Tag Archives: Icelandic sagas

First Monday Book Day: One baad Mother

I have never been a major consumer of Poul Anderson's prodigious output, but I remember with great fondness one novel of his that I read in my youth -- the masterful Tau Zero. In retrospect, that book was so great that I really can't explain why I haven't read everything he ever published.

Add to that the fact that Anderson grew up on a farm in Minnesota and earned a B.A. in physics from the U, and again, I'm surprised I haven't explored more of his oeuvre. So when I happened upon this volume on the discount rack at my local used book store, I figured I could afford 50 cents for a hardback.

Mother of Kings is much more an historical novel than a fantasy work, although the dust jacket had some blurb trying to compare it to Marion Zimmer Bradley's magnificent feminist take on the Arthurian legends in The Mists of Avalon. It centers on the life of Gunnhild, the historical "mother of kings" as wife to Eric Bloodaxe, king of Norway in the mid-10th century.

The book plays off the Icelandic Sagas of the 13th century. The first couple of hundred pages (or, how far I've gotten so far) are thick with faux-period speech and turns of phrase, and there's lots of hewing and hacking and wenching to be found. The thickness of the patois has abated somewhat as I've gotten deeper into the book, but it is a bit annoying. And with all of the familial references (soandsosson) and obscure-to-me titles (hersir, jarl, etc.), the bear grease got a little thick. But, like I said, it seems to be lightening up as I get deeper into the book.

Gunnhild is a conniving beeyatch from a tender age, determined to use whatever skills at her disposal to rise in the world (and succeeding). Some of the characters hint at being sympathetic ones, but those hints don't seem to last too long.

If you have a hankering for some Norse historical novelization, this might be up your alley. So far it has held my attention. What are you reading?