What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that if this book doesn't drive kids to learn about Norse mythology and Viking history, then nothing will. The book also raises the issues of gender roles and the ethics of fighting and war.
What's the story?
Jack, a Saxon farmboy, is thrilled to be chosen by the Bard, an Irish druid, to be his apprentice. Before his training in music and magic progresses very far, though, berserkers come to his village, led by Olaf One-Brow, and sent by the evil queen Frith to exact revenge on the Bard. Jack and his little sister Lucy are captured and taken across the sea to be thralls. Along the way the brutal and dangerous Olaf takes a shine to Lucy and decides to keep Jack as his own personal bard.
Jack angers Frith with an accidental magic spell, and she threatens to sacrifice Lucy unless he undoes it, which he doesn't know how to do. So he goes on a quest to Jotunheim, the land of the trolls, to drink from the Well of Mimir and learn how to undo the spell. Accompanied by Olaf and Thorgil, a girl berserker wannabe, he heads into the land of ice, where dragons, trolls, and the mysterious Norns await.
Is it any good?
The extensive use of Norse mythology gives this story a real kick, as does the author's frequent reversals of expectations. And the adventure itself, especially once they stop dithering around in England and hit the high seas, is as exciting and engrossing as one could hope for, right up to the very satisfying ending that almost begs for a sequel.
Although Lucy is an annoying and thoroughly unbelievable character (the author could take a lesson from Suzanne Collins, author of Gregor the Overlander, on how to take small children on an adventure), and the life force, from which Jack draws his power, is a little too Star Wars, readers will be having too much fun to worry about the details.
Explore, discuss, enjoy
Families can talk about Norse mythology in fantasy-adventure novels. What elements of Norse mythology are adopted in this book? Can you think of other books you've read that also seem to draw from Norse myths?