Sons of Thunder

by Giles Kristian

Reviewed by Annis

Sons of Thunder by Giles Kristian “From the fury of the Northmen, O Lord, deliver us!” Sons of Thunder continues the rip-roaring saga of young Raven and his sword-brothers, a lethal pack of Norse sea-wolves on the prowl for fame and fortune in the early ninth century.

Ealdorman Ealdred of Wessex is a nithing, a man without honour. He’s also a dead man; he just doesn’t know it yet. No one breaks faith with Jarl Sigurd the Lucky and his band and lives to tell the tale. Ealdred has not only betrayed the Norsemen, he’s also stolen their longship, Fjord-Elk, and their prize, the priceless Gospel of St Jerome that Ealdred intends selling to the Emperor Charlemagne. The Fellowship’s pursuit of vengeance leads them on a hair-raising trip down the River Seine into the heart of Frankia, a Christian military empire where unregenerate followers of the Norse gods are seen as rabid vermin to be swiftly eradicated. Vicious skirmishes and dramatic escapes mark their passage to Aix-la-Chapelle, where Charlemagne grants them an audience. But the gods are fickle. Chaos-loving Odin plays Sigurd’s men like game pieces on a tafl board and laughs as he watches the blood flow.

Raven, the narrator, is a mysterious figure. As a boy he was found injured and unconscious on the beach near an English settlement, one eye permanently stained red with blood, all memory of his past and identity lost. Although he is the youngest member of the Wolfpack, Raven often seems the inadvertent driver of its fate. Only half jokingly, his superstitious comrades credit his knack for survival to his seidr-shield, Odin’s supernatural protection.

The air of menace pervading Sons of Thunder is conveyed by spare, dynamic prose, lithe and fast-paced as a speeding dragonship. Strong characterization and cinematic detail create a gripping adventure distinguished by powerful scenes like the unforgettable, formalized savagery of a hólmgang, a duel to the death. (2010, 330 pages)

More about Sons of Thunder at Powell's Books

Sons of Thunder appears on the list of The 45 Best Historical Novels Set in the Viking Age

Other Viking adventure novels:

Blood Eye by Giles Kristian (2009), the first novel in the Raven trilogy (Sons of Thunder is the second). More info

The Whale Road by Robert Low (2007), the first novel in the Oathsworn series. See review or more info at Powell's Books

The Long Ships by Frans Gunnar Bengtsson (1941-1945), the novel on which the 1964 movie "The Long Ships" was loosely based. More info

Nonfiction about the Vikings and Charlemagne:

The World of the Vikings by Richard Hall (2007). More info

The Vikings: A History by Robert Ferguson (2009). More info

Charlemagne: The Formation of a European Identity by Rosamond McKitterick (2008). More info

At the Movies:

The Long Ships, the over-the-top 1964 Viking adventure movie directed by Jack Cardiff and starring Richard Widmark and Sidney Poitier.


Hólmgang and Einvigi: Scandinavian Forms of the Duel at The Viking Answer Lady website

Guests from Overseas by Nicholas Roerich, 1901

Back to Medieval Scandinavia and the Vikings

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