Book Review: Axe of Iron: The Settlers

Axe of Iron – The Settlers
By J.A. Hunsinger
Vinland Publishing, 2008

In his book, Axe of Iron – The Settlers, J.A. Hunsinger provides the reader with an interesting look at life of the Northmen who land and settle in North America in 1008. The story details the adventures, challenges, triumphs and mundane daily rituals of these people under the care of their leader Halfdan Ingolfsson and his second in command, Gudbjartur Einarsson. Halfdan, Gudbjartur and their crew, along with 315 men, women, and children settlers set sail from Greenland. They encounter Native Indian tribes, the Naskapi and Haudenosaunee. Their intial contact goes smoothly but relations with the tribes is not without conflict. Some Natives strongly oppose the settlement of Halfdan’s people, even though Halfdan manages to make positive contact with several of them and establish trade. The book follows the development of their relationship with these indigenous peoples.

For fans of historical fiction, this book is a wonderful read on early Viking life in North America. It is exciting, lively and descriptive at every turn. Hunsinger’s research is extremely thorough on this topic. He does not miss any detail in the description of Viking religious customs (Pagan and early Christian rites), Viking traditions like the “einvigi” (a duel to the death), hunting, burial practices, daily camp duties, the use of thralls (slaves who provided unskilled labour in the Viking communities), and women and their place in Viking society.

The reader gets drawn into the struggles and complex relationships between characters in Hunsinger’s novel. He produces some very interesting and colourful characters, such as Frida, who is the colony’s resident trouble maker but a very interesting character. I enjoyed watching her transformation and growth throughout the book. I also enjoyed Gudbjartur’s character as a well respected and feared warrior. I liked how he meted out justice yet retained the admiration of his community. His charcter was harsh but fair.

My only complaint is that at times the descriptions can bog down the narrative. The descriptions can get a little long winded thereby losing the reader at certain parts of the novel. I enjoyed reading about the colony’s adventures, however, at some points, I would have preferred a trimmed down description, especially on some of the sailing terminology. Nevertheless, I do recommend this book to historical fiction fans who I believe will really enjoy the story. Hunsinger delivers an exciting novel with a very plausible look at the experiences faced by Viking settlers in North America. It is informative, interesting and a good read. Enjoy!

Reviewed by Sandra Alvarez

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