The Northman Rollo has been banned from the land of his birth and joins Siegfried and Sinric to plunder Paris.
After the death of Charlemagne, Medieval Europe has fallen into chaos. Without a strong king to stop them, pirates have begun to terrorize the River Seine until Rollo signs a pact with Charles the Simple and takes over Normandy. It is the story of Rollo’s son William Longsword and his grandson Richard the Fearless, as they pillage and plunder their way into the history books.
Even though this is book 3 in the Viking Saga, I had no problem reading it as a stand-alone. The first half of this story is about the famous Rollo, first Duke of Normandy—not the hunky Rollo from the Viking TV series, but rather a huge, ungainly, ugly Rollo who suffers from terrible migraines. Same man, different depiction. The Rollo in this book is sympathetic in a distant sort of way. At first he seems a brute, but when the gorgeous heiress Poppa comes into his life and offers herself as his bride, his gentler, generous side comes out. He needs to give her a place to live, with a palace and a church, and essentially takes over Rouen, making it his own—and inadvertently turning the town into a thriving marketplace. Of course, he is a Viking first and foremost and doesn’t give up his old life easily.
As his son grows up and comes along on his first raiding adventure, everything goes wrong and they become the prisoners of the French King. This could have been the end, but King Charles is farsighted and sees an opportunity here. Why not partner with Rollo? Let the Vikings protect the French coast in return for officially giving then land. Rouen was theirs already, but by offering him all of Normandy and more, Charles could sweeten the deal:
Charles was insistent. ‘Civil war is already here in Francia, not from the pagans but from our own countrymen! How long have we been fighting along our borders with Bretagne? How many years has there been unrest in Lotharingia? It might be to our advantage to have him on our side.’ He paused in thought and a slow smile crept across his face. ‘We could offer him Bretagne in addition to the land around Rouen. We could let him fight the Bretons for us! Rollo could settle our war with them once and for all, without sacrificing any of our men. What have we to lose?’
‘Bretagne is not ours to give,’ Richard reminded him.
‘The Northmen don’t have to know that,’ replied Charles with a sly grin that showed he had a devious side to his otherwise pious nature. ‘By the time they figure it out perhaps they will have cut down the Breton army to a manageable size.’
Rollo didn’t have much choice; he could accept this rather lopsided offer or get himself executed, along with his men. The caveat was that he had to accept Christianity and promise to marry Charles’s eight year-old daughter (who would continue to live with her father). Reluctantly, Rollo agreed, though ultimately the conflict between religions tore him apart. On the other hand, Rouen thrived…at least until jealous neighbors sought to take it from him, then from his son and grandson. So in the end, this books becomes more of a family saga than simply Rollo’s story. There are many supporting characters and interesting cultural conflicts that needed sorting out. I found it interesting reading and the characters were well developed. Good stuff!