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The Half-Drowned King    by Linnea Hartsuyker order for
Half-Drowned King
by Linnea Hartsuyker
Order:  USA  Can
Harper, 2017 (2017)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

If you enjoyed The Vikings TV series, then join Linnea Hartsuyker's Half-Drowned King in an exciting ninth-century Scandinavian adventure that precedes the formation of Norway by the young giant, Harald of Vestfold.

But Harald is not the protagonist here. That part is played by Ragnvald Eysteinsson, son and grandson of kings (his beloved sister Svanhild also plays a significant role). His situation is fraught with danger. Ragnvald's stepfather, Olaf, killed his father and plans to keep the lands that should be Ragnvald's. So, when Ragnvald goes a-viking with Solvi, the latter has been ordered by his father (Olaf's ally) to ensure that Ragnvald does not come back.

Forced overboard and attacked by Solvi, Ragnvald is half-drowned. He has a vision of a wolf sent by the gods, and is rescued by a fisherman. He makes his way to the midsummer ting, seeking justice for what Olaf and Solvi did to him, but fails. Readers alternate between Ragnvald's, Solvi's and Svanhild's points of views. Back home, she is devastated when news arrives that her brother is dead. And she is pressed to marry an old man, a powerful neighbor. But at the ting, she meets Solvi and attraction flares between them.

Ragnvald joins the train of King Hakon, whose baseborn son Oddi is his friend. He's a clever strategist and rises in Hakon's esteem, gaining the enmity of his son Heming. Hakon is in uneasy alliance with Harald, and their troops fight together ... for a time. Ragnvald saves Harald's life and the latter's fey mother predicts his future. Meanwhile Svanhild is mistreated by her stepfather. She flees and ends up with Solvi, confused by her feelings for her brother's enemy.

This first fast-paced episode ends with Ragnvald first among Harald's 'captains and advisers', while his sister has chosen his outlawed enemy over him. The Half-Drowned King is an absorbing read and I'm anxious to see where Linnea Hartsuyker will take all these intriguing characters next.

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