The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker is the first book in a trilogy about Norway’s unification. A promising beginning to an interesting story.
The book starts with a twist that is very surprising. Hartsuyker keeps you reeling from that point on with many other plot twists.
The character development is great. You come to respect both of the main heroines – Ragnvald and his sister Svanhild. Both have a streak of stubbornness in them, but they also have a fairly strong moral compass that keeps them grounded. Although their initial goals line up with each other, they quickly go in diverging paths. Despite these different paths, you have a sense that they will both end up determining the fate of a united Norway.
The action is raw – describing the cutting off of heads and the cutting into of flesh. Although it is raw, it is not overdone – meaning Hartsuyker does not get into the too gory details. She realistically describes Norwegian warfare or all European warfare during that time period.
Although there is a little mysticism at times, it does not seem out-of-place. In particular, there is a scene on an “undead” person who turns out to be still alive, but near death.
I look forward to the next installment in the trilogy.