The Viking Takes a Knight
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I’m a big fan of Viking stories. There’s just something about a man wearing a hat with horns that screams “virile and sexy” to me—so I was intrigued by Sandra Hill’s The Viking Takes a Knight. At first glance, I thought it was a typical novel with the male being the Viking and the woman being the knight (sort of a Joan of Arc situation), but the roles were actually reversed. Unfortunately, that was the only interesting thing in the whole novel. In preparation of writing this review, I looked up one I wrote back in 2008, for Viking Unchained, and I was surprised to see that it was written by Ms. Hill as well. The two books actually bore little resemblance to each other, other than the author’s name on the cover.

It’s the year 970 A. D. Ingrith, a Viking princess living in Saxon, England, is an accomplished cook who also has a soft spot for children. So when an orphanage in her town is threatened by a crooked town official, she turns to a friend to help. This “friend” is the mother of John of Hawk’s Lair, who tells Ingrith to take the children from the orphanage to her son’s castle for safekeeping. While at Hawk’s Lair, Ingrith meets John, and they hate each other immediately—but only on the surface.

Deep down, there’s a supposedly fierce attraction, one that they both feel must be denied. Ingrith feels that she’s “too old” to be married (at the advanced age of 31), and John harbors the suspicion that he must never have children. John’s father was insane, and John is terrified of passing his “damaged” genes on. Can Ingrith and John overcome their apprehensions to live happily ever after? Seeing as how this is your typical romance novel, I think we can guess the answer to that.

This book is so full of flaws that I’m not even sure where to begin cataloguing them. First, there’s the dialogue. It’s a strange amalgam of medieval speech (“mayhaps,” “dost thou”) and more modern syntax (“A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do”) that simply takes the reader out of the story. I know that a book written entirely in historically accurate speech would be impossible for modern readers to get through, but to use such a strange mishmash of the two styles just comes across as lazy and amateurish. Hill should have picked one style and went with it.

Hill also has an annoying habit of starting each new section of text with (what she probably assumed to be) a witty remark. To be perfectly frank, the throwaway lines are lame. They aren’t witty, and they fail to add anything to the story itself.

The plot is also a convolutedly maze of characters and names. And, to make matters worse, it seems as if the first half of the novel was written with an entirely different plot involved. Points that seem very important in the first half (such as a sub-plot involving the Saxon king’s illegitimate son and also another one about John’s fascination with honey—yeah, that one’s about as random as it sounds) completely disappear in the second half. Therefore, there’s no true tension in the novel. The villain disappears, leaving only the question of “will they or won’t they get married.” Come on, we all know the answer to that.

And, of course, there’s the cardinal sin of romance novels (at least in this reviewer’s estimation): bad love scenes. There’s no passion at all—and what little passion there is gets swept away by Ingrith’s nonstop chatter. Who makes small talk while making love? I mean, really. Every single love scene lasts about one paragraph—hardly enough to leave the reader satisfied.

To make a long review short, if you want to read a romance novel about Vikings, you’d do better to read Viking Unchained instead—but only barely.

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