Title: Blood Eye
Author: Giles Kristian
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Raven (Book 1)
Publication Date: August 28, 2012
Format: Paperback, 384 Pages
ISBN-10: 0345535073 (Random House)
ISBN-13: 978-0345535078 (Random House)
Reviewed by: Sheila
In a thrilling adventure of brotherhood, warfare, and treachery, Giles Kristian takes us into ninth-century England, a world of darkness, epic conflict, and an unforgiving God served by powerful priests. On ships shaped like dragons, bristling with oars and armor, Jarl Sigurd and his fierce Norsemen have come in search of riches. And riches they are promised, by an English ruler who sends Sigurd and his wolves to steal a holy manuscript from another kingdom. Osric, an orphan boy, sees beyond the terror of these warriors, and somehow knows the heathens’ tongue. Renamed Raven, rechristened in blood, he will join them. They are his people. And they will be his fate.
Quick & Dirty: An historical voyage of an orphaned young man destined for Norse greatness.
Opening Sentence: It was April.
Blood Eye begins where all good sagas do; humbly. It starts with an orphaned boy that is not truly accepted in his small village and yet does not know to want for more. When a twist of fate and chance encounter puts him along the path to his true destiny, he begins a long and treacherous journey to greatness.
Though this story is a work of fiction, it is based on an actual event. The Norsemen did, in fact, sail to new lands in search of riches. Our story’s Norsemen approached Raven’s village with the initial intent of trading goods. When they are attacked by the locals, they proceed to decimate everything in their path, including both people and their homes. When they offer a place for Raven within their ranks, the reader sees the catalyst to his transformation into a mighty warrior.
Raven’s growth is physical, emotional, and spiritual. When he joins up with the Wolfpack, the nickname of this group of Norsemen, Raven’s changes begins. His training in weapons not only builds up his muscle mass, but also his confidence. The longer he is with the group, the more he acclimates to their ways and beliefs. Raven was initially a Christian, and believed in one god, that the Norse laughed about. The Norse Pantheon is varied and vast, with Odin at the top of the “Gods Food Chain.” Raven’s blood eye is viewed by them as a sign of Odin’s favor. After several situations that seem “otherworldly” to him, Raven begins to believe the tales himself. The whole transition from Osric to Raven takes the length of book and his changes are reflected in both his internal dialog and attitude.
What journey to adulthood would be complete without a love interest? Raven does fall for a girl that sees him as a heathen. They are opposites in many respects but just like Raven himself, Cynethryth has hidden depths. Her role in life is stifling and preplanned. By taking up with Raven and his band of brothers, she has the rare opportunity to express herself in ways not acceptable for her station. Their freedom from social conformity also opens the door to freedom of choice in love.
I have to say, I had a really hard time putting this book down. Raven’s journey is as engrossing as it is riveting. The fighting and pillaging comes across as less barbaric and more a difference in culturally acceptable behaviors. Kristian has the rare ability to make a group of Norsemen more identifiable to even the most “civilized” person. Book 1 of the Raven series has me waiting for the next installment; horned hat on and sword in hand, yelling out to wenches for more mead.
“The world is stronger than any of us, my lord. It goes on,” I said, remembering that Ealhstan had conveyed as much to me once in his own way. “It has always been so.”
“Yes, it has,” Sigurd said, turning to face me. “And that is why we must do great things. I don’t just mean killing. By all the gods, there must be greater things than sowing death among your enemies. No, we must achieve things that are beyond most men. Only by doing what seems impossible will we ensure that men remember our names and sing of them around their fires when we are long gone.” He put a hand on my shoulder. “I see something in you. I cannot explain it yet, but I know I am bound to you.”
He nodded solemnly. “The gods have marked you, and my sword will honor their favor.” Something caught his eye, a shiny black beetle crawling from a pile of smoking white ash. “The world goes on,” he said, “despite the chaos we make. May Odin grant us the time to carve our names in the earth, Raven, so that others must watch where they tread.”
1. Blood Eye
FTC Advisory: Random House/Bantam Dell graciously provided me with a copy of Blood Eye. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review. The only payments I receive are hugs and kisses from my little boys.
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