- Page Count: 448
- Release Date: August 1, 2017
- My Rating: 3 stars
Since the death of Ragnvald Eysteinsson’s father in battle, he has worked hard to protect his sister Svanhild and planned to inherit his family’s land when he comes of age. But when the captain of his ship tries to kill him on the way home from a raiding excursion, he must confront his stepfather’s betrayal, and find a way to protect his birthright. It is no easy feat in Viking-Age Norway, where a hundred petty rulers kill over parcels of land, and a prophesied high king is rising.
But where Ragnvald is expected to bleed, and even die, for his honour, Svanhild is simply expected to marry well. It’s not a fate she relishes, and when the chance to leave her stepfather’s cruelty comes at the hand of her brother’s arch-rival, Svanhild is forced to make the ultimate choice: family or freedom.
Drawing from the Icelandic Sagas, The Half-Drowned King takes inspiration from the true story of Ragnvald of Maer, the right hand man of King Harald Fairhair, first king of all Norway, and his sister, Svanhild, as she tries to find freedom in a society where the higher her brother rises, the greater her worth as a political pawn.
This felt a bit like Half a King by Joe Abercrombie meets Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Chronicles (or any other Viking historical fiction). I definitely enjoyed those other stories more, though. This fell pretty flat for me overall.
I’m not sure if this book was translated to English, but most of the writing felt a bit clunky and… off. It was hard to really connect with the characters or get a strong sense of them. Plus, the pacing killed a lot of the action scenes. There were SO many parts I wanted to care about, but mostly just watched them sail by at the same monotonous pace. I’m not sure how to totally explain this because the events in the story weren’t necessarily boring (even though they all definitely felt like it). It was like the setting was a stronger character or element of the story than the actual characters at times. I really wasn’t invested in anyone’s journey. The plot kept leading up to Ragnvald reclaiming his throne, yet totally failed to have any impact. I was just kind of confused at the end about where all of the story’s awesome potential went…
I still LOVED the viking elements and locations! The author definitely knows her material about this time period. The feeling of the setting is about all that this book has in common with Outlander or Game of Thrones, though. So maybe ignore those comparisons and go into this story with slightly lower expectations? It’s not a bad read! It’s just not terribly epic, either.