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The Half-Drowned King: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 1, 2017
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This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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“A spellbinding evocation of a long-lost world of magic and blood feuds, populated by characters riddled with doubt and human failing beneath their epic exteriors.” (BookPage)
“Making her fiction debut, Hartsuyker, who claims descent from Norway’s first king, writes an absolutely top-notch Viking saga, and readers will eagerly await the next two volumes in this trilogy.” (Library Journal, starred review)
“A terrific historical epic…Posing thoughtful questions about the nature of honor and heroism, and devoting significant attention to women’s lives, the novel takes a fresh approach to the Viking adventure genre…The action scenes will have the blood humming in your veins.” (Booklist, starred review)
“Steeped in legend and myth, Hartsuyker’s debut is a swashbuckling epic of family, love, and betrayal that reimagines the Norse sagas….While Hartsuyker’s prose is straightforward, the plot is as deliciously complex as Game of Thrones. And, in an era so dominated by the tales of men, it’s nice to see a complicated, cunning heroine like Svanhild swoop in and steal the show. Hold on to your helms and grab your shields—Hartsuyker is just getting started.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“Suspenseful, intriguing, gripping!... Treachery and astonishment and surprise are always right around the corner…As with all great historical fiction, there are strong similarities to actual events. Good research is very important to a believable historical novel. This book has it. If you enjoy Bernard Cornwell, do not pass this book by. It is well worth the read!” (New York Journal of Books)
“Inspired by the Icelandic sagas, this action-packed first volume in a planned trilogy will transport readers to Viking Norway, where Ragnvald battles his treacherous stepfather in order to claim his true birthright after his father’s death. Meanwhile, Ragnvald’s sister Svanhild seeks a marriage that will give her the freedom she craves despite the era’s restrictive social roles for women. An adventurous summer read, in which vivid historical detail meets a fast-moving plot.” (Library Journal’s List of Summer Escapes)
“Game of Thrones will be back on our screens by the time this epic Viking saga comes out, and it’s a safe literary bet for those of us who enjoy a bit of Westeros action. Ragnvald Eysteinsson is betrayed by his avaricious stepfather, and in trying to gain back his rightful inheritance, he pledges his sword to a young warrior plotting to become the king. If you like your heroes noble and your struggles for power bloody, this one’s for you.” (24 Best books To Read This Summer from Elle.com)
“If the Vikings are your thing, then you want to take a look at this epic Viking saga by Linnea Hartsuyker. The story is good enough to rival Game of Thrones and it will make your summer days much more entertaining. The book explores the travels of Ragnvald Eysteinsson who has been betrayed by his stepfather.” (One of Catapult’s Best Books of Summer)
“The author, who can trace her lineage back to Harald Halfdansson, recreates the half-civilized, half-primitive landscape of his time, where a dragon boat sailing up a fjord struck dread in all who saw it. Befitting its subject matter, the book is replete with exciting battles, duels, and sieges, but the author makes Svanhild’s domestic tribulations equally dramatic. In the end, this novel can stand proudly with Edison Marshall’s The Viking and Frans G. Bengtsson’s The Long Ships as an immersive fictional recreation of a bloody moment in Scandinavian history.” (Publishers Weekly)
“This is a delightful novel, one that manages to summon the musty halls of a seemingly distant past and populate them with the complex heroes of our age.” (Washington Independent Review of Books)
“Lovers of epic rejoice! Hartsuyker illuminates these old stories with authority and visceral detail, bringing to life the adventure, bleak beauty, and human struggle that lie at their heart. A vivid and gripping read.” (Madeline Miller, author of THE SONG OF ACHILLES)
“Does an excellent job of evoking a vibrant society from years past. The opening scene, which finds young Ragnvald dancing across the oars while his ship sails, is evocative, dreamlike...this is the kind of book to sink into and enjoy for its beauty and atmosphere.” (Historical Novel Society)
“If you like your heroes noble and your struggles for power bloody, this one’s for you.” (Elle.com, 24 Best books To Read This Summer)
“A rich and complex story of love and betrayal...The Half-Drowned King is the first volume in a planned trilogy, and I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how eagerly I’m looking forward to the next book. Highly recommended.” (Fantasy Literature)
“You’ll find heroes and villains aplenty but they’re filled with satisfying contradictions. Mostly, this story — very loosely based on scraps of history — is a lot of fun. Hartsuyker is off to a very good start.” (Huffington Post, BookFilter)
From the Back Cover
Ragnvald Eysteinsson, descendant of kings, grew up believing that he would one day take his dead father’s place as chief of his family’s lands. But sailing home from a raiding trip to Ireland, the young warrior is betrayed and left for dead by men in the pay of his greedy stepfather, Olaf. Rescued by a fisherman, Ragnvald is determined to avenge his stepfather’s betrayal, claim his birthright and the woman he loves, and rescue his beloved sister, Svanhild. Opportunity may lie with Harald of Vestfold, a young warrior prophesied to one day rule all of Norway.
