In 1001 AD, an Irish priest travels with a famed Norse hero to Iceland, Greenland, and parts unknown, in the company of a wicked talisman that gives him the second sight.
West Oversea takes the tone of a saga, only with an accessibility that had me turning pages like a madwoman to find out what new wonder Lars Walker would create for me. I want to read everything else he’s ever written!
Lucky for you, the publisher (Nordskog Publishing) has given me 2 copies to give away to lucky readers of this blog! I’m so excited by this book that I’m opening up this contest to anyone, anywhere in the world. Just leave a comment before midnight EST on July 10, 2009. I’ll pick 2 winners at random.
Subtitled “A Norse Saga of Mystery, Adventure, and Faith,” West Oversea comes from the point of view of Father Aillil, an Irish priest who has heard that his sister Maeve is living as a thrall (slave) in Greenland. When brave, wise, and good Viking chieftan Erling Skjalgsson loses everything to his unscrupulous older brother, Father Aillil convinces him to set sail for Greenland to trade with Leif Eriksson. Before he leaves, Father Aillil is given a talisman called The Eye of Odin, a gray eye that gives Father Aillil the second sight. Despite his initial misgivings, the lure of power overtakes him and soon he is losing his faith and putting Erling, Erling’s wife and son, and all Erling’s men in jeopardy.
I love all things Norse and Scandinavian, having spent 5 memorable weeks in Iceland back in 2000. I also love a good adventure, and West Oversea delivers. Father Aillil is a marvelous narrator, full of flaws and sins. He’s no pious scold–he’s a man with a past who struggles with temptation. Erling is a first-rate hero. He’s courageous, noble, and admirable, yet he’s not afraid to kill to defend his honor. These were bloodthirsty times, and the body count is high, but Walker never lets the violence become sensationalized. He creates a context by which we can both understand and recoil from the bloodletting.
I was hooked on West Oversea from this exchange early in the book, where Erling debates whether to concede his holdings to his brother.
“It seems to me there are two kinds of right. Most times they sit in the same seat, so a man can bow to both at once. But sometimes they move to contrary ends of the hall, and then a man must choose.
“One kind of right is simple. You do what the law says. You keep your vows though it beggars you.
“The other kind is knottier. It means asking what action will bring the best fruit. Might my keeping my word bring suffering? Might it put folk in danger? Might it break some greater good I’m trying to work? Looking at it that way, a man might persuade himself it was right to break the law.”
“And what do you think?”
Erling wrapped his arms around himself and sat on the sod with a sudden movement, his cloak tented around him. He sat mute for a moment, staring at the red sun-ball in the south as the mist burned away. I waited for his word.
At last he said, “I think the second way gives a man an excuse to betray himself. I think any kind of crime and dishonor might be justified that second way.
“I will do my duty. I will lay down my power.”
He added, very softly, “I think it may kill me.”
What truth! What beauty! What excellence! I have so many people I want to loan this book too, but they better give it back, because this is one for my permanent collection.