Linnea Hartsuyker's The Half-Drowned King was published by HarperCollins/Little, Brown in August 2017.

Information about Linnea Hartsuyker:

Linnea Hartsuyker is a graduate of NYU's Fiction MFA program and Cornell University's Engineering school, and has been researching the rise and reign of Harald Fairhair since she first discovered she was descended from him at the age of seventeen, when her family traced its ancestry back through 1200 years of Swedish and Norwegian church records. Since then she has read extensively of Icelandic sagas, kayaked and skied the fjordland settings for this novel, and even become proficient in lifting Husafjell stones, as the Vikings did to become stronger.

Click here to visit her official website.

Information about The Half-Drowned King:

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.

REVIEW: THE HALF-DROWNED KING BY LINNEA HARTSUYKER

Linnea Hartsuyker's The Half-Drowned King is the first novel in The Golden Wolf Saga, which tells of Viking-Age Norway. It's a gripping tale that brings Viking-era world, myths and legends vibrantly to life. It's epic historical fiction done right, because the author pays attention to all the right things and uses a few fantastical elements to add fascination to the story.

This rich and well-researched novel took me wholly by surprise. As soon as I had begun to read it, I found myself liking the epic story and was intrigued by the characters, because they felt realistic. Because I enjoy reading complex stories, I was impressed by how effortlessly the author had created a good atmosphere and how well she wrote about the characters' deeds and their consequences. This novel is a masterful and entertaining blend of history, myth, prophecy, love, treachery, vengeance and violence.

As many readers are aware of, Viking-era novels and stories have mostly been written by men and thus contain a lot of bloody battles and violence. Linnea Hartsuyker's rich vision of the Viking Era also has plenty of violence, but she brings more depth and nuances to her story than other authors. Her story is intriguingly complex, because she focuses on writing about what happens in the Viking society and concentrates on telling about debts of honour, family connections, sacrifices and ancient rituals that have been largely forgotten by other authors.

Here's a bit of information about the story:

The story begins with Ragnvald Eysteinsson returning home from a raiding excursion. During the journey, the captain of his ship, Solvi, tries to kill him and almost succeeds in it. When Ragnvald is rescued by a fisherman, he begins a journey home. He is determined to take back his inheritance from his stepfather... Meanwhile, Ragnvald's sister, Svanhild, is at home with her mother and her stepfather, Olaf, who has been taking care of them since her father died. She waits for Ragnvald to come back home and longs to see him again. Soon she hears about her brother's death at the hands of Solvi... When Ragnvald and Svanhild meet each other again, they are faced with decisions that will affect their lives...

I was pleased with the characterisation, because it worked well. Linnea Hartsuyker has created strong, but flawed characters whose lives are not easy. Her characters face all kinds of problems and situations that put their resilience and determination to test. Some of their deeds may seem shocking and violent, but they are not modern people and have their own norms and standards by which they live their lives.

The author does an excellent job at fleshing out the protagonists, Ragnvald and Svanhild, and tells of their lives in a gripping way. To be honest, it's been a while since I've had the pleasure of reading about such interesting siblings in historical fantasy fiction, because Rangvald and Svanhild are well-created characters whose lives are anything but easy, for they both have their own battles to fight and decisions to make.

Ragnvald is a young man who finds himself betrayed by his stepfather, Olaf, because Olaf doesn't want to give Ragnvald back his inheritance. He is determined to get back his inheritance and birthright, and he wants to see his sister married well. He also intends to marry the woman he loves.

Svanhild is a free-spirited and willful young woman who is not satisfied with her position. She is unlike other women of her age, because she doesn't want to be married against her will to anybody and doesn't want to be controlled by her stepfather. It was interesting to read about her inner struggle, because she had to decide whether to choose freedom or security, for both decisions could be equally bad for her.

The author also writes well about the secondary characters. I enjoyed reading about Solvi and Olaf, because the author handled the conflicts and scenes involving them in an excellent way. I won't go into details in fear of revealing too much of the happenings, but I can mention that the Solvi-Svanhild storyline was an especially interesting part of the story.

The worldbuilding is excellent, because the author brings the fjords, coasts, farmlands, halls and people of Viking-Age Scandinavia vividly to life with her prose. She has created a stunning vision of what life was like in the age of Vikings, because the world is a bleak, harsh and unforgiving place, but there's also love and honour in the world.

The author tells grittily about what life was like for women during the Viking Era and how men controlled their lives. I think it's great that she writes about this subject, because it is not often handled in this kind of novels. She also pays attention to how men see the world and what they expect from women.

It's good that the author writes about how survival comes at a cost and life is not black and white, because it adds harsh realism to the story. One of the strengths of this novel is that the author tells about what the characters are willing to do to survive and how their decisions change their fates and lives. It's also worth mentioning that the author explores the ethics and morality involved in the decisions.

I think it's good to emphasise that this novel is not simple historical fiction, but has a surprising amount of depth and plenty of excellent characterisation. It will not disappoint readers who are looking for an immersive read. A big part of the depth comes from the author's way of writing about the Vikings, their society and their values, because she succeeds in breathing life into these things and explores themes of freedom, love, honour and vengeance.

I like the author's prose and writing style, because she writes in a clear and straightforward way that whisks readers off on an intriguing epic adventure. I'm sure that her prose will appeal to many readers and I also believe that readers will come to love her story, because it's good.

This novel will most likely fascinate everybody who is familiar with Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon and Diana Gadaldon's Outlander novels (it shares a few elements with these novels, but is wholly different from them). I also think that it will be of interest to readers who enjoyed Joe Abercrombie's The Shattered Sea novels.

Because I enjoyed this novel and found it entertaining, I'll soon read the sequel, The Sea Queen, because I want to find out what happens next. I have a feeling that the sequel will be an even more enjoyable and rewarding reading experience.

If you enjoy reading historical fantasy fiction and historical stories with honour, sacrifices, battles, depth, love and myths, Linnea Hartsuyker's The Half-Drowned King is sure to please you. It's a highly enjoyable and immersive reading experience that leaves you wanting more. It feels like a breath of fresh air when compared to other similar kind of novels.

Excellent entertainment!

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