While Ragnvald’s duty is to fight—and even die—for his honor, Svanhild must agree to an advantageous marriage, though her adventurous spirit yearns to see the world. Olaf has arranged a husband for her—a hard old man she neither loves nor desires. When the chance to escape Olaf’s cruelty comes at the hand of her brother’s archrival, she is forced to make a heartbreaking choice: family or freedom.
Set in a mystical and violent world defined by honor, loyalty, deceit, passion, and courage, The Half-Drowned King is an electrifying adventure that breathtakingly illuminates the Viking world and the birth of Scandinavia.
Top customer reviews
The characters are believable, well fleshed out and wonderfully human and flawed. As an avid Potterhead, I realized midway through the book that Ragnavald (one of the two main characters) is very much a Slytherin, displaying a slightly different version of himself depending on who his audience is, and yet going about it in a cunning and subtle way. He wants to believe himself a hero, but the fact is he is more of a reluctant plotter, a role he uncomfortably realizes that he is actually pretty good at, once he learns to get out of his own way.
Svanhild's conflict is also quite compelling, whether to choose freedom with its subsequent danger and uncertainty, or to choose security with its binding ties. Like Ragnavald, her motivations are complex and it's fascinating to watch her figure it out, and then come to terms with her choices, for better or for worse.
Solvi is a fatalistic, scrappy foil for Ragnvald, complete with a wonderfully unsettling backstory. The rest of the supporting cast is memorable, different enough to keep the reader interested in what they are trying to do as alliances and goals shift and shift again.
The setting is also spectacularly realized and it's clear from the descriptions that this is a part of the world that is sacred and fundamentally beautiful to the author. Her prose is almost cinematic in its scope, to the point that the reader can almost see the icy waterfalls, hear the barking of the seals, feel the harsh winds of the fjords and smell the damp wood, pine pitch, and wool sails of the Viking ships. In sum, the Half-Drowned King is a book to sink into, to have it envelop you in a way that few novels can. A fantastic first installment in what is sure to be a thrilling trilogy.
The story is quickly paced, yet full of interesting detail and good characterization. My favorite character is Svanhild because her emotional struggle seems the greatest. Her brother Ragnvald is likable,and has his own intriguing struggles, but is colder in facing down his demons, so I couldn't relate to him as much. I think this will improve with the next books. Solvi is also an interesting character, and I hope to see his conflicts of the heart come to a head in future books. The cast of characters is large, so I am glad the author kept her pov characters to around three. It made it easier to follow.
This is only the first part of a trilogy, and sets up the plot quite nicely. There is quite a lot of interesting story here, but political intrigue does not interest me as much as character. These characters are strong enough to carry the book for me. And the writing is top-notch.
If you love Vikings, historical fiction, or fantasy (or even if you don’t), you will immediately be drawn into the world of 9th century Norway in Linnea Hartsuyker’s debut novel, The Half-Drowned King. Tightly plotted and described, this is a story based on an Icelandic saga about King Harald, who unified Norway during the 9th century. The main characters are a brother (Ragnvald) and sister (Svanhild) whose ancestral land has been kept by their stepfather since their father’s death some years before the action commences.
Beginning in chapter one, the action is brisk throughout the novel, and the complex motivations of the characters evolve as these young adults mature. Svanhild is a feminist who chafes at the strictures that limit her options, though she finds adventure from a perhaps surprising direction. Ragnvald wants to lay claim to his inheritance and get to the bottom of his father’s death. Though deeply devoted to each other, the goals of these siblings come into conflict, providing suspense and plot complications. Hartsuyker shows that both villains and heroes have understandable motivations that drive their actions.
I eagerly anticipated the opportunity to read this novel, the first of a planned trilogy spanning the lives of the characters and their children. Since my ancestry goes all the way back to King Harald, I was particularly delighted to read such a richly textured description of a world that, though tough, has its own consistency and integrity
Most recent customer reviews
I had heard it compared to The Game of Thrones, so I read that entire series before starting...Read more