Review of The Year of the Warrior
First of all, Erling Skjalgsson is a real person. He was baptized as an adult in 996 and was a Norse Christian leader in a predominantly pre-Christian society. This series is Christian historical fiction that revolves around his life—and he is well worth reading about!
The Year of the Warrior essentially combines a previous book, Erling’s World, into The Year of the Warrior. That’s what I mean when I refer to the books separately.
I won’t lie. There is terribly brutality in this book. There’s sex, rape, slavery, violence, and Norse paganism. But even as it dips into magical realism, allowing both Christ and Norse mythological figures to be real, it’s simply fantastic.
You see the humanity of both believers and unbelievers. You see Christians wrestling with both temptations and Christian life. Even the hurt reacting to both God and man! Even better, there’s actual theological probing, between Christians, between believers and unbelievers, and even a bit from the mythological figures who feign to offer a better world than Christ’s!
Theological points include both forced baptism and a belief that Christ would come again in the year 1000 (hence an extreme emphasis by some on the year of the warrior), but there’s too many smaller conversations to count. All of which I found quite satisfying as a Lutheran.
The descriptions hit me very powerfully. I mean, normally we would talk about world-building in a piece of fantasy, but this book may have made me even more engaged into my own world, allowing me to see it through re-opened eyes and a broadened perspective.
The narrator is an Irishman captured by Vikings, Aillil. In the first book, which is full of action and adventure, you get to know him on a pretty deep level. In the second book, there is significant development but also a few more episodic parts to better let you see the Norway and, in a secondhand way, Ireland. Also in the first book, Erling is established in your mind as a character, with the second book delving into more of the political developments of his time.
This is a great thing to read when you need an equal dose of reality and escape. Perhaps also when you’re recognizing evil or brutality. I look forward to the rest of the series, which, note, roughly corresponds to the 1,000-year anniversary of real events! AWESOME!
Count me a fan!