I recently read The Ice Queen: Book Two of Odd Tangle-Hair’s Saga by Bruce Macbain. I hadn’t read the first book, Odin’s Child, but I dove in anyway, as I have, as many of you know….an obsession with Vikings!! Pleasantly enough, he offered a lead-in re-cap which was just enough to propel me into the story at lightening speed.
The way that Bruce writes these novels is reminiscent of those old-fashioned tales passed down through generations as legends. A shorter version might appear in those stellar anthologies of “Classic Viking Tales” or such. It reads as if a story teller is telling you a story, instead of a heavily structured historical fiction that is research based, even though he did do his research in order to bring the story to life. This one is for the historical fantasy fans that are looking for an entertaining weekend.
As a lover of fantasy type novels, I was enamored by the tone and structure that Bruce implored through the story. The dialogue was fun and the characterization, both of the protagonist, Odd Tangle-Hair, and all others he described through Odd’s eyes (the book was written from his point of view), were well-developed enough you could visualize them in the mind. They were interesting and layered too, in that as a reader, I wanted to follow along in their tale. I was immediately enthralled by the character of Princess Ingigerd.
My favorite line where I fist pumped with her: “Are you a man, Odd Tangle-Hair, who believes a woman’s only business is with her distaff and loom? For if you are we shall never be friends.”
Strong. Beautiful. Intelligent. Perceptive. Puts up with her talkative husband. And she has hunting birds. Only female ones. I love Ingigerd. Even though I shouldn’t.
It was entertaining to voyeur the story, as Odd Tangle-Hair watched and conversed with a great many characters. The things each said, and his answers to them, always made me think of deeper meanings and allegories in regards to religion, gender roles, class structure, cultures, and more.
I really liked watching Odd interact and observe the people around him, over time showing us more of their personalities which were revealed to amazing levels. The juxtoposition of personalities such as King Harald and Princess Ingigerd, for instance, is recognizable, he with ego, glorified rule, impusiveness, reliance of others, and anger issues, and her with a more intelligent, calculated, and manipulated strength (though she also was sometimes unpredicatable!).
Running through most of the story, due to the character’s dialogue and involvement with Odd, was the undercurrent of paganism versus Christianity during the Age of Conversion in the 10-11th century. In how the story was written, Bruce brought that lesson to the reader in a more light-hearted, but also impactful, manner.
I laughed out loud sometimes at the situations that Odd found himself in! Then there was the romance he became entangled in too…but I’ll let you be surprised for yourself. Later, I became saddened by his turmoil. This is why there were many emotions to be felt while reading this book. Amid all of this were Bruce’s beautiful descriptions of place and setting that really lended to immersing this reader farther into the story.
Of course, the way it ended, I’m certainly ready for Book Three in the saga and plan to continue on in Odd’s adventure. Highly recommended for any fantasy lover, but as well historical fiction fanatics, as some of the characters, such as Ingigerd and Harald, actually existed.
In closing, as I’m not one to rehash plot in my reviews, Icelandic Odd’s adventure in Rus took many turns, overcame obstacles both emotional and physical, made me at times both chuckle and shake my head, and sometimes, even shed a tear. A story with a princess, a traveler, dwarfs, trolls, priests, and legend and lore that will entertain and delight the reader in an original way and leave one wanting more!
The Ice Queen: Book Two of Odd Tangle-Hair’s Saga
By Bruce Macbain
Publication Date: November 30, 2015
Blank Slate Press
eBook & Paperback; 285 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
The second volume of Odd Tangle-Hair’s Saga takes up Odd’s adventures as a skald (court poet) in the land of the Rus. Here he is drawn into a dangerous love affair with the passionate and cunning Princess Ingigerd of Novgorod, and is forced to break with his sworn lord, Harald the Ruthless. Along the way, Odd devises a stratagem to defeat the wild Pechenegs, nomadic warriors of the Russian steppe, and goes off on a doomed mission to explore the distant reaches of the Black Sea. The novel concludes with Odd sailing into the harbor of Constantinople, bent on a secret mission, which will almost certainly cost him his life.
Eager, curious, quick-witted—and sometimes wrong-headed—Odd Tangle-Hair recounts his story with candor, insight, and always an ironic sense of humor.
Bruce Macbain, Author
From boyhood, Bruce Macbain spent his days in reading history and historical fiction. The Greeks and Romans have held a special fascination for him, and this led to earning a master’s degree in Classical Studies and a doctorate in Ancient History.
Along the way, he also taught English as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Borneo. Later, he taught courses in Greek and Roman civilization at Boston University, and published a few dense monographs, read by very few.
In recent years he has turned to writing fiction, a much more congenial pursuit, beginning with two historical mysteries set in ancient Rome (Roman Games and The Bull Slayer). Now, he has turned his attention to his other favorite folk, the Vikings. Odin’s Child , the first novel of Odd Tangle-Hair’s Saga, was published in May, 2015 and is now followed the sequel, The Ice Queen. A concluding volume will follow next year.
Bruce spends his spare time in the kitchen, cooking spicy food.
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