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Thunder God (2015)

Thunder God (2015)

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3.43 of 5 Votes: 1
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0571217982 (ISBN13: 9780571217984)
faber and faber

About book Thunder God (2015)

It is the tenth century, the Viking era is waning and Christianity beginning to supersede the old Norse beliefs. Hakon is a young boy brought up on the Norwegian coast, and, having survived being struck by lightning, he is chosen to be the priest of the old religion and keeper of its secrets. But Hakon's calling is not an easy one - there are jealousies at home, and during a raid on his village he is seized and enslaved. His journey takes him to the Byzantine imperial court, where he spends years as a member of the Varangian guard, the Emperor's elite bodyguards. Gaining his freedom, Hakon eventually returns to Norway to resume his position there. Again, stability is short-lived: this time his existence is threatened by missionaries of the new religion, and he sets out on another, even more dangerous mission that takes him further than he could have imagined, in an attempt to preserve the ancient life and beliefs of his people.Several errors that made me not enjoy the book as it should...First the Germanic beliefs were polytheistic (many gods), not pantheistic as Watkins describes (i.e., that they saw godhead or lifeforce in everything). His depiction of the origin of the Nordic pre-conversion belief is simply preposterous.Thunder God is an average story with shallow characters and short on detail. I found it lacks the grit and realism of Household Gods and the historical accuracy of Severin's Viking trilogy- books that have in abundance what this book tried for.Other Mistakes... Kari it's a man's name... (see Njal's Saga for the exploits of Kari Salmondarsson, one of the great viking heroes of all time).In one remarkable oddity King Olaf Tryggvesson is repeatedly referred to as Trygvesson or King Trygvesson as though this were his last name. In fact, it wasn't since last names were not used in those days. Hakon Magnusson's own name poses a problem, too, since the name "Magnus" is Latin based and entered the Norse lexicon with the coming of the Christian priests. But the era in which Hakon's father grew up is clearly pre-Christian so his name is remarkably out of place.It's just unrealistic to suggest that dragon ships were easily manageable by one or two or even three men alone as Watkins does. While he does seem to have familiarity with sailing, he doesn't convincingly translate that into a description of how Norse sailing vessels actually worked.The dialogue and mindsets of the characters also ring false. Olaf tells the returned Hakon that their old childhood friend Ingolf "hates (his mother) for never letting him grow up as much as he hates himself for never having the courage to move out on his own." (p. 115)There are other passages that seem unrealistic and out of time...In the end, this is readable and, if you aren't too hung up on historical accuracy, characters appropriate to their era, and stories that are tightly plotted, you may want to give it a try.

I enjoyed this book. Well written and well researched. The first part I found more difficult because even though the narration is first person, it felt more distant, almost as if what was happening had little to do with the main character. He didn't seem to get involved in his own life until he returns home. It was odd. But it got better and more immediate after that. The book is highly anti-religion. Towards the end it was clear that the author has a barrow to push, which was a shame, because for the most part the questionning about life and faith was reasonable and realistic.

Do You like book Thunder God (2015)?

A young viking boy called Hakon is coaxed out into a storm by a localized spirit known as Sasser Greycloak, only to be hit by lightening. He is chosen to be an apprentice pagan priest to costal Altvik, which brings with it the knowledge of a powerful secret, but soon after the town is raided by plunderers and Hakon is taken away as a slave.Hakon serves a hulking warrior called Halfdan for 12 years, who becomes a member of the Byzantine emperors personal militia, the Varangian Gaurd. When Halfdan is killed he wins his freedom and, in the company of a Celt named Cabal, returns home to learn the fate of his family and resume his religious duties, in the face of opposition both within and without.Set in the latter part of the 10th century, the time when the Vikings became officially Christianized, Watkin spins a convincing, anachronistic-free tale (at least s far as I could tell) which covers three continents, links the myths of civilizations on opposite sides of the globe and explores the theme of the conflicts that arise with the dying of one religion and the flowering of another. In the the Norse religion there are many gods and the spirit world is co-existent with the material, separated only by a thin veil, a belief system that Watkin makes real in simple, effective prose: "Even possessions which had seen many years of service took on a kind of life, burnished into them by the sweat of their owners. You could feel a faint vibration of it; in a sword or a shield, a set of carpenter's tools or even an old pair of shoes". Hakon retains his native beliefs in the face of Christian trickery and force, but ultimately his harrowing experiences lead him to make a very different conclusion about the utility of faith, whereby a quest story becomes a cautionary tale, as relevant today as it was a thousand years ago.A decent read.
—Perry Whitford

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