Ragnvald Eysteinsson continues to serve King Harald in his watch over Norway against raiders and those wishing the land for themselves. In a vision from the gods, Harald is shown as a golden wolf who will cause much suffering, yet rule over all Norse soil. The land of Sogn, a district of Western Norway, is where Ragnvald’s heart lies, but duty to his king’s vision of a united Norway spirits him away too frequently for him to be able to call any land home.
Meanwhile, Svanhild, sister of Ragnvald, adventures across the open seas to Iceland by the side of her husband Solvi and her son. She is beleaguered by unending concern for her sensitive son in the eyes of his hardened father. While Svanhild hopes to find peace and a home in this newly settled land, Solvi is consumed with his quest to regain his homeland of Tafjord from King Harald, a tyrant in his eyes. Leaving Iceland, Solvi and Svanhild encounter strife, which breaks their tentative marriage and splits them apart, leaving Svanhild to become reunited with her brother under Harald’s law.
Linnea Hartsuyker has given readers a chance with this second book in her vikings trilogy to explore Norse culture from the eyes of sensitive characters in a brutal and bloody world. While her first novel, The Half Drowned King, focused heavily on Ragnvald and his plights, The Sea Queen fleshes out Svanhild as a hero in the foreground. Svanhild is a competent warrior, but also a woman that prioritizes her son’s safety before her own as she chases her freedom across the seas. It is refreshing to see that her actions, even those forbidden by a mighty Norse warlord such as Harald, forgiven and even lauded when she proves to do what is best for her family and country. Fans of A Song of Ice and Fire and those interested in Norse history and culture will all find this historical fiction highly enjoyable, though liberal in its characterizations of characters found in the sagas of the Icelanders. For the first book in Hartsuyker’s trilogy, check out The Half-Drowned King, available at the Westmont Public Library.