One of Open Letter's Best Books of 2019
The fates of Ragnvald and his sister Svanhild unfold to their stunning conclusion in this riveting final volume in The Golden Wolf Saga, a trilogy that conjures the ancient world with the gripping detail, thrilling action, and vivid historical elements of "Game of Thrones" and "Outlander."
Ragnvald has long held to his vision of King Harald as a golden wolf who will bring peace to Norway as its conqueror—even though he knows that Harald’s success will eventually mean his own doom. He is grateful to have his beloved sister, the fierce and independent Svanhild, once more at his side to help keep their kingdom secure. Free from the evil husband who used her, she is now one of Harald’s many wives.
While Svanhold is happy to be reunited with her beloved brother, and enjoys more freedom than ever before, she is restless and lonely. When an old enemy of Ragnvald’s kidnaps his niece, Freydis, his sister follows the daughter she has neglected to Iceland, where an old love awaits. This strange new land offers a life far different from what each has left behind, as well as unexpected challenges and choices.
Ragnvald, too, must contend with change. His sons—the gifted Einar, the princely Ivar, and the adventurous Rolli—are no longer children. Harald’s heirs have also grown up. Stepping back from his duties as king, he watches as his sons pursue their own ambitions. But Norway may no longer be large enough for so many would-be kings.
Now in their twilight years, these venerable men whose lives have been shaped by war must face another battle that awaits. A growing rebellion pits Ragnvald and his sons against enemies old and new, and a looming tragedy threatens to divide the hardened warrior from Harald and all who care for him. Across the sea, Svanhild, too, wrestles with a painful decision, risking the dissolution of her fragile new family as she desperately tries to save it.
Yet as old heroes fall, new heroes arise. For years, Ragnvald and Svanhild pursued the destinies bestowed by their ancient gods. Though the journey has cost them much, their sacrifices and dreams will be honored by the generations that follow, beginning with Freydis and Einar. Emerging from their parents’ long shadows, they have begun to carry on the family’s legacy while pursuing their own glorious fates.
This compelling conclusion to the Golden Wolf trilogy recreates Viking-age Scandinavia in all its danger, passion, power, and glory—a world of brutality and myth, loyalty and betrayal, where shifting alliances and vengeance can build kingdoms . . . and can tear them down.
This satisfying final volume in Hartsuyker's Golden Wolf Saga (after The Half-Drowned King and The Sea Queen), drawn from Norse sagas, follows the children of Ragnvald, Svanhild, and Norway's aging King Harald through tragic accidents, battles, and betrayals. Though this is the third in a trilogy, Hartsuyker's opening map, list of places and characters, and seamless inclusion of backstory make it easy enough to follow the action, even for readers unfamiliar with the first two novels. The novel begins with the mistaken killing of Kolbrand Aldufson by Rolli Ragnvaldsson because Rolli and his shipmates believed Kolbrand's ship to be that of raiders. Rolli's cruel companion, Hallbjorn Olafson, takes hostage Freydis Solvisdatter, Svanhild's child, then all three flee to the Orkneys, where Hallbjorn forces himself upon Freydis. In Norway, Ragnvald's sons, Einar and Ivar, are sent to bring Gyda Eiriksdatter to her wedding to Harald, but Einar and Gyda begin a physical relationship. Meanwhile, Harald's son, Halfdan, plots against both Ragnvald and his father. As in the medieval sagas that provide Hartsuyker with her source material, these characters cannot escape the fates that lay in store for them. This quality tale will appeal to fans of Viking fiction and could cross over to those who enjoy epic fantasy as well.