This book is a 2006 Cybil Award Nominee for YA Fiction,
Halfdan is the son of a thrall and a 9th century Danish clan chieftan, Hrorick, and believes that nothing exists in his life but the drudgery of work. Impatient with his mother, Derdrui's, tales and deaf to the world of women in general, Halfdan never really listens to his mother's tales of being a princess of Ireland, her stories of the White Christ, and all that she lost when she became as she was. Only when she is gone does Halfdan realize that he might have learned more if his heart had not been so intent on the lives of the warriors around him, and on the quest for Vallhalla. But how else could his life have gone?
The Viking world is a man's world, and Halfdan longs to be the kind of man his half-brother, Harald is, the kind of Viking Warrior thralls and soldiers alike look up to. Through a twist of fate that brings Halfdan his freedom, he has the chance to enter that hard, man's world where thralls don't speak unless spoken to, and where mead flows and big talk is all part of the rough cameraderie of warriors. Halfdan has a family when he's never truly been part of one before. But the web of fate is still being spun. Halfdan's life is going to change again -- and this time, it's up to him to decide what he has left.
This is a work of historical fiction wide in scope and mesmerizing. The harsh, bloody life of the Vikings is told with an eye to detail about the weapons and foods of the people, and their practices, and with a realism that can make the reader flinch, but the world is depicted in its reality. Because this is only Book 1 of the Strongbow Saga, it is somewhat frustrating to have met so few characters and have spent so little time with the characters, but this in time will turn out to be a praiseworthy saga which shows evidence of a love of the subject and meticulous research.