DeathQuest (The VIKINGS! Trilogy Book 1) by Jay Palmer – 3 stars
Racial rivalries, religious hatreds, and a stolen treasury force Eric Bjornson to risk the lives of his beloved companions as a savage Viking horde of his own kinsmen, led by his best friend, chases him across England to settle a drunken blood-feud. Although surviving only by lies and trickery, Eric’s Christian companions turn against his heathen beliefs and betrayal of innocents, but a powerful Druid Seer forces them to reunite and fight together as the future of three universes are gambled upon the doom of one viking warrior.
Fantasy is my preferred genre, Norse is my favorite mythology, and action/adventure is something I enjoy. This book offers all three, with a value-added bonus of medieval England as the setting. Even with all of this going for it, however, it can’t overcome a few basic faults.
First and foremost, it has too many grammatical quirks to ignore. Typos are few and far between, but the phrasing in many places is awkward or confusing. Time and time again, I found myself having to re-read sentences to determine their meaning. It has a great deal of passive voice usage, and the writing didn’t do much for me. This is, of course, a matter of editorial taste.
Perhaps because I’m already decently well-versed in Viking lore, I found the sections explaining it to be uninteresting. It reads like background exposition, which I find boring. It’s not overwhelming or excessive, just somewhat pedantic, in my opinion. Added to this, there are other sections explaining other historical whatnot that didn’t seem to add much to the story, especially the parts about the setting.
The plot worked fine. It follows Eric the Viking as he flees execution in order to rile up a situation worthy enough to send him to Valhalla as a warrior. Every step of that journey seems logical and reasonable, and each encounter raises the stakes. I didn’t like the use of Eloise as a damsel much, but it works for its purpose, and Roselyn makes up for it. I did think the early rape was gratuitous and unnecessary, which lowered my overall opinion of the story.
The magic involved in the story took me by surprise, in the sense that when first introduced, I found it ridiculous enough to feel I must have missed something earlier on, which forced a re-read of the chapters preceding it. As far as I was concerned, magic came out of left field.
I have no real complaints about the characters, except that I thought the Seer should have been introduced earlier in the story. It seemed late to me to bring in another major character when the existing characters had all spent a great deal of time being developed already. Had he been just a bit player for one scene/sequence, then it wouldn’t have mattered, but he turned out to be an important character. Along a similar vein, the Liz Apple bit struck weird notes.
Overall, the story is one I’m glad to have read to the end. It does do a good job of telling Eric’s tale, it just didn’t capture my imagination or leave me dying to read the next book. Folks who like adventure fantasy and aren’t bothered by the things I noted above will enjoy it.