Jason Mills's Reviews > The King of Vinland's Saga

The King of Vinland's Saga by Stuart Mirsky
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Nov 01, 09

bookshelves: born-to-blush-unseen, period, fiction
Recommended for: Fans of history, Vikings, Native Americans and sagas
Read in January, 1998 — I own a copy

Sigtrygg is a Viking. Complicated family rivalries and legal niceties conspire to deny him his birthright, and instead he ends up with the 'rights' to Vinland - Leif Eiriksson's name for the bit of North America that he discovered. Sigtrygg sets out with a group of followers (pursued by relatives with second thoughts) and lands in Vinland, encountering the Native Americans there in a unique and ultimately tragic clash of cultures.

That sounds like the plot of the movie Pathfinder, but where that was a bloodthirsty action flick, this (unrelated) book is urbane, subtle and sophisticated. Written in a pastiche of the style of Norse sagas, with detachment and dignity, it is immediately obvious that a huge amount of research underlies the project. Fine points of character are conveyed through dialogue and action, without the modern novel's luxury of internal psychologising. The writer's discipline has produced a rare treat for the [ahem:] refined palate. My favourite historical novel (and I'm counting An Instance of the Fingerpost A Novel!), it should not be languishing in obscurity.

(IIRC, the author himself e-mailed me to recommend it, based on another review I'd left on amazon!)
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