Hartsuyker’s second volume in her trilogy (after The Half-Drowned King) continues the saga of Ragnvald Eysteinsson, set in ninth-century Norway, a turbulent period of bloody unrest. Ragnvald is one of Norway’s collection of minor kings. He is loyal to King Harald, who owns the most land and wants to unite all Norway under his rule, but the rivalries of rebellious petty kings and the threat of Swedish invasion could mean all-out war, and he needs Ragnvald’s help. Their greatest enemies are Solvi and King Hakon; their greatest ally is Svanhild the Sea Queen, Ragnvald’s sister and Solvi’s estranged wife. Amid Norway’s shifting warlord loyalties, Ragnvald and Harald are cruel manipulators, but Svanhild proves that Norse women can be just as vicious and cunning as Norse men. Blood oaths, feuds, insults to honor, betrayals, and greed fuel the story’s instances of torture and murder, and the Norsemen are merciless in punishment. Though overlong, this is an ambitious tale of Norwegian medieval warfare told in richly colorful and accurate historical detail. Hartsuyker’s novel reveals just how tenuous life is when disputes are settled with sword and battle-axe. (Aug.)
Hartsuyker is an amazing storyteller who brings Viking Norway to life, from the sea battles to the vivid landscapes. The closer I got to the last page of THE SEA QUEEN, the slower I read, as I did not want it to end. I felt invested, wanting to know how Ragnvald and Svanhild would fare in the dangerous games they were playing…Hartsuyker tells a grand tale, and you won’t want to miss any of it. If you like historical fiction, Viking tales or, frankly, just a great story, these books are for you.
Following a successful trading season, Svanhild, sister to Ragnvald, the hero of Hartsuyker's The Half-Drowned King, and husband Solvi return to their home in Iceland. Svanhild's young son hasn't taken well to travel on the open seas, and she hopes that by staying on land for a time, he might grow stronger and regain his health. Sadly, being land-bound is not where Solvi's heart lies, and he demands that his wife and son accompany him on his next voyage. When Svanhild's weakened son dies at sea, she abandons Solvi and sets off for Norway and her brother's household. Meanwhile, Ragnvald, weary of war, returns to his own land to find his holdings have been claimed by Atli, who insists that King Harald promised them to him in Ragnvald's absence. Deprived of home and hearth and knowing that his sister is no longer tied to his enemy, Ragnvald joins Harald to resume war against the raider. VERDICT Hartsuyker is a wonderfully descriptive writer equally adept at penning truly horrifying battle scenes as depicting life in ninth-century Norway. Fans of History Channel's Vikings should find this novel (and its prequel) equally compelling. [See Prepub Alert, 11/27/17.]—Jane Henriksen Baird, formerly at Anchorage P.L., AK
Six years have passed since Svanhild, sister to King Ragnvald of Sogn, left to marry the renegade Solvi. Now on opposite sides of alliances, brother and sister fall prey to the tensions building as King Harald gathers forces to rule one united Norway. Solvi, landless and outlawed, moves from settlement to settlement, while Svanhild, tired of living on the open sea, longs to set down roots for her young son. However, Solvi is not inclined to live on the land, and a terrible tragedy forces Svanhild to make life-altering decisions. Teens will get a glimpse into the hardships of ninth-century Scandinavia, where harsh weather is matched by a culture that lives by rules hinging on family, loyalties, fairness, and revenge. Though Svanhild wants to settle down, she is an adventurer at heart and will do what it takes to support those she loves—in battle, if necessary. But what price will she pay for taking a stance? Built on Scandinavian legends, this tale describes a turbulent time in Norwegian history. Readers will be on the edge of their seats as they follow both sides in the growing conflict for land, power, and family. VERDICT Purchase for strong historical fiction fans who enjoy a good Scandinavian saga.—Connie Williams, Petaluma Public Library, CA
Now fighting opposite her brother, Svanhild must decide how to navigate an ever more treacherous Norway in Hartsuyker's follow-up to The Half-Drowned King (2017).Things aren't going exactly as planned for Ragnvald, who has fought in King Harald's quest to unite Norway for six bloody years. As a warrior, Ragnvald is used to raids and war, but he is often startled by Harald's penchant for revenge. Even after all the warring is said and done, Vikings have strict codes of honor, and Harald pushes Ragnvald into ever more gruesome confrontations that trouble his conscience. In a surprising move, Ragnvald's sister, Svanhild, has married his enemy, Solvi, a skilled sailor and warrior rousing an army to resist Harald's conquests and burdensome taxes. This puts the two siblings at odds, even after Svanhild leaves Solvi and returns to Ragnvald's camp a grieving mother. As the factions continue to war, Svanhild is caught in the middle. Will she stand by her brother's side or lie to protect the man she still loves? New characters, like Ragnvald's stepbrother, Sigurd, give us insight into the labyrinthine political machinations, back-stabbings, and betrayals at work in the Viking age, taking us straight into the camp of one of Harald's betrayers. Like many second books in a trilogy, this one can get bogged down trying to put all of the players in the right places at the right time, and the novel relies heavily on exposition. But Hartsuyker is a skilled storyteller, and the moral battles her characters wrestle with on and off the battlefield add compelling psychological depth to an old and epic tale. She also restores women's work and political maneuverings to Ragnvald's story, and Svanhild emerges as a complicated, talented, and shrewd warrior in her own right. "Should I give you a ship and a crew so you can fight my sea battles for me?" King Harald asks Svanhild after she proves herself a worthier sailor than many of his men. Svanhild, of course, doesn't miss a beat. "Yes...I think you should." It's a good thing Harald listens.A seafaring epic with bloodcurdling raids and political intrigue to spare.
Through her multifaceted characters, Hartsuyker adeptly evokes female alliances, the complications of love and passion, and vengeance both terrible and triumphant as she effectively juggles many subplots and settings, from Norway’s harsh, picturesque coast to sulfurous Iceland and Dublin’s muddy harbor.
This is historical fiction at its best and shouldn’t be missed…Hartsuyker adds a rich, Shakespearean approach to characters and politics…All three main characters, Svanhild particularly, are so beautifully realized in their intelligence and emotional development that the descriptions of sea voyages, battles, and mead hall law-wrangling mesh seamlessly with the more personal stories.
By the final pages, Swanhild has become that rare creature of historical fiction: a thoroughly believable female action-hero…At once a thrilling adventure story and a moving portrait of very complicated love. The Sea Queen is an even more accomplished novel than its predecessor and sets the reader keenly on edge for the next volume in the series.
Hartsuyker is an amazing storyteller who brings Viking Norway to life, from the sea battles to the vivid landscapes. The closer I got to the last page of The Sea Queen, the slower I read, as I did not want it to end. I felt invested, wanting to know how Ragnvald and Svanhild would fare in the dangerous games they were playing…Hartsuyker tells a grand tale, and you won’t want to miss any of it. If you like historical fiction, Viking tales or, frankly, just a great story, these books are for you.
It is her wonderful cast of characters that truly makes The Sea Queen a page-turning, electrifying read…superb and engaging characters that you cannot stop thinking about even when the story moves from one to another. I heartily and highly recommend The Sea Queen…For Fans of ‘Game of Thrones’ and of historical fiction.
A treat to savor…I thoroughly enjoyed reading THE SEA QUEEN and was once again immersed into Ragnvald’s world of loyalty, betrayal and complex Norwegian relationships. THE SEA QUEEN is a much better read than THE HALF- DROWNED KING. I loved seeing a strong and clever woman character in Svanhild. I also loved the pacing of the story and how it feels epic.”