Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for The Serpent King by Tim Hodkinson, the fourth book in The Whale Road Chronicles series. My thanks to Vicky at Head of Zeus for inviting me to take part in the tour and for my digital review copy via NetGalley. The Serpent King was published as an ebook on 10th June and will be available in paperback in September.
About the Book
The fight for vengeance has no victors…
AD 936. The great warrior, Einar Unnsson, wants revenge. His mother’s assassin has stolen her severed head and Einar is hungry for his blood. Only one thing holds him back. He is a newly sworn in Wolf Coat, and must accompany them on their latest quest.
The Wolf Coats are a band of fearsome bloodthirsty warriors, who roam the seas, killing any enemies who get in their way. Now they’re determined to destroy their biggest enemy, King Eirik, as he attempts to take the throne of Norway.
Yet, for Einar, the urge to return to Iceland is growing every day. Only there, in his homeland, can he avenge his mother and salve his grief. But what Einar doesn’t know is that this is where an old enemy lurks, and his thirst for vengeance equals Einar’s…
Format: ebook (364 pages) Publisher: Head of Zeus
Publication date: 10th June 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction
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Although I haven’t read any of the previous books in the series – Odin’s Game, The Raven Banner, and The Wolf Hunt – I was quickly plunged into the heat of the action, much like those onboard the ship sailing through storm-tossed seas featured in the opening chapter.
For readers like myself new to the series, or for those simply in need of a memory jogger, the author provides details of key events from the previous books. I quickly got to know Einar and the other members of the Wolf Coats and I liked the fact they are a diverse bunch. I also learned the difference between a Wolf Coat and a berserker. Apparently a Wolf Coat has learned to control and focus the ‘divine rage’ of Odin whereas a berserker is merely an ‘undisciplined raging maniac’. I suspect the distinction may prove irrelevant if faced with one or more of either group! Another interesting thing I learned from the book was that being a ‘viking’ was more a way of life than being part of any particular race or nation.
I confess it took me slightly longer to get my head around the rival kings, jarls and nobles who feature in the book, particularly given the ever shifting allegiances. The observation, ‘In the game of statecraft today’s ally can become tomorrow’s enemy’ is quickly revealed to be all to true. Perhaps not surprising when you have figures with names such as Eirik Bloody Axe or Thorfinn the Skull Cleaver, and who have no compunction about bumping off members of their own families, let alone their enemies.
What certainly comes across is that this was a lawless time when most things were settled at the point of a blade – or worse. There are some great set piece scenes such as a sea battle between rival ships, an oar walking contest and a particularly eventful feast.
The extent of the author’s research and knowledge of the period really comes through in the authentic detail of everything from weaponry to social and religious customs. However, this detail is subtly woven into the story without leaving you feeling as if you’re reading a history text book – not that many of those would contain as much blood-letting as The Serpent King does.
The pace is fast, moving from one adventure to another with the clash of weapons and the thud of bodies hitting the ground a frequent backdrop to events. Starting in Norway, all (sea) roads then lead to Orkney and the stronghold of the aforementioned Thorfinn. Later the journey takes in other Scottish islands and Iceland, Einar’s homeland.
Will Einar achieve the vengeance he seeks? You’ll have to read the book to find out. What’s certain is that The Serpent King will appeal to those who like their historical fiction fast-paced and with plenty of full-on action.
In three words: Pacy, authentic, action-packed
Try something similar: A Time For Swords by Matthew Harffy
About the Author
Tim Hodkinson grew up in Northern Ireland where the rugged coast and call of the Atlantic ocean led to a lifelong fascination with vikings and a degree in Medieval English and Old Norse Literature. Apart from Old Norse sagas, Tim’s more recent writing heroes include Ben Kane, Giles Kristian, Bernard Cornwell, George RR Martin and Lee Child. After several years in New Hampshire, USA, Tim has returned to Northern Ireland, where he lives with his wife and children.