The Viking by Marti Talbot is certainly not what the reader might expect. As a fan of the History Channel television series The Vikings, and the BBC production The Last Kingdom (based on the Bernard Cornwell books), I was looking forward to a saga focused on the Danish conquest of England. I definitely did not anticipate a love story.
The book begins with that promise. Stefan, a young Viking, is looking forward to his first raid alongside his father, Donar. But the foray into Scotland goes terribly wrong resulting in the death of his father, the retreat of the Viking fleet, and young Stefan stranded on Scottish soil.
Able to speak the language because his mother had been a Scot captured on a previous Viking raid, he finds refuge with a woman, Jirvel, and her daughter, Kannak, who are in desperate need of someone to till the land and help them survive. Jirvel’s husband has abandoned them to their fate, but the three bond out of necessity and form a family unit of sorts.
From there the story definitely shifts to the budding romance between Stefan and Kannak. As they grow and mature their filial relationship changes and the two eventually fall in love. However, just as the two realize their true feelings for one another, Stefan is kidnapped and sold into slavery. Stefan never gives up hope of freedom and returning to Kannak, and despite pressure to marry another, she holds onto her dream of a reunion.
In addition to this story of young love, Marti Talbot also writes of Jirvel’s yearning for Laird Macoran who is Kannak’s real father. Many years before, on the eve of their betrothal, war with the rival Clan Brodie threatens. The only way to keep the peace is for Laird Macoran to accept an arranged marriage with Agnes Brodie. It will be a loveless marriage that will also separate Jirvel from Macoran.
The reunion of Stefan and Kannak as well as Jirvel and Laird Macoran closes out the story and sets up Marti Talbot’s follow-on books about future generations. Younger readers will likely enjoy the storybook ending. For the more mature audience the abrupt plot resolution, its innocence, and the dearth of violence that characterized the historical period likely will temper their reaction to it. However, taken as a whole, The Viking is an easy read and enjoyable tale. It may not be anything that you expected, but it can and should be appreciated for what it is.