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The Half-Drowned King

(The Half-Drowned King #1)

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  3,743 ratings  ·  610 reviews
Since the death of Ragnvald Eysteinsson's father in battle, he has worked hard to protect his sister Svanhild and planned to inherit his family's land when he comes of age. But when the captain of his ship tries to kill him on the way home from a raiding excursion, he must confront his stepfather's betrayal, and find a way to protect his birthright. It is no easy feat in V ...more
Hardcover, 435 pages
Published August 1st 2017 by Harper
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RJohnson Some "vibe" in book 3. Implied relations among men "on campaign." Not sure of the historical basis for this. Not a significant to story line.…moreSome "vibe" in book 3. Implied relations among men "on campaign." Not sure of the historical basis for this. Not a significant to story line.(less)

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Will Byrnes
Ragnvald Eysteinsson (hereafter referred to as Rags, with apologies to Dave Righetti, although Hartsuyker pronounces it Ron-vald, so Ron might have worked better) is a pretty decent young man, by the measures of the time. Young (20), strong, lithe, and happy to be on a raiding mission with the impressive Captain Solvi, a Loki-type figure. Rags has been a productive member of the crew and is having a good time as the mission nears its end. Downside is that Solvi had been biding his time until the ...more
3.5 stars

When I read the description for this book my first thought was “Gimme!”, for a couple of reasons. I’ve done a lot of family genealogical research & was intrigued to find that some of my dodgy ancestors began life in Norway before taking a wrong turn & landing on the shores of Scotland in the 15th century. Men…just will not ask for directions. But suddenly I understood why I’ve always wanted a helmet with horns. It’s genetic.

The other thing that caught my eye were comparisons made to “Ga
Aug 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Vikings are a baffling lot—they personify the best of what we like to think we can be—brave, adventurous, noble, cultivating incredibly bushy beards, and possessing the flair to wear horns as an accessory mixed with enough radioactive alt-right notions that would make your everyday white supremacist say, “whoa, whoa, whoa! Slow down there for a second Gunnhild, I think that viewpoint is a mite intolerant!”

But if you can put aside the rape, murder, slavery, misogyny, etc. perpetrated by the good
Nov 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Conflicted with this one. The 1st 100 pages or so is exactly what I was expecting after reading the blurb. A revenge Viking novel with a great historical fiction feel. However as I read further into the book, I felt this sense of belonging to the story slowly disappearing. I feel like the historical aspect and overall atmosphere was extremely well done, but the characterisation/empathy torwards characters was a little of a letdown. Cant really put my finger on it but I felt like something was mi ...more
I really wanted to love this book, but it lost my interest about two-thirds of the way through. It's carefully detailed historical fiction set in ninth-century Norway, based on the Heimskringla and featuring siblings as the main protagonists. Unfortunately, the characters don't live up to the promising start, and the action-packed plot - which too often relies on poorly written character conflict to push it forward - becomes increasingly tiresome. By the end, I barely cared what happened and was ...more
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Ladies and gentlemen, I do not know if i will have time to finish writing this review because my father wants us to continue with a doctoral thesis, and he needs my help. Therefore, it is quite possible that you will not be able to finish this review today.
This book has surprised me very favorably and I liked it much more than I expected, even if I have actually put three stars the final rating is 3.5 stars, and i did not rule it out, to put, four stars. The author recreates with enormous fidel
switterbug (Betsey)
Aug 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was a one-off for me. I don’t watch Game of Thrones nor do I typically watch battle sagas of the early centuries, but I had a gut feeling about this well-researched novel, and I’m glad I followed my instincts. This historical legend, filled with myth, sorcery, and the harshest landscape imaginable, was rowdy and bloody, rugged and visceral. And a woman stole the show!

