The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker [Book Review]
It took me a very long time to read The Half-Drowned King, mostly because it’s a long story, although it never felt that long when I was reading it. Based on a couple of sagas the Half-Drowned King starts the story of Ragnvald and his sister Svanhild that continue in two more volumes. The Half-Drowned King is historical fiction done well, rather than fantasy. The characters are credulous enough that there’s an element of the latter there, with visions and a fight with a draugr.
The Half-Drowned King
Ragnvald is a descendant of a King, in a time where there were many Kings. His stepfather tries to have him murdered, and the story is a combination of how Ragnvald gets his inheritance and gets involved in the rise of Harald, who aims to be the first King of Norway. The title ‘Half-Drowned King’ comes from an incident early in the story. Returning from raiding Ragnvald jumps into the sea to avoid being killed. He has a vision of Ran’s Hall, but is rescued from the water. The implication being that Ragnvald’s destiny is to be a King.
In parallel Svanhild dreams of travelling and seeing the world. Svanhild knows she will be married off. She hopes it will be an adventurer that will take her with him rather than an old farmer. Svanhild runs away to avoid her fate, seeking to join Ragnvald on his campaign with Harald.
Verdict on The Half-Drowned King
The story is really engaging and it was very easy to read. Most of the chapters were relatively short, so I tended to read a chapter at a time. The research was pretty good too, I’m not an expert on the Viking period, although I’ve read a few books on it. There was a good amount of interesting life in it as well as the plot driven drama. I really felt like I was in the period rather than it being a modern story with an old skin on it.
Definitely worth reading if you like historical fiction.