Far After Gold by Jen Black

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Far After Gold by Jen Black

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Elaine Dingsdale
Reviewed by Elaine Dingsdale
Summary: Following the trials and tribulations of a young Christian captive, sold on to a Viking steading, this novel raises some interesting moral dilemnas, at the same time as being a concise portrait of life in the remote Viking steading.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: January 2009
Publisher: Quaestor2000 Ltd
ISBN: 978-1906836030

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Perhaps I could begin with what didn't appeal to me about this novel, as I did find that it impacted quite severly on my overall enjoyment! Without giving away too much of the plot, we are faced with an eternal love triangle, this time between Christian slave/Viking raider/Viking's fiancee. Whilst in itself an intriguing scenario, sadly the author labours the point at great length, with everything being referred back to what will they do?. Moreover, although it's probably not an impossible situation - somewhere in the realms of history, a similair scenario would have come to pass - but I felt my credulity stretched to the limit.

For example, Emer (the slave), asserts that she wouldn't sleep with Flane (Viking raider), until he married her. Add this too, to the fact that Flane is a perfect gentleman (nothing whatsover like the archetypal Viking), then belief in the narrative has to be suspended somewhat. Had it not been quite so repetitive on these themes, then what was actually the novel's greatest weakness could have been it's greatest strength - how refreshing it would have been to move away from pillaging and raping Vikings. The continual examination of the dilemna takes up the vast majority of the first half of the book, with every event being referred back to their predicament, with little or no independent action or descriptive narrative - such a pity.

However, to turn to the positives, once the novel got into its stride it was most enjoyable. The decision is made, little more agonising, and well depicted and detailed action lift this into a completely different realm. More background information on life in a Viking steading, along with habits customs and myths, soon give the novel a verve, and vitality. It's peopled also by some appealing characters - I am thinking in particular of young orphan Oli and his canine companion. He's a beautifully depicted character, who really brings the book to life with his hero worship of Flane, and his empathy with Emer, whom he immediately recognises as a kindred spirit and fellow misfit. His maturity and attitude were tremendous and with wisdom beyond his years, I was moved close to tears on several occasions.

The ultimate outcome did surprise me in some respects, and with some riveting action in the final chapters the book clearly demonstrates the true depth of the author's considerable talents. After a shaky start, it settled down well to being a well balanced read. I do hope that the author picks up the tale at a later stage, and further develops the plot and characters - there certainly is sufficient scope to do so. In some respects, the conclusion does feel very much like 'end of part one', so I'll be keeping an eye open for future developments.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might also enjoy Ice Land by Betsy Tobin and Black Ships by Jo Graham.

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Buy Far After Gold by Jen Black at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Far After Gold by Jen Black at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Far After Gold by Jen Black at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Far After Gold by Jen Black at Amazon.com.


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