Friday, August 25, 2017

The Power of the Sea

Not too many people can trace their ancestry, through documents, back more than a millennium. Linnea Hartsuyker, my latest guest at New Books in Historical Fiction, is one of the few. When she was still in high school, her relatives set out to trace their ancestry and discovered that they were descended from Harald Fairhair, the first king of a united (or perhaps semi-united) Norway. From that past—and after a lot of research in Norse sagas, archeology, and much more, which we discuss during the interview—Linnea has crafted a trilogy set among her ninth-century ancestors. The Half-Drowned King appeared this month, The Sea Queen is scheduled for the summer of 2018, and The Golden Wolf will arrive a year later.

Harald Fairhair certainly appears in the series; Linnea describes him as a catalyst for the action. But the series focuses on Ragnvald, a young man who became Harald’s adviser; Ragnvald’s sister, Svanhild, desperate to escape an arranged marriage to an elderly neighbor; and Solvi, the trickster antagonist whose choices alternately aid and impede the quests of Ragnvald and his sister. These three, and the many other characters who cross their path, live in a richly detailed and imagined world governed by often erratic gods and goddesses who at times take a personal interest in their fates.

Linnea also maintains an active blog, where she discusses writing, her books, the pluses and minuses of an MFA, Viking culture, and many other things. So give our interview a listen, then follow up on the blog—and above all, if you like historical fiction with a touch of fantasy and a different approach, seek out The Half-Drowned King. And apologies for some lack of clarity in the sound: we were trying something new, designed to improve that very clarity, and it didn’t work as well as expected.

As usual, the rest of this post comes from New Books in Historical Fiction.


Ragnvald Eysteinsson is returning from raiding in Ireland under the leadership of Solvi and focused on winning a contest with his fellow sailors when Solvi attacks. Ragnvald falls into the fjord and is given up for dead. But a fisherman pulls him out, and when Ragnvald recovers enough from his wounds and near-drowning to reach his home in southern Norway, he learns that his own stepfather paid Solvi to ensure that Ragnvald would never survive to reclaim the lands left him by his father. Cut off from home and family, denied the bride he was promised, Ragnvald sets out to recoup his fortunes and avenge his wrongs by swearing service for a year to Hakon, lord of a neighboring kingdom.

Meanwhile, Ragnvald’s sister has her own issues with their stepfather—most notably, his plans to marry her off to a rich elderly neighbor. A handsome young seafarer catches her eye. Unfortunately for them both, the seafarer is Solvi …

In The Half-Drowned King, the first book in a trilogy, Linnea Hartsuyker provides a richly detailed and captivating portrait of three young people whose hearts war with their loyalties in the turbulent period leading up to the establishment of the first united Norwegian kingdom.

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