Like its predecessor, The Dragons of the Rhine, this soundly researched conclusion to Paxon's Wodan's Children trilogy humanizes figures from Germanic myth. To survive against fifth-century European barbarians, Rome had to play its old Germanic enemies and sometime allies against the far more fearsome Turko-Mongol Huns, who swept west of the Volga around A.D. 350. King Gundohar of the Rhine-dwelling Burgundians and his half-brother, Hagano, coerce their sister Gudrun, still mourning her husband, Sigfrid-whom they have killed-into a political marriage with Attila, khan of the Western Huns. Ironically, Atilla's ambition will catalyze the horrifying vengeance that Gudrun wreaks upon her kinsmen. To vivify the power of emotion, Paxson gives Gundohar the gift of bardhood, Hagano the berserker's battle-ecstasy and Gudrun the seeress's sight-all attributes of the Germanic trickster god Wodan, embodiment of the irrational. Paxson brings her people and ideas to convincing life in this moving sword-song, which speaks the wisdom of the ancient North: "The mind knows only/ What lies near the heart." (Mar.)
The final volume of the Wodan's Children trilogy is Paxson's lively finale to the saga of Sigfrid and Brunahild. Here legend is replaced to some degree by historically credible characters and events. For lovers of fable, gods and goddesses still appear amid the clashing Romans, Burgunds, and Huns. At its center point, the narrative reintroduces Sigfrid's grieving widow, Gudrun. The princess' fateful marriage to Attila unites the Niflungar tribe with the Huns. Paxson's richly detailed, skillfully wrought tapestry follows the exploits of the warring factions of early European history, seamlessly weaving together romance, myth, and magic.