Viking Girl by Pauline Chandler

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Viking Girl by Pauline Chandler

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A tense and exciting adventure with a strong female character. The tale is perhaps a little too slight for the most sophisticated readers, but it will appeal to all fans of historical fiction.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: June 2007
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 978-0192754974

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Beren's tribe are far from home. The war with invaders has deprived them of both king and land. Named her father's heir just the day before his death in battle, Beren found herself queen of a landless people. So, trusting in the god Othinn and the advice of her uncle, Beren and her tribe sailed to a new life in England. They are not welcome. The land is despoiled by a previous Viking raid; there are no crops, and barely enough food to feed the people already there.

Worse still, it is becoming more and more obvious that Beren's father did not die with honour, but instead amidst treachery. His messenger, the fox, appears to Beren, urging her to seek justice. But can the untried and untested queen forge an alliance with the Saxons and the Christian monks in time to save herself and her people?

I thoroughly enjoyed Viking Girl. We read a lot about the heroes of ancient times, but an awful lot less about those who followed behind. In Viking Girl, we meet King Alfred briefly and the Viking leaders Guthrun and Halfdan are mentioned, but the story is really concerned with two of the small communities affected by this ancient battle for England. Both need land, both need food and for both to have it, accommodations must be made. There must have been countless stories like this one as Saxon and Viking found ways to co-exist. It wasn't all fighting.

Beren is a strong, attractive character and the supporting cast are all fully-fleshed. The pace is controlled and the tension builds well. But the best thing about Viking Girl is its wealth of often homely detail - the food, the trading, the hunting. Beren talks to herself using Viking phrases and imagery - uncles are father-brothers, times of relaxation are soul-easings - and this helps create a credible past world that lives and breathes of its own accord.

It's a relatively straightforward story though, without much in the way of surprises and this, together with the uncomplicated character relationships, may render Viking Girl too light a read for the most sophisticated children. But for everyone else, particularly the fans of historical fiction aged nine to twelve, it's recommended.

My thanks to the publishers for sending the book.

Jackie French's Slave Girl is another adventure involving a strong female lead and Vikings, while Katherine Langrish's Troll series blends tales of Vikings with the supernatural.

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