March 08, 2006

Lives nasty, brutish, and short - but depicted beautifully

The Fated Sky

Historical fiction is often tricky to write, but Henrietta Branford's The Fated Sky, is a masterpiece of amazing detail and no nonsense realism that gives readers a snapshot of the short and brutal lives of the Vikings. This novel was shortlisted for the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize and is DEFINITELY for older readers. This short book is a treasure of detail, and I look forward to reading more of Branford's work.

Ran, named after the goddess of the sea, is unloved by her mother, who mourns the death of her father and brothers who have perished at sea. When a handsome and darkly reeking stranger from her mother's past relieves her of her grieving widowhood, Ran nervously leaves behind her beloved grandmother and familiar home to follow Vigut and her mother to visit family up the coast for the annual winter sacrifice. Horrifically, the family is attacked by wolves on the way, and Ran's mother sickens, and dies. Enraged Vigut blames Ran, and turns her life over to a priest of Odin. She is found pleasing to the dark god, and due for sacrifice.

Ran's fate is in the hands of bloody minded, vengeful priests, but her destiny lies elsewhere.

(Little did I know, when I picked up this novel, that Branford is one of the foremost children's fiction writers in the UK, and every year there is a Henrietta Branford Writing Competition and The Branford Boase Award given to other able young writers 18 and below.)

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