30 April 2010

Axe of Iron: Confrontation Review

Historical Novels

Title: Confrontation: An Axe of Iron Novel

Author: J. A. Hunsinger

Rating: Excellent!

Publisher: Vinland Publishing

Web Page: www.vinlandpublishing.com

Reviewed by: Eric Jones, http://www.bookreview.com/

Too little is written about the Norse travelers of the early 1000's who made their way from Greenland through North America, of whom the famous Leif Ericson was a part. It is an important, and often overlooked, chapter of history that came several centuries prior to the colonization by Europeans. In his "Axe of Iron" novels, J.A. Hunsinger draws both parallels and divergences of the Norse colonization of Vinland (in what is now Canada) in a profound demonstration of excruciating hardships, fierce war, and the sanctity of love.

"Confrontation" falls into the second slot in Hunsinger's epic saga of the "Northmen" which follows Halfdan and his lieutenant, Gudbjartur, as they discover that the land they've traveled to is inhabited by, not one, but an expansive network of different cultures, some of which are not as welcoming as others. As they work diligently to establish friendly relations with a group of natives known as the Naskapi, they inherit some of their bad blood, and make a few new enemies as well.

While the terms tend to thicken with tribal names like the Anishinabe and the Haudeno, it is well worth understanding the purpose of these names. If you simply gloss over them, you'll be ill-equiped to see and understand the world that Hunsinger indelibly encapsulates in the adventures of his protagonists. In keeping with its "Axe of Iron" title, "Confrontation" is full of meticulously orchestrated war scenes that present us with the danger and excitement that historical novels can provide in place of simple researched nonfiction. But Hunsinger is quick to balance this with moments of human understanding between the Northmen and the natives.

This duality is most fleshed out in Gudbjartur's acceptance by the Naskapi for his skills with an axe. In a sense, it is war that draws the two people together, as the Naskapi are clearly intrigued by the Northmen's skill with weaponry and seek to learn to defend themselves from the Haudeno. Similarly, the Northmen are in needing of the Naskapi's knowledge of the land. And in the end, the two are able to achieve a relative peace through mutual benefit. It is not in just bloody confrontation that Hunsinger is interested in, but in a larger scale of inner and outer human conflict that makes the tale rife with historic intrigue and a larger ideological fable.

Much of the enjoyment of Hunsinger's novel comes from watching how the Northmen and the natives live. Exhaustive research has been done to present a clear and accurate picture of these early explorers, and vivid pictures are painted of the tools they used, and how they used them, and how they developed as they traveled. It is important to note that while the conflicts in "Confrontation" are new and mostly self contained, this is only the second part in a multipart serial epic that requires at least a rudimentary understanding of what happened before it and what is likely to come. Luckily for us, Hunsinger has covered both of those bases by including brief looks at the previous chapter in the series, and in the upcoming book "Assimilation". He addresses terms and phrases in a glossary as well, equipping new readers to understand the world of the Vikings as they make their way across Vinland. It is an engaging and invigorating glance at some of the toughest men in the world, and how they came to infamy for their exploits.

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