Transworld Publishers 2009
Nutshell blurb: Osric has been living in Abbotsend for two years. He has no idea where he came from. One of his eyes is blood-red and he’s looked upon by the villagers as the spawn of Satan. Some Norsemen come along, sack his village and take him prisoner. They also rename him Raven. What follows is his story as he accepts his fate with the Norsemen.
I was debating whether or not to write a post about this book. My reaction to it was ‘meh’ through most of it until about three quarters into it when it turned into a blinding, seething hatred. Unfortunately, this book has invoked my ire and therefore must pay for the complete waste of my time.
Please be advised that this post will be super-duper spoilerific.
Right, so the main problem that I had with this book before what we shall henceforth call “The Incident” is that the characters weren’t likable at all. “But they’re vikings, Buffy. Of course they weren’t likable,” you might be saying. And you would be right to do so.
However, I only agree with that to an extent and say that we have to be able to relate to some of the characters in the book. They don’t necessarily have to be likable. I’m thinking about The Book of Human Skin by Michelle Lovric. The main character was evil incarnate but you knew that he was. It wasn’t sugar-coated. He did horrible things and it was amazingly chilling.
The problem with this story is that by the end of it we were meant to think of the main character as being noble and heroic but I found that he was pretty much the opposite of that. He started out being extremely wishy-washy and annoying. He didn’t know who he was, which is a fair point, but he was so tedious about it. Once he was captured by the Norsemen, things got worse. He cringed at a lot of the things that they did but at the same time he idolised them. It seemed to me like a classic case of peer pressure and going against your nature in order to fit in. As someone who constantly swims against the tide, this concept does not impress me. By the end of the book, he classified himself as a Norseman but there was no growth in his character. In fact, he got worse as the book went on. I wouldn’t have actually thought that was possible.
The one good thing about the book was that there was a strong female character in it. Unfortunately, she doesn’t show up until the last quarter of the book. Then the main character falls in love with her and he turns super creepy.
But let’s talk about “The Incident” and how Mr. Kristian broke my trust.
So, three quarters of the way into the book, the Norsemen and our ‘hero’ attack a fortress and take it. Once they’ve captured it, they celebrate. One of his mates drags a sixteen year old girl to him and tells him to take her and have fun. You see where this is going, right?
But of course, he’s not going to do it, right? Heroes don’t do that kind of thing, especially that far into a book and especially after he’s just fallen in love with a different chick. RIGHT??
Well, guess what. He totally does.
But don’t worry because after he rapes her he totally feels bad about it. So obviously that makes it ok. Also, she was a no-name character that we don’t hear from ever again. So that makes it all better.
It’s such a cliche to say that I almost threw this book across the room…but I almost threw this book across the room.
Yes, I realise that vikings raped and pillaged across all the land but in terms of storytelling this doesn’t work for me. If you’re going to paint your main character as being heroic, he has to grow throughout the book. I don’t care what part of history we’re in.
The only reason I read that far was because the writing was excellent and I though that the story would improve as I went along. I was horribly wrong. The characters all sucked. (Except for the really cool, strong chick.)
There was an interview with the author at the end of the book and he mentions that he doesn’t plan his writing. He just comes up with it as he goes. I think that some people can get away with it but in this book his lack of planning was evident. The story was all over the place and seemed to have no real purpose.
It has a pretty good rating on Goodreads which is probably because the writing is so good. Mr. Kristian definitely has talent.
However, I feel that he has betrayed me. He made his main character commit this heinous act FOR NO GOOD REASON! It didn’t serve the story in any way.
Frankly, this book pissed me off and I shan’t be reading any more from this author.