I recently received this book review from a reader in Sweden, so I though I'd share it with my readers of this blog. It is an excellent assessment of the last novel of my Axe of Iron series, Assimilation.
The text was edited to protect the reviewer; however, her content has not been altered. (Ed.)
Assimilation is your best
I have finished reading your book. It is your best.
I am impressed with it, very impressed. It reveals once more your deep knowledge of northern archaeology and customs but it is Death Wind that stays in mind. When I read it the first time I laid down the book and didn't touch it for two days, out of fright. My heart beat and I had to calm down. Actually, some of your favourite expressions now enter my mind.
"He stood still for a heartbeat." (15)
"---for a couple of heartbeats" (90)
Death wind touched my heart. Your description of obsession accompanied by the magic of the soothing and frightening nature is masterly. The composition is more dramatic than I noticed in the first two volumes. You succeed at composing thrill, building up the story with cliff hangers, cutting off near the top of the thrill, only to return to it a few sections later.
Sublime moments are balanced against horror scenes, eating raw hearts for example.
The atmosphere of magic lies like a sweeping cloud in and on everything, nature, thought, relationships, feelings and it is described with all the five senses. People hear howls, shrills and whinings and feel them on their skins. They absorb smells of food, smoke, breaths and nature and they are gluttons. They have omens, they know beforehand, they guess, they fear. They know how to hide. Magic is everywhere. Just one example:
"his presence had left an imprint on the soul of the young Haudeno warrior that he would never forget. He felt that something was watching him."
At the base there is love, hate and revenge. The love between Nipishish and Ingerd is perhaps not described as burning hot, rather true and everlasting. It is absurd that it should turn Nipishish into a killing monster but revenge is human and absurdities and complexities are human too and moreover, they make good stories.
Love has many facets. You describe it between mother and son, father and son. It lies behind the sacrifice of a son and the sparing of a father. There are also stepfathers and adopted sons, parallel stories, with a twist. It is easy for me to use the word "theme" as if it was all conjured up. It isn't. Assimilation could have taken place just like you describe
The love between Nipishish and the wolf, master and animal, for example, may seem romantic but I am sure that it could have happened just like you described. It fits into this pattern of parallelism and has like mother, father and son, antique patterns, for instance Ulysses’ faithful dog, the story about a lion that spares the man who once helped him.
Your vocabulary is enormous with interesting choice of words. I have always had the feeling that verbs of movement increase the tension and thrill, and you do use them. Just an example:
touched, crept forward, inched forward, slithered forward (349 ff)
"---the wolf angled toward where the man knelt on the lakeshore." (363)
A French word is "---to reconnoiter with the Haudeno village for the presence of Ivar" (19)
Here are some Norse ones that I recognize.
"---one of the females will whelp soon” Compare Sw. infinivite valpa, noun sing en valp, plur valpar (36)
"---the big dog's snout". Sw. sing en snut (37)
"---a demented troll" Sw. sing ett troll (67)
"--- they drug her along Sw. past tense drog, infinitive draga (267)
"---to find where they had lost his spoor. Sw. ett spår (350)
Overwhelming are all the words that have to do with the processes of work among the Indians and the Vikings.
The introduction of the inner monologue in the cursive is new in this third book. It has to do with both language and composition is and makes the characters sly and calculating.
Negative points of view: There are not many. Since I read the first two books a few years ago, I had forgotten about the names, so a table of names would have helped. At times I missed voice of the wise and omniscient narrator. In Death Wind it is more vitally present than in the preceding chapters.
The book and especially Death wind is written with such youthful energy that I suspect it was conceived and existed in various stages of completion long before 2016. If not, you are as vital as a teenager. I look forward to hearing about the genesis and stages of the book.
Tonight there will be a TV program called Vikings in Canada with Pat Sutherland. I have seen it once and am going to do it again. What do you think about her research and findings? According to her the Vikings were great traders and trade is what you mention trade in your books as well. I remember she showed a little bit of a pair of scales as a proof that the Vikings were tradesmen. Scales have been found in Viking graves in Russia and it has been contended that it was the women who used them.
Thank you for publishing this book.
5 February 2017