Captured by Vikings, Aillil escapes slavery by claiming to be a priest, and despite his practical atheism finds himself doing God’s work as the brave, noble hersir Erling Skjalgsson tries to bring order to the violent world of 10th Century Norway.
The Year of the Warrior is a prequel to Lars Walker‘s more recent West Oversea, and actually comprises two novels. I think it would be best to read them in order, but all three books are so excellent and stand so well on their own that it doesn’t really matter.
What Walker does so well is to integrate Aillil’s spiritual journey into the action-packed political intrigue and warfare that dominates the plot of the book. Aillil wants nothing to do with God or Jesus when he’s captured, and in fact has a number of encounters with the pagan deities and powers that live quite near the surface in his new home in Norway. His coming to faith doesn’t happen easily, and even after becoming a “real” priest his questions and doubts do not end. There is so much spiritual wisdom packed into these stories that they’re valuable to the struggling believer, and yet there’s so much excellent plot and action that you can’t accuse Walker of being preachy at all.
I wish this book were more widely available. It really is a hidden treasure. If you like historical fiction, you are likely to really love this book.