by Marissa Campbell
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Page Count: 352
Release Date: September 8, 2015
Format: Trade Paperback
How got: personal buy from Amazon
First attention getter: forbidden romance and pretty cover
This dazzling debut brings the Dark Ages to light and illuminates one Saxon noblewoman's romance with a Viking warrior and her struggle to find her path in a changing and dangerous world
869. For eighteen years, Avelynn, the beautiful and secretly pagan daughter of the Ealdorman of Somerset, has lived in an environment of love, acceptance, and equality. Somerset has flourished under twenty years of peace. But with whispers of war threatening their security, Avelynn's father makes an uncompromising decision that changes her life forever.
Forced into a betrothal with Demas, a man who only covets her wealth and status, Avelynn's perception of independence is shattered. With marriage looming, she turns to her faith, searching for answers in an ancient ritual along the coast, only to find Alrik The Blood-Axe and sixty Viking berserkers have landed.
In a year of uncertainty that sees Avelynn discover hidden powers, stumble into a passionate love affair with Alrik, and lead men into battle, Avelynn must walk a fine line as her deceptions mount and Demas' tactics to possess her become more desperate and increasingly brutal.
Avelynn and Alrik are caught in the throes of fate as they struggle to find the way back to themselves and onwards to each other.
Star Rating - 4
I went into this book with certain expectations (forbidden romance is always a grabber for me!); yet found myself enjoying the book for completely different reasons. I was failed a bit in one regard but rewarded in another.
Strongest point to this book is our lead, Avelynn. You want a woman with guts? Look no further! Facing a brutal, tragic timeframe for women in history, she fights for choices in her life and to lead the one she wants. She personally experiences violence and the threat thereof; yet she doesn’t let that break her. She reminds me of another female from the British Dark Ages I came across in another book recently. Badass doesn’t begin to describe Avelynn!
All of that bravado and guts is balanced out with an impulsive nature that leads to the ruin of many of Avelynn’s plans. She doesn’t always contemplate all the consequences of her actions or thinks she’s completely prepared for what may come. She makes choices that burn many of her bridges in life; regret is an emotion she’ll become familiar with in book two, I predict.
The author does a great job in making Dark Ages Britain a real location. Around the time frame of a young Alfred the Great and at the height of the Viking threat, all the gory brutality and threats make an appearance, from bloody battlefields to graphic threats against Avelynn’s person. She also shines a light on local customs, holidays, and religion. I especially liked seeing Christianity and Avelynn’s Four Goddess’ religions shown side by side; it was interesting to see the strengths and weaknesses of both religions and their adherents.
My one let-down with this one was the romance, my biggest expectation that wasn’t met. Don’t get me wrong; the chemistry and emotional connection between Alrick and Avelynn is there when they share page space. They were powerful when together and made my heart sing.
However… And it’s a big “however”. The page time these two share is ridiculous for a book that pushes its romance as a big draw. For the actions that transpire at the end, I didn’t see any build up to it. They seem to come out of nowhere and with little motivation. Their romance is one of those “insta-love” things that drive me up a wall. Little development makes it lack much of the punch that I could have had given its forbidden nature and their mutual chemistry when together. Missed opportunity there.
Where the book leaves off makes me believe that we’ll get more development of this primary relationship in book two. I mean, it can’t help but develop unless Campbell changes the story flow drastically from where it left off. So this disappointment looks to get better in future; I can only hope as this was what drew me to the book in the first place.
While it failed in some expectations for me, I still got a great story and main character. Her history provides a vivid backdrop for Avelynn and her struggles; what romance there was shining all the brighter for the background darkness. The relationship front looks like it might get more development and page time in book two. I look forward to more of that development as I would desperately love to see more of these two together. I’m looking forward to book two; Campbell, bring it on!