The Cold Hearth by Garth Pettersen

Set in 11th century England and Norway.

Two incidents at the beginning move this Viking/Saxon saga forward. The first is the prologue which relates the murder of an entire family and household members by a neighbour. The second is the attempted murder of Swein, son of King Cnute (author’s spelling) who is warned that all the sons of King Cnute are dead men. Cnute has three sons (Athelings). Swein, the eldest, and Harald Harefoot are the sons of his first wife. Harthacnute, although the youngest, is his father’s heir. Harald is the protagonist of the story. He has retired to a ruined estate which happens to be where the family was murdered. When Harald learns about the attempted assassination of his brother, he becomes wary of those about him. The neighbour, son of the man responsible for the earlier killings, appears friendly, but is he? The two housecarls Harald has hired for protection – are they to be trusted? And what about the two dispossessed sons of the previous king, Ethelred? Even Harthacnute comes under suspicion until an attempt is made on his life.

            There are long periods of low drama when we read how Harald revives the estate his father has given him. The action picks up after he is attacked by hirelings. An element of suspense could have been added by the question: who did the hiring, but we already learned this early in the book.

            Set against the machinations of kings and princes, is Harald’s attempt to live in peace and build a life for himself and his wife, and a neighbour dealing with the guilt of a crime he didn’t commit.

Harald is not the stereotypical Viking alfa-male. He loves his wife and frequently defers to her. And he forgives and helps someone who betrays his trust.  

            There have been two previous books in The Atheling Chronicles but this one reads well as a stand-alone. Although the story comes to a satisfactory conclusion, the way is set for another in the series.

            Lovers of the period will enjoy.


I wrote this review for Discovering Diamonds.

A Blossom in the Ashes by Ron Singerton

This World War II epic is a sequel to A Cherry Blossom in Winter, which I read, reviewed and enjoyed.

With a Japanese mother and Jewish/Russian father, Tadichi learns a harsh lesson in bigotry when he confesses his mixed heritage to the girl he hopes to marry and is unceremoniously dumped. Twelve years later, he is still unmarried, a fighter pilot and on Oahu where his mother lives. There he meets his brother, Koizumi, who he hardly knows and who is also a fighter pilot in the Japanese navy. With him is the beautiful Sayuri and his mother’s old friend. But Koizumi isn’t on Oahu merely to accompany the two ladies. He has a mission which will pit him against his brother in the coming war. To complicate matters further, both men are in love with Sayuri.

The story contains some of the components of the last book – lovers of different cultures torn apart by war; battle scenes which include, in this case, Pearl Harbour from the Japanese perspective; the suffering of civilians on the fringes of war. This one has a broader sweep than the first book.

The author has cleverly set his characters in different countries to show different perspective and the impact of war on other peoples. There are the two naval pilots, Tad and Koizumi, zipping through the ether on opposite sides. Through them the author reveals his knowledge of the planes of the day and aerial combat. The air and sea battles are exciting without being overly-lengthy or too detailed. We see Sayuri alone in Tokyo when it is mercilessly bombed and when the atom bombs are dropped on unsuspecting populations just as Japan is on the point of surrender. Tad’s mother is a nurse in Hawai’i. His father is in Russia when war breaks and must make his way west to Germany and the allies. His friend Jeremy, an American of Japanese descent, becomes a prisoner of war, escapes when the ship he is on is sunk, and provides some of the most edge-of-the-seat adventures in the book.

I thoroughly enjoyed this action-packed book, but I must mention one thing. The opening chapter is set twelve years before the main action and deals with Tad’s girlfriend and her parents’ horror when he tells them of his Japanese/Jewish heritage. They immediately make it clear that he is not wanted. I expected that this kind of bigotry would be explored later in the book, but it wasn’t, which left me confused about why it was included.


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