Hartsuyker created strong, flawed characters that would be considered heinous in modern times, of course. She didn’t su
Oct 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed, library, vikings
Novel of 9th century Vikings--what was unusual was showing their life on shore, mostly as farmers, and emphasizing women's lives. The protagonist, Ragnvald, is thrown overboard and is rescued by a fisherman. He has a vision of a "golden wolf" which he later feels is King Harald, who wants to unite and rule all of Norway. Ragnvald wants to kill his stepfather, who has stolen his patrimony. His sister, Svanhild, to escape an unwanted marriage to a much older man, runs away and goes to sea with her ...more
Roman Clodia
May 26, 2017 rated it did not like it
"Huntiof took up the bag of arm-rings and called forth the men who had raided along with him, Solvi narrating their deeds and giving them each a ring... Some were not happy"

I found this a limp and bloodless tale, thin and surprisingly unexciting. The reason is that too much is told to us rather than dramatised as in the quotation above: we're told that Solvi narrates the deeds of the raiders but we don't hear them; we're told that some of the Vikings are unhappy with their rewards, we don't see
Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I know it’s only February 2018 but this is the best book I’ve read this year. It was one of those books, even at almost 450 pages, I wished was longer. I found myself slowing down toward the end because I didn’t want the experience to be over. Luckily, in the author’s note, Hartsuyker says there will be sequels.

I’ve been an addict of the series Vikings since it began and can’t wait for the sixth season to hit my front door though it’s main emphasis has been on the Vikings famed raiding for treas
A historical novel that covers plenty of Norse culture in the 9th Century. The author states it takes it inspiration from a saga. It reads a bit like a saga with attempted murder, revenge, a hint of the unreal, family feuds, blood feuds, little men who want to be Kings, little Kings who want to be bigger Kings, raping and pillaging, changing allegiances and so on. There's plenty of the he-man culture of being insulted and even thinking of being insulted could lead to a duel or a knife to the thr ...more
lobelyys (tired af)
It was a really interesting reading. But there were a few things I didn't like, as the sudden time jumps and sudden changes of pov, that were written in a way that confused me. There were some things that made me uncomfortable but can't do anything about it when the book talks about vikings. ...more
Gary K Bibliophile
Sep 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is the first in a series of historical fiction stories set in 9th century Norway. What might be of interest in 9th century Norway at this time? Well... Vikings of course!

The story revolves around Ragnvald Eysteinsson and his sister Svanhild. Ragnvald is the son of Eystein Glumra (or Eystein the noisy) - he was a bit of a braggart. Maybe his father wasn’t as well thought of, but Ragnvald’s grandfather was a king! 👑 (“Well I didn’t vote for you...” best if spoken with a pepperpot voice).

Dec 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Being a GOT fan will make you love this book even more! Linnea is very special, and I can say that #TheHalfDrownedKing & #TheSeaQueen are thr most surprising books I've read this Year, definitely a big applause for the masterpiece mind of the Author!
It really will make you explore the details and will lose your mind, I'm proud to say that it took me less than one week to devour them even though they are so long pages but I'm being so honest that I even skipped some hours of sleep just to read t
Dec 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-historical
3.5 stars
Feb 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Disclosure: I read an advanced reader's copy loaned to me by a friend.

I'm pretty choosy about historical fiction. Having read quite a few of the original sagas on which this novel is based, I admit to approaching it with a bit of trepidation. Surely it couldn't live up to the real thing, I thought. Surely the author would make some elementary mistakes about early medieval mentality. I'm pleased to say that I was totally wrong. This is a great book, and one of the best works of historical fiction
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A page turning saga of ninth century Vikings during the violent birth of Scandinavia. If you're a fan of historical fiction of this period, you're in for a wild ride. Much like Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Chronicles, Hartsuyker's debut novel follows Ragnvald and Svanhild across Norway, into Northern Germany, and across Nordic seas. Its epic landscape is imagined thoroughly by very careful research into classic texts, including many of the Norse sagas. While the story is captivating, I find most int ...more
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
I picked up this book because I love historic fiction and I was trying to find a book to get me into the mood for a trip to Iceland. And although none of the characters actually ever set foot on Iceland, the descriptions of life as a Norse Viking was an entertaining introduction into some of the Icelandic culture. The book is set in a Norway that is still governed by a fierce group of Viking kings. It appears like a lawless society, with plenty of raids on innocent farmers and Irish priests, but ...more
Nov 28, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
I am having a difficult time putting this one down, but not because I'm so into the book. Quite opposite - I feel like I did something wrong and the author is trying to punish me with a chore of a story. I wanted so much to read the book that the synopsis promised and I had such high hopes, I feel like abandoning The Half-Drowned King would be like admitting defeat and failure of my hopes. It would mean that I just wasted my time reading almost 200 pages. But I cannot go on anymore. I do not car ...more
Unabridged Bibliophile
3.5 stars
"The sea is our country. Our land is any shore on which we rest. How much better is that than the chains you bind yourself with, to land, to king?"

