4 out of 4 stars
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When Turks and heathens begin to pose a threat to peace, the king requests men from different villages, including Rentvatten. Thirty men are chosen through a lottery to heed the king's call. Among the men selected are Eli and the blacksmith's son known as Sakarias Ellisson. These men are expected to trek for forty days through a snow-filled wilderness to get to the king. Sakarias, also known as Keri, falls for Stjärna, and along the line, he gets his first kiss. Keri and his friends find romance, but it is interrupted by their journey to the king. The men encounter several disasters, including an attack by several packs of unusually large wolves. These combine to test Keri's faith and push him into a leadership role. What challenges do they face? How does Keri handle his leadership role? What happens with their interrupted romance? This story is a powerful journey of faith, culture, and new possibilities.
Ballad of the Blacksmith's Son by Rick Taylor is a book set in Viking Russia in a time when Christianity was still a novelty. Primarily written in the first-person narrative, the story was built around the themes of perseverance, determination, faith, trust, and love. I could see these themes reflected in how the community lived, loved, and pulled together. Taylor also excellently portrayed the indomitable spirit of those left behind by the men making their journey to the king. I've always believed that there's never a good enough reason to start a war, no matter how well-meaning and noble the intention behind it is. Through this story, the author reflected this assertion by showing how the ideology of war brought out the best and worst in humanity.
I liked how the author was able to bring life and meaning to the characters through both spiritual and literal frameworks. These showed themselves in the character names, dialogues, and the constant fight to avoid falling into temptation. The author was sufficiently descriptive in the plot and the characters' experiences. Taylor showed through the said experiences that when one has faith, they do not need to fear because they have God's protection.
This book was divided into two parts, and I liked how each part started with a Viking ballad. This helped to establish the era this story was set in. Another element of authenticity was how the book employed an axe icon as a scene divider throughout the book. This was a nice touch, given that an axe was arguably the preferred weapon of the Vikings.
It was particularly impressive how the author distinguished the characters by the way they talked. Cnute, for instance, had an interesting accent, which was shown with the creative contractions in his speech. It really added to the story's originality and authenticity in highlighting how the Vikings sounded. An example of this was when Cnute was talking to Soran and Keri on page 48:
I'll admit that these Viking conversations were a tad difficult to read at first, but it became easier with time. In fact, it was my favorite thing about the book.Got t' change that. Tell yer father I needs only a little ale, an' a lot o' bread…an' perhaps some meat. I also needs some work on m' father's helmet. But you, Soren, got t' have some payment f' yer work or I'm not t'agree t' this arrangement.
There was absolutely nothing I hated about this book. The book was exceptionally well edited as I found no grammar or typographical errors while reading. Due to the book's spiritual tone and the other themes, the depiction of Viking culture, and the journey of Keri and the others, I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. I recommend this book to lovers of stories—fiction or otherwise—set in historical times, especially the Viking era.
The Ballad of the Blacksmith's Son
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