Review: Wolves of War by Martin Lake


Leif Ormson is a Skald, a story-teller, renowned for his witty tales. His brother, Sigurd is a black-smith, making knives, scythes and horse-shoes. And magnificent weapons of war.

But one day, Ivar the Boneless, son of Ragnar Lothbrok, commands the brothers to make him a great sword. And he demands that they accompany his army to England.

Leif and Sigurd are thrown into a maelstrom of war and violence. The great Viking army blazes across England, murdering, plundering, killing kings and setting up puppet-rulers in their place. Until now the Vikings had come only to raid and plunder. Now they have come to conquer.

Leif and Sigurd face an agonising choice. Do they seek to return to their familiar lives? Or do they stay in England and embrace this uncertain new world of war, wealth and glory?

My Review

In Wolves of War we have an engaging protagonist, Leif Ormson, who was carried away—along with his blacksmith brother Sigurd—by Ivar the Boneless and his brothers Ulf and Halfdan (sons of Ragnar Lothbrok). Because of his quick wit, Leif was made Ivar’s skald. This was a mixed blessing, for he was neither slave nor free, valued by the leader of this Viking brood and hated by others. His skills saved his skin but made him a high-profile captive. As it turned out, he discovered he had a knack for making up stories, getting people to believe his tales, and even negotiating for Ivar, which made him even more valuable. Maybe this life wasn’t so bad after all:

Ivar clapped his hands with pleasure and thumped Leif on the shoulder.

‘You did well, Leif.’ He pulled a thick gold ring from off his arm and handed it to Leif. ‘This may prove the first of many. You have earned it. And I name you Spokesman to the sons of Ragnar. This shall be proclaimed amongst the men.’

Leif grinned with delight. He saw ahead of him a path as glittering as Bifrost, the rainbow bridge which led to the Gods.

As usual, the Vikings were looking to conquer and plunder. They found Northumbria fairly easy prey, but the ultimate prize, the Kingdom of Wessex, was beyond their grasp… at least for this book. But there was still East Anglia and Mercia to keep them busy. By then, Leif had hit his stride and was doing pretty well for himself. Of course, no good story would be complete without a vicious arch-enemy, and the nasty Eohric fit the bill, doing his best to ruin Leif without destroying himself in the process. Martin Lake gives us a lively story with just the right amount of violence, humor, and even romance to spice things up. I found it to be an enjoyable read, and I even forgot I was on the treadmill a couple of times!

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