A Brother’s Oath

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Official HNS link: https://historicalnovelsociety.org/reviews/a-brothers-oath/

A Brother’s Oath is the first of a trilogy about brothers Hengest and Horsa, Scandinavian raiders who were instrumental in the migration of the Vikings to England. This tells the story of their youth, which is unrecorded, and is thus rich subject matter for authors of historical fiction. The novel opens with good action, though it stalls a bit while the characters are built up and the various plot lines are introduced with approximately a third of the way through the pace picking up again. Once it did, this was an exciting read.

Hengest, the favoured elder son of a local warlord, and his brother, Horsa, fall out of favour with their father. Horsa decides, sooner than Hengest, to find his own way in the world and makes a name for himself as a raider. Hengest eventually makes a life with a woman of his own choosing. The brothers are reunited years later through treachery, hardship, and adventure.

Thorndycroft does a nice job throughout of showing the action rather than telling about it, and the imagery is vivid. Character development is similarly thorough, though parts felt more rushed than necessary. The book could do with another copy edit as there were quite a few minor punctuation errors, though they did not detract from the story itself.

The details of Viking culture are well researched and draw on extant Anglo-Saxon literature as a primary source. I especially enjoyed the poetry and phrases Thorndycroft worked into the dialogue and at the beginning of each new section.

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