The hero, Sidroc is fated to transcend an early life of battering and betrayal to become a warrior marked by destiny and a few drops more compassion than most men of his brutal age. This is a masterfully woven tale of becoming that carries the reader deep into the culturally foreign yet humanly recognizable world of Northern Europe in the 9th Century.
There are all the hallmarks of a great yarn here: a pacey plot, richly woven with swirling foreshadowings; characters who are full-blooded human beings, scaling the contours of heroic moments, mortal flaws, and failures – a mix of light and dark that is sympathetic and solidly believable. Sidroc is the kind of hero who enables the soul to capture a greater vision of its noble potential, expounded in a tale that doesn’t dial back on the gritty historical realities. All this is supported by historical detail, accurate and immersive, so that the reader truly enters the world of the saga. The author, Octavia Randolph (scholar, craftswoman, tale-weaver, essayist, and seasoned navigator of the 9th Century) is so steeped in the times she writes of that she’s a safe pair of hands when it comes to how things most likely were.
This book was my initiating experience to the Circle of Ceridwen saga and it is appropriately epic. I’d have read it a lot quicker if I hadn’t been inspired to stop often to look things up and read more widely about the times and places. The author’s website provides an excellent resource for anyone who wants to dig a little deeper. The delightful thing is that there’s so much more to explore of this world, with at least eight more novels and adjunctive works still extending. It’s a thrill that there’s more to come.