing's website

FROM THE PUBLISHER Welcome to Nordskog Publishing s inaugural fiction book in a new series of ! As our ongoing series of meaty, tasty, and easily digestible theological offerings continues with excellence, we have pride and joy in now presenting, under the imprint , fiction books that are exciting, thrilling, enjoyable, and fun, and which ring out the admonition of the Apostle Paul in his epistle to think on those things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy. . . . And if you do, the God of peace shall be with you (Philippians 4:8-9). West Oversea is an ideal book to begin our new series. Lars Walker s fiction story is based upon true, historical facts at the turn of the second millennium. Many of the novel s characters are based upon real Vikings, men who were courageous and indeed noble. This story is about my paternal ancestors, the Vikings, during the time of much of Norway s conversion to Christianity, and it is ideal for our initial fiction offering. My great grandparents and grandfather, Andrae (Arne) Nordskog, immigrated from Norway to America (New York) in the late nineteenth century. As a boy, I grew up in our home listening to the famous Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg s (1843-1907) Piano Concerto in A minor (la mineur-a-Moll), The Song of Norway, and I am listening to it now, even as I write this Foreword. My Italian mother, Elinor, used to say regarding my dad, Bob, I ve taken a liking to a Viking. My dad used to relate the old story of how 10,000 Swedes were chased through the weeds by one Norwegian. American historian and my good friend Dr. Marshall Foster (founder-president of The World History Institute) gives us some quick snapshots of the Norwegians - who were traders as well as warriors - in the latter years of the first millennium after Christ s resurrection. Guthrum, the Viking king, took almost all of England by force, but was later defeated in 878 by Alfred the Great (a Christian king of England), who became his godfather and educated him and his leaders in the Christian faith. Erik the Red was a wild Viking who was convicted of murder and exiled first to Iceland and then to Greenland. His son, Leif Eriksson, was sent back to Norway near the end of the tenth century and converted to Christianity. He later returned to Greenland to convert the settlers to Christ, and eventually made a voyage to explore new lands to the west which had previously been seen by other Norsemen. These lands, we now know, were part of North America. Norwegian king Olaf Trygvesson, who died early in the eleventh century, tore down idols in the country and forcibly converted the pagan Norwegians to Christianity. * * * Lars Walker s third novel about the Vikings begins in the year 1001. King Olaf Trygvesson is dead, but his sister s husband, Erling Skjalgsson, carries on his dream of a Christian Norway that preserves its traditional freedoms. Rather than do a dishonorable deed, Erling relinquishes his power and lands. He and his household board ships and sail west to find a new life with Leif Eriksson in Greenland. This voyage, though, will be longer and more dangerous than they ever imagined. It will take them to an unexplored country few Europeans had seen. Demonic forces will pursue them, but the greatest danger of all may be in a dark secret carried by Father Aillil, Erling s Irish priest. You won t want to put this book down. Read on! Tusen Takk, Gerald Christian Nordskog, Easter, 2009 --Nordskog Publishing's website

Review

West Oversea is a gripping Viking saga. Lars Walker understands the unique Norse mindset at the time of the Vikings’ conversion to Christianity and he tells a tale of seafaring adventure and exploration of new worlds that will keep you on the edge of your chair – and make you think.

Dr. John A. Eidsmoe, Colonel, Alabama State Defense Force
Pastor, Assn. of Free Lutheran Congregations
Constitutional Law Professor
Author, Christianity and the Constitution

More About the Author

Lars Walker is a native of Kenyon, Minnesota and a graduate of Augsburg College, Minneapolis. He grew up on a farm, and has worked as a crab meat packer in Alaska, a mail clerk, an administrative assistant, and a radio announcer, and is now librarian and bookstore manager for the schools of the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations in Minneapolis. He is editor of the Journal of the Georg Sverdrup Society, and is a Viking reenactor and Norwegian translator. His website is www.larswalker.com, and he blogs at www.brandywinebooks.net.

Customer Reviews

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That's my favorite kind of book.
Amazon Customer
This broadly researched Viking adventure is written within a beautifully rich framework.
Phil Wade
And Walker does a good job of bringing out the struggle between light and darkness.
Jeff Randleman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 14, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book has been a long time coming for fans of Lars Walker's character, Father Aillil and his Norse sponsor and friend, Erling Skjalgsson. Thankfully, Lars kept up the good fight and obtained a new publisher (Nordskog Publishing, Inc) who has done this latest novel the justice it deserves. Released in a wonderfully comfortable trade paperback format, this latest adventure for Allil and Erling takes them from a suddenly less than friendly life in Norway and through adventures to Iceland, Greenland, and beyond.

