My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts...
I read Norse Jewel, Gina Conkle’s debut novel and thought it was a wonderful read. At that time, I didn’t know it was going to be a series. But the story ended in a way that left some confusions, felt like there were “more”. A year or two later, when the author told me she was going to develop this story into a series, I was super excited. To Find a Viking Treasure is the book 2 of Norse series.
Now, let me tell you that I read book 1 in 2013 so my memory is a bit vague. I do remember the initial storyline, and the characters, H Hakan, a Viking lord and his newly bought Frankish slave, Helena who was the h of the story. Hakan was returning home and bought Helena from a slave trader on the way. Actually he bought some slaves, Helena and her friend Sestra were among them. I remember that Helena came from a good family, but circumstances brought her where she was, while Sestra, in true sense, have always been a thrall.
Hakan was married before but that was over with his nutcase first wife. He had the need of womanly touch in his longhouse. He had a little boy named Erik, whom Astrid won’t even let him visit. But the boy would always find a way to steal away to meet his father when he was back from one conquest or the other. The father-son bond was much stronger than what Astrid could do. Soon Hakan also begins noticing Helena for who she was— a loyal, kind-hearted woman who was also a hard-worker. She was the polar opposite of Astrid; both in looks and in temperament. For Helena, she was apprehensive at first about her treatment, but soon she finds that Hakan is a kind, fair as well as a generous master. She soon begins having feelings for Hakan, though she knew the only thing she can ever be to him is a mistress if there’s anything. But Hakan even wasn’t like that, take pleasure from his slaves or thralls then discard them.
When Aldric Gunter shows up and offers Navena Johnson an easy way off the prison planet she’s stuck on, the answer should be an easy yes. But when the next thing she needs to say is “I do”, the choice gets more complicated, because the Viking warrior wants a high price for the marriage of convenience—he wants her heart.
II wanted to like this one way more than I did. Viking in space? Yes. Kick ass heroine? Yes. Marriage of Con. Oh yes.
However, once this gets going and we start to get some couple time and dealing with what it means to be married, the book ends. It is like someone taking your plate away when you haven't even eaten half you meal. No.
Slight spoilers in this review, I know a few of you want to read it so I tried to keep it minimal. For a book that attempts to address thousands of years of human history in 521 pages, it does a solid job. I loved the first 400 pages or so, It is written in a gripping way that is often missing in non fiction. I learnt a lot about the world and I would have given it five stars had its sections on the holocaust, the nazis and American foreign policy in the middle east not been limited.
It descends towards the end into page upon page of America shaming, essentially blaming it entirely for taking on Britain's imperial mantle in the middle east and destabilizing it further during the cold war. I agree that the US is responsible in part for destabilizing some countries in the region and that this has led to a rise in ultra nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism, but the way this is written it is almost as though it's an opinion piece at times. It feels like Frankopan has decided the US is to blame entirely and looks for evidence to back up his claims, rather than going in with an objective outlook and trying to assess the evidence without bias.
But my criticisms of the later sections of the book are not to say it is also not largely interesting. I learnt things about weapon sales and oil that I previously had no knowledge of and my understanding of countries such as Iran and Iraq has improved as a result. Sections on Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden were equally enlightening.
Where the book really shines is in its early history of the formation of the east, sections on the viking Rus, the Islamic golden age, the slave trade and the mongols are fascinating. I had no idea that the word slaves comes from the slavs as they were heavy victims of Viking enslavement. I had no idea the mongols spread further after the death of Genghis Khan and were largely responsible for rebuilding areas they had pillaged. I even had no idea that Islam was almost spread into Europe as a dominant religion at its height, only to be repelled in France and knocked back by Christendom.
I went for a drink with a friend yesterday and he said something along the lines of, "I don't understand anyone who doesn't find history interesting." I have to say when I read a book like this one filled from the start to the end with dramatic feats, brutal politics, vast empires and powerful individuals it is hard to see how people can so easily dismiss history. I have only ever learnt from my interest in history, it has only served to increase my knowledge of the world around me and to help me make sense of what is going on in the world and for that reason, books like this that are filled with so many insights should be a must read for everyone.
I'll leave this with my favourite quote in the book. 'Britain's politicians and diplomats were not made of the same stuff as the Francis Drakes and the other magnificent adventurers who created the empire; in fact, they are the tired sons of a long line of rich men, and they will lose their empire.' - Mussolini to his foreign minister Count Ciano.
I am DNFing at roughly 40% and it's totally me, not the book.
Gender games & fluidity is not my kink to begin with, but this book messed it up for me even further.
Otherwise, a little nutty, but ok enough to enjoy, if you get past some editorial funnies (another fine mess).
I might, or might not pick it up again.