Jack was 11 when berserkers loomed out of the fog and nabbed him. Now in 793 AD, Jack and his little sister Lucy are enslaved by Olaf One-Brow, and his fierce young shipmate Thorgil. Alongside the crow “Bold Heart”, they learn to “Just say no to pillaging.”
Um…why are you reading this review and not out picking up your copy of The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer? This book is jammed full of story! It probably could have been a trilogy all on it’s own, but Jack’s wonderful author said “NOPE! This trilogy is going to rock your world in 3 completely different settings… just with (mostly) the same characters.” (By the way, I don’t know if you can tell, but I am already most of the way through the second book.)So… let’s get this review out so I can get back to reading.
I had read this book first when I was in middle school and at the time— because I am old— there wasn’t even the hint of a second book. When I found out recently that not only was there a sequel but there were in fact two I decided I had to re-read it. Getting started, I was super nervous that it was going to be one of those books that I loved when I was younger but now I am really unimpressed by. Not young adult/middle grade books can be Harry Potter.
Imagine my surprise upon opening the book to find that re-reading this book was basically like reading it for the first time. I disliked Jack’s father just as intensely as I did the first time for being a buffoon. I had the same love-extreme dislike relationship with Lucy, Thorgil, and the vikings as I did the first time. And I was thoroughly enraptured, just like the first time. I suspect that it won’t take me another 12 years to read this trilogy again.
Over and over again Nancy Farmer shows that just because a culture is different than yours— and even harsher than yours— doesn’t mean that the people who it belongs to are evil or wrong. Usually a culture is driven and developed by a need to survive in a certain climate and locale. It’s why on coasts rely heavily on fishing and inland they rely more heavily on agriculture. So what do you do when the climate you live in is almost to harsh to live in? You become a viking.
I also adore that this book talks about Yggdrasil/the Tree of Life and how we shouldn’t decide that one religion is right or wrong. Jack is just barely pagan. His mother speaks to bees. The bard believes in the Irish gods. Thorgil is Norse. And Jack’s father is an annoyingly devout Christian. (There are other Christians in the book that I like much better. Jack’s father just uses his faith as an excuse to be borderline abusive and I don’t approve.) Sometimes it is a good thing when an author writes a thoroughly hateable character who is not evil or even meant to be the bad guy.
I can’t imagine there are many fans of fantasy… or historical fiction… that would dislike this novel no matter what their age.
5 out of 5 quills. If it wasn’t obvious from the review, I recommend this book whole-heartedly and with Odin’s blessing.