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Sigrid and her brothers are taken from their native Norseland and sold as slaves separately. Sigrid then begins her life alone as maid to Aina, daughter of Ademar, Viscount of Segur in Limoges. Her life could be a lot worse. Sigrid's pagan beliefs could condemn her to a tough time in Christian France but she's fallen on her feet, forming a close friendship with Aina, albeit a servile one. Meanwhile elsewhere in the region, Adalmode, daughter of the Viscount of Limoges is about to become a marriage pawn in a power struggle. Although she loves her family, she disagrees with their choice and has another in mind – one of her father's prisoners. This is a tough world where love takes second place to survival and having it all is generally not an option compatible with staying alive.

The Viking Hostage by Tracey Warr

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: A densely packed 10th century hist fict ranging from France to Viking Wales with other locations in between. Sometimes story flow is sacrificed to the furnishing of facts but it's all fascinating stuff full of pre-Machiavelli machiavellious plotting.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: September 2014
Publisher: Impress Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1907605598

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British author, teacher and art historian Tracey Warr lives between homes in Wales and France. This provides the logic as to why she set The Viking Hostage in these two locations but the initial trigger was in distant history.

Tracey came across an account written by a French monk in 1028 mentioning two apparently disparate events. The first was the Viking kidnap of Emma of Segur, betrothed to Guy of Limoges. The second was the marriage of Guy's sister Adalmode. From there Tracey's academic brain melded with her imagination, Emma's name changed to Aina, Sigrid the Norse slave/companion was invented and the novel took shape.

The book is rich with historical facts and news from the 10th century aristocracy which at times vies with the story, stemming the flow a little. But what an amazing history it is! This is human chess played with lives and land where plotting and placing sympathetic favourites in the right positions is everything. Even in the church you can forget godliness and divine providence; Bishops were appointed for their willingness to sanction near-incestuous matches rather than for biblical virtue.

The characters lend themselves to the story as much as their era. The three instantly likeable women may be the framework as we watch them fight the system from within as children, teens and women. However this is no girly hist fict. This is a masculine world but even then some men have been dealt a rough hand, as demonstrated by Guy, torn between fairness and duty while also battling with visual impairment.

Tracey opens the doors to three cultures: the Norwegians, post-Charlemagne Frankish and the newly Norse-dominated corner of Wales. Again Tracey's research is thorough and evident while religions, customs and language hold us as much enthralled as the politicking. Obviously Tracey writes for us in English but she still manages to include hints of the mother tongues, often giving us phrases with the feeling of direct translations. (E.g. a Norseman is described as feeling heavy with friend loss.) I also love the idea that the Norse Council was called The Thing!

Tracey needs to find a way to reconcile her 'chuck-in-the-research' side with her deep and varied imagination as their battle does make it heavier going occasionally. However, once she's managed this, I predict Tracey will become one of the better hist-fict writers in the country – and deservedly so!

(Thank you, Impress, for providing us with a copy for review.)

Further Reading: If this appeals we also heartily recommend Tracey's Almodis the Peaceweaver. If you'd rather stay with the Norsemen, try Raven: Blood Eye by Giles Kristian.

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