The Viking era is usually said to be roughly from 793 AD to 1066 AD, ie from the first Viking raid on the monastery at Lindisfarne to the Battle of Stamford Bridge when the last Viking king, Harald Hardraada, lost his bid for the English throne. When I first started writing this series, I knew I couldn’t cover all that time and I had to decide which parts to base my stories on. So I made a chart of all the events that were known to have happened from 750 AD onwards, and discovered that the years between 850 and 900 AD were jam-packed with possibilities. At that time, the Swedes were heading east and south down the Russian rivers, the Danes (and others) were raiding and conquering in Britain and Europe, the Norwegians established a kingdom in Ireland and started settling on Iceland, and there were internal power struggles in Scandinavia too. This gave me a rich historical tapestry from which to choose events that my characters could be part of.
One of the most exciting seemed to me to be the settlement of Iceland, mainly because it was so different from anything else the Vikings did. Here they didn’t have to fight with any local inhabitants or try to integrate with them, because the place was empty. They couldn’t take over any existing farmland or villages, but had to create their own from scratch. And they had to contend with an environment that was, in many ways, different to what they were used to. All grist to a writer’s mill!
I had to save it for the fourth book, though, as I figured the youngest brother in the family would be the one most determined to make a new life for himself. Also, the events in the previous books in the series take place before the settlement of Iceland, and I try to be as historically accurate as possible.
As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs (here and here), I was lucky enough to travel to Iceland back in June to do some research for this book. Among other things, I visited the museum that houses the replica longship Islendingur, which was very helpful. I was fascinated by the idea of the Vikings travelling across the North Atlantic for days (weeks sometimes) in a ship that seemed to me to be essentially just a large rowing boat with a sail. I felt it must have been sheer madness to even attempt it! And the fact that they had to bring everything they could possibly need in order to settle there, including animals, was incredible. I couldn’t even begin to imagine how the poor cows, sheep, goats etc must have felt when being brought along on such a journey.
And yet, when I stood on board the Islendingur, it was so much bigger than I had thought and I felt safe. I learned that Viking ships were very seaworthy and because of the way they are constructed, they cut through the waves effortlessly, without the deck becoming drenched or swamped. Fully loaded, it would lie no more than 1.5 metres below the water line, and the keel is shaped so that it compresses the water between the keel and the hull. That means that even while sailing through crosswinds, it stays upright and doesn’t list more than at the most 10 degrees. And when the ship is wet, the planks expand into each other and thereby keep it water tight. All that was very comforting to know.
An ocean-going Viking vessel could carry up to 25 tonnes of cargo, and the settlers had to plan for every eventuality and bring enough provisions to survive for at least a year. Breeding pairs of the various animals and food to eat while on board, grain for eating and sowing until their first crop the following year, food and water for the journey, and a huge variety of implements, as well as household goods. It must have been a nightmare trying not to forget something vital! But the settlers were resourceful, and I have no doubt that whatever they didn’t bring, they tried to produce.
I really enjoyed writing this story and had a lot of fun with the main characters, Maddie and Geir. They are both the youngest siblings in their respective families and they each have something to prove. Geir no longer wants to be beholden to his older brother for everything – he’s looking to acquire his own domain, while Maddie would love to prove that you don’t have to be academic to succeed in life. (She’s dyslexic and, unlike the rest of her family, finds studying a great trial). When fate, in the shape of the Norse gods and the Norns (goddesses of destiny), takes a hand in their lives, can they fight it? Or is it better to give in gracefully?
Here is a short blurb:-
Born centuries apart. Bound by a love that defied time.
She couldn’t believe her eyes. The runes were normally so reliable and she had never doubted them before.
Madison Berger is visiting Dublin with her family for a Viking re-enactment festival, when she chances upon a small knife embedded in the banks of the Liffey. Maddie recognises what the runes on the knife’s handle signify: the chance to have her own adventures in the past.
Maddie only intends to travel back in time briefly, but a skirmish in 9th century Dublin results in her waking up on a ship bound for Iceland, with the man who saved her from attack.
Geir Eskilsson has left his family in Sweden to boldly carve out a life of his own. He is immediately drawn to Maddie, but when he learns of her connection to his sisters-in-law, he begins to believe that Fate has played a part in bringing them together. Amidst the perils that await on their journey to a new land, the truest battle will be to win Maddie’s heart and convince her that the runes never lie…
And here is a short excerpt:-
Maddie became aware of hushed voices just as she registered the almighty pounding inside her skull. A rocking sensation soothed her somewhat, and she was warm and dry, but splashing noises and something that sounded like flapping made her frown. Where was she? Her eyes fluttered open and she groaned, putting a hand to the side of her head above her left ear, where most of the pain seemed to be concentrated. She grimaced as her fingers encountered a rough bandage. ‘Ouch!’
‘Lie still and don’t touch that. I think the bleeding has stopped, but you wouldn’t want to set it off again.’
The big man who had come to her aid earlier swam into focus, although there wasn’t enough light to see him properly. In the half-darkness his features looked handsome but unreal, wreathed in shadows, a frown of concern etched on his brow. She couldn’t make out the colour of his eyes, but they were studying her intently. He pulled at her fingers and she tried to swat his hand away, just as the memory of what she’d done returned with full force, making her freeze.
Jesus, it had worked! She had time travelled back to the Viking age. She’d barely had a chance to register this before, as almost the moment she’d opened her eyes in what she’d hoped was the ninth century, four thugs had spotted her and decided she was theirs for the taking. Their faces had lit up at the sight of her and she’d heard their cries of glee as they thought their evening’s bed sport was secured. The hell it was . . .
Their exact words and the ensuing fight were a bit of a blur, but as soon as this man had started talking to her afterwards, she’d known for sure she was in the Viking era because he was speaking Old Norse. Thank goodness she’d paid attention to all the lessons she’d had recently. Her sister Linnea had insisted they all learn, just in case she visited with her husband and any kids they might have, which was fair enough.
But . . . she was still here? No, no, no! That wasn’t how she’d planned it.
I’m giving away a signed copy to someone who comments and because it will be Christmas soon, I’ve added a Thor’s hammer Christmas tree bauble. I’ll pick a winner at random – giveaway closes at midnight on Saturday 11th December.
Do you think you would have been brave enough to set off on a venture like Maddie and Geir’s, heading for an unknown land with all your possessions in tow? I’m not sure I would.