Monday, February 14, 2011

Review: The Road to Vengeance - Judson Roberts

Synopsis: Determined to find and fight his brother's killer, Halfdan knows he must first gain experience as a Viking warrior. He's been lucky so far. He gained passage on a ship and is quietly learning the strategies of war and conquest from the hardy crew. Now, with a prisoner in tow - the daughter of a wealthy aristocrat - Halfdan is finally starting to earn some respect, and a name for himself.

But he is not looking for praise. Halfdan is only biding his time, gaining strength and skill for his ultimate quest. Time and again his proves himself on the battlefield, using clever strategy and an uncanny talent with a bow. Halfdan is growing as a warrior, but will this be enough to beat a savage murderer?

Review: I should have re-read the other two books before I launched into this one. I must sadly confess that while I remembered most of the events from the others, it took me over half of the book to recall who was who. But that may not be my fault. When you have so many Viking characters whose personalities blend into one, and whose names are so bloody similar (I am complaining at three in particular: Tore, Torvald, and Toke), I don't think reading the books one after the other would have helped much anyway. But, to give Mr. Roberts credit, his Vikings have more personality than most, and Halfdan is fairly likable.

I have no complaint against the storyline - it has been good ever since the beginning. And the battle sequences aren't horrible to read, though certainly not masterpieces. One thing that usually irritates me about Viking stories is it is really hard to find a likable character. They are Vikings, and the common picture of Vikings is plundering, killing, drinking, and liking women a bit too much. Not an entirely inaccurate portrayal, from all historical accounts, but these qualities do make it hard to accept a Viking as a main character/hero. Halfdan, though, does his best to be good. He's out for revenge - and for a completely legitimate reason, - so he always tries to keep his head clear by not drinking nearly as much as his comrades. He does raid and kill, and he doesn't like it - he doesn't see his killings as a good aspect of his character, and when they invade Frankia, he isn't too happy, because he doesn't like killing people with whom he has no quarrel. And when he claims a woman as a captive, he swears to see that no harm comes to her, nor does he ever harm a woman's honor when he has ample chance to.

Which brings me to content. I read the Strongbow Saga with some nervousness because while Judson Roberts has never been explicit, he doesn't shy away from the blunt truth that invaders raped women. I was worried when Halfdan captured Genevieve in Dragons from the Sea. I saw there being serious trouble with her and the other Danes, and I didn't doubt that Judson Roberts would devote some time to relating such incidents. Never fear, Readers - nothing happens. And while there are plenty of alludements to taking pleasure in the opposite gender, it never goes beyond alludements. Genevieve does tell Halfdan about how a man she was betrothed to tried to have his way with her before their wedding, but it doesn't go anywhere, and there are no physical details. And then there is a scene between Halfdan and Genevieve, which irritated me to no end because I could now no longer respect them. Much to my surprise, though, there are no explicit details. In fact, Mr. Roberts never actually says (though it is quite plain what happened) what passed between them.

So, a note for the Strongbow Saga: there are no explicit details, but such things are definitely mentioned. And while the gore certainly isn't as detailed as in a Michael Cadnum book or even The Adventures of a Young Sailor trilogy, Judson Roberts doesn't skip over where and how much the blood is gushing out. But the storyline is good and it is quite clear that the Author has done his historical research. For once, other than in Rosemary Sutcliff's books, I feel like I'm reading about authentic Vikings.

I look forward to the sequel (whenever that is released).

Overall Rating: 
Others in The Strongbow Saga:
1)Viking Warrior
2)Dragons from the Sea
3)The Road to Vengeance

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