For those unfamiliar with Lars' previous works, West Oversea is the latest in the Erling's saga stories that include the novels Erling's Word and The Ghost of the God Tree previously released by Baen. The two previous novels were also published by Baen as a compendium entitled The Year of the Warrior. These tales follow the life of an Irish novice, Aillil, who is captured by viking raiders (i.e. enslaved to the accompaniment of his sister's screaming as she was raped) and relocated forcibly to a Norway caught in the throws of conversion from paganism to Christianity. Due to his training, Aillil is installed as a priest (such being rare in Norway and valuable) by Erling.

Despite that rough beginning, the two become friends and share adventures of both the mortal and spiritual nature. All of the Erling/Aillil stories are historical fantasies that carry within them the twinned fruits of Mr. Walker's knowledge of historical Norway and his bedrock Christian faith.

West Oversea, as with the previous books, is a fast, rapidly moving story told by Father Aillil as a memoir. You will not find any sermonizing or preaching in the narrative. Instead, you get colorful descriptions and active storytelling of individual events inside a greater story arc.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Loren Eaton on August 5, 2009
Format: Paperback
Stories have a funny way of associating themselves with random parts of life. John Christopher's post-apocalyptic YA novel The White Mountains makes me think about how, at age 13, a reading buddy and I translated its sense of daring into a clandestine (and illegal, I now suspect) trek to a junction box outside his house to see if we could wiretap his parents' phone. An abortive attempt to delve into Robert Jordan's The Eye of the World recalls an agonizingly dull drive across the state of Kansas, the endless road straight as a ruler and surrounded by mile after mile of homogenous farmland. Now having just finished West Oversea, the third title in Lars Walker's Saga of Erling Skjalgsson series, I'm drawn back to the first time my wife and I rode a waverunner together -- pulses pounding, eyes slit against the salt spray, the wrinkled water spinning beneath us with exhilarating speed.

Father Ailill, Irish refugee and priest to Norwegian lord Erling Skjalgsson, harbors no such pleasant feelings for the ocean. Plagued with sea sickness and disdainful of the cold, cramped quarters of Viking vessels, he'd just as soon keep his feet on terra firma, thank you very much. But after hearing a rumor that his long-lost sister may be alive in Greenland, he begins to consider the possibility of a journey. When he discovers a pagan artifact that allows its bearer to portend the future, he sets his heart on it, certain of success. He has little trouble drawing Erling to his way of thinking. Erling's older brother, thought to have died years ago, has mysteriously reappeared, laying claim to the estate. Stripped of land, wealth and title, Erling sees maritime trade as his only option.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Extollager on August 4, 2009
Format: Paperback
A swords-and-sorcery saga of medieval Norsemen struggling with supernatural dangers while on their way to the New World, West Oversea shows Robert E. Howard's genre of heroic fantasy grown up from its pulp magazine origins.

Other-dimensional Old Ones play tricks on a warlord's wife and child. An all-too-fallible priest secretly carries the Eye of Odin and by its power divines the future. A shape-changer -- now wolf, now bear, now man -- seeks vengeance. An Icelandic settlement is terrorized by the screaming dead.

In Lars Walker's telling, the story is enriched by sound historical knowledge and is free from the clichés ("he grinned wolfishly") of Howard's prose.

Erling Skalgsson, Norwegian lord, chooses the right but hard thing and yields his land to his sinister brother Kaari, who has unexpectedly returned after a long absence. Erling seeks to start over somewhere else -- perhaps Greenland. Circa AD 1000, Norway is nominally Christian, but Erling is sincere in his newfound faith. His priest, the Irishman Aillil, comes along with the crew, hoping to find his long-lost sister Maeve.

Walker's shrewd use of the Erling-Aillil partnership recalls the Sherlock Holmes-Dr. Watson friendship. Aillil, no warrior, tells the story. We can identify with him more readily than we could with Erling, an exemplar of the Viking virtues of strength, fighting skill, and indomitable courage.

West Oversea's suspenseful episodes and authentic landscapes recall the thrillers of John Buchan, such as The Thirty-Nine Steps. After 9-11, a passage from Buchan's The Power-House was repeatedly quoted:

" `You think that a wall as solid as the earth separates civilization from barbarism. I tell you the division is a thread, a sheet of glass.
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