I struggled to rate this book. It feels like it deserves four stars, but to be completely honest, I didn't love it either. I think it was a really good book, but I just didn't love it as much as the books I give four stars to. This is one of those times I wish there were half stars, because it would be 3,5 in that case.

The first thing I thought when I
Aug 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Can’t wait to read the sequel. I hardly ever buy a brand new hardback, so I clearly loved the first book.
Dec 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Interesting and very well written. Unfortunately, the cover doesn't do it justice.

While I enjoyed this very much I felt that I was reading a toned down version of a familiar story. By toned down, I mean not battle heavy, or nearly as bloody. Most books of this type have a similar theme running through them - man/boy wants to avenge himself, regain what he lost and win glory for himself. So, whether I like it or not, after a while I begin to make comparisons. That said, I did no research to comp
Aug 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I can't remember the last book I read with such fully realized characters. They're distinct people with clear motivations, and it's easy to see why they want what they do (though they want opposite things).

I especially enjoyed Svanhild and Solvi, and how they created the lives they wanted despite society not valuing them. I can't wait to read this again, and am looking forward to the next book.
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: in-my-library
4 1/2 stars

I really enjoyed this. Maybe others wouldn't. Maybe there are flaws. But maybe I don't care?

I do like that characters were flawed, trying to do what they thought was best, not just evil or always good.

One thing that troubled me as I approached the end was the concern of a quick ending. And it was, in a way, though still satisfying. The author's notes reveal there are more books to come. I'll be pre-ordering the next without thought.
Monica Hills
I saw this book on a list about great historical fiction novels so I had high expectations. The novel was told from a brother and sister point of view. I loved the setting which was the ninth century in Norway and the fact the book was about Vikings. I also loved Svanhild's story. I was immersed in her life and what she went through. I would have rated this book much higher if the story was just about her. Her brother's story however dragged in many parts. I found myself skimming some of Ragnval ...more
Justin Williams
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
(This review was posted to the Staff Picks page of White Oak Library District and may be used for Reader's Advisory.)

I'm currently reading an ARC that I found at ALA called "The Half Drowned King" by Linnea Hartsuyker. This is a historical fiction novel that takes place in Viking-era Norway. Ragnvald Eyesteinsson grew up reading tales of myth and legend in the Viking sagas, believing he would one day inherit the lands that were rightfully his from his stepfather after his father died when he was
Jul 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
The sense of living in a dangerous time permeates every page as does the feel of the natural world of Norway in the 900's. The story is told from the points of view of Ragnvald and his sister Svanhild. Loyal to eachother, they are about all they have as Ragnvald tries to re-claim his deceased father's land and Svanhild tries to avoid marriage and have a say in how her own life will unfold.
My description is not doing the story justice. The sense of place, the danger of the times, the tense wars a
Ragnvald has gone out raiding, hoping to win renown and treasure. On his voyage home, the prince leading the party abruptly tries to murder him. Ragnvald barely survives and comes home scarred and distrusting--accurately, as it turns out, since his stepfather arranged to have him killed so Ragnvald couldn't claim his rightful inheritance. From then on Ragnvald and his younger sister Svanhild thrust themselves into the doings of kings. Eventually, their bravery and Ragnvald's wise counsel come to ...more
Oct 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, vikings
I loved this a lot.

But the ending does just sort of...end. Or maybe it just feels that way because I could've kept reading about Solvi and Ragnvald forever. There better be sequels on the way.
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I am a full time writer of historical fiction with an MFA in Creative Writing from NYU and a BS in Material Science and Engineering from Cornell University. I live and work in New Hampshire.

I am also an avid knitter, Crossfitter, traveler, and cook, and a reader of all genres of fiction and non-fiction.

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