Wednesday 3 June 2020

#BookReview — The Cold Hearth (The Atheling Chronicles #3) by Garth Pettersen #HistoricalFiction #AngloSaxon @garpet011

The Cold Hearth
(The Atheling Chronicles #3)
By Garth Pettersen

"The sons of Cnute are dead men."

The dying words of his brother's assailant travel across the North Sea to the English Midlands.

Harald, the king's second son, receives the warning while rebuilding a hall where he hopes to farm and lead a peaceful life with Selia, his Frisian wife. But as the hall nears completion, they learn the family who lived there before them all perished in a single night of bloodshed. Could the grounds be cursed?

Now the threat of unknown enemies casts a long shadow. Should they distrust the brooding Saxon neighbor or the two weapon-bearers they hired for protection? Should they suspect either of the two women they have taken on with the other hirelings? Only their Jewish warrior friend, Ravya ben Naaman, seems to be the only one above suspicion.

"How many more would die because of me, because of who I am?"

It was a question with no answer. Harald Harefoot knew that he must always be on his guard. He did not even have the reassurance of his brothers’ sword arm, and loyalties can never be assured when a bag of silver is dangled in front of your face.

But when the dying words of his brother's failed assassin travelled across the North Sea to the English Midlands, Harold knows that it will only be a matter of time before his destiny catches up with him. Until then, Harold must do everything in his power to keep his wife and his people safe.

However, in this complex game of succession and thrones, the real enemy is closer than even Harold could have foreseen…

From a festering wound that threatened to destroy a man’s soul to the desperate fight to stay alive, The Cold Hearth (The Atheling Chronicles #3) by Garth Pettersen is in all ways a Historical Fiction triumph.

With an enthralling sense of time and place, Pettersen has presented his readers with another beguiling novel about a man who history has overlooked. With a lack of sources on Harold, Pettersen has used a healthy dollop of creative licence to pen a story that is a tautly gripping account of not only this period in time, but also this very elusive man. Although history tells us that Harold reigned for only five years and died mysteriously when he was 24, Pettersen has decided to give us an older, wiser, Harold whose actions give the reader a hint at what kind of king he would become. It is always a risk when an author meddles with the known documented history, but in this case, I think the risk was definitely worth it. As with the other books in this series, I adored the depiction of Harold. Harold is a man that commands respect — he is fair-minded, generous, and wise beyond his years. However, he is also in the line of succession which makes him a target not only for those who have malicious intent towards his father’s throne, but also his own brother, who sees Harold as a threat to his rightful inheritance. I thought Harold’s portrayal was absolutely sublime. Pettersen has given his readers a protagonist that one can really get behind and root for.

The comparison between the three sons of Cnute is cleverly portrayed — Sweyn, whose drunken stumbling almost gets him killed, Hartha, whose arrogance seemingly knows no bounds, and Harold, who simply wants what is best for his family and his father’s kingdom. As with many princes of the realm the sons of Cnute, with the exception of Harold, bask in their own importance, while at the same time having one eye on their father’s throne. Although this book follows Harold’s journey and Sweyn and Hartha only grace the pages of this book for but a moment, their presence is still felt. Hartha's ruthlessness and mistrust of his brother probably says more about his character than it does about Harold. Hartha was a character that I found endlessly fascinating. I thought Pettersen’s depiction of Hartha was fabulous, and who would have thought that one of the antagonists in this story would actually make me laugh out loud with his cocky arrogance.

There is a large cast of characters in this book, but their individuality made it very easy to keep track of who was who. There were some characters like Garren who stole my heart, and there were others, such as Twyla, whose actions were unexpected!

There are several antagonists in this story, but there are two in particular who are not only ambitious but talented and intelligent — a deadly combination indeed. While one fights for gold, the other fights for power. I thought that the antagonists were particularly well-drawn and they certainly added a sense of menace to this tale.

Pettersen writes about this period of history with not only an elegant turn of phrase but also with authority. As I have come to expect from this series, the historical setting has been thoroughly researched. Pettersen is one of those talented authors that can make history come alive, and he has also successfully breathed new life into historical characters that have been dead for centuries. Such an achievement is no easy feat, and I commend Pettersen not only for his exceptional skills as a historian but also as an author. Bravo, Mr Pettersen. Bravo, indeed.

With one eye on the history and the other for what makes a thoroughly entertaining read, The Cold Hearth (The Atheling Chronicles #3) is the kind of book that gets readers of quality Historical Fiction very excited. There is a richness to the narrative, a lyrically pleasing note to the prose. There is also a cinematic approach to the writing — I would love to see this series on Netflix. The Cold Hearth is a story that once started is very difficult to turn away from. I lost track of time as Pettersen swept me away to a world that was violent, yet tantalisingly beautiful. This is the kind of novel that will keep a reader up to the wee hours and deservedly so.

The Cold Hearth (The Atheling Chronicles #3) by Garth Pettersen is a wonderful series, and it will especially appeal to those who have enjoyed Bernard Cornwell’s The Last Kingdom and Michael Hirst’s Vikings. 

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.

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Garth Pettersen

Garth Pettersen is a Canadian writer living in the Fraser Valley near Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. When he's not writing, he's riding horses and working with young, disabled riders.

Garth's short stories have appeared in a number of anthologies, and in journals such as Blank Spaces, The Spadina Literary Review, and The Opening Line Literary 'Zine. His story River's Rising was awarded an Honourable Mention for the Short Story America 2017 Prize, and his fantasy novella, River Born, was one of two runners-up in the Wundor Editions (UK) Short Fiction Prize. His debut novel, The Swan's Road (Book #1 of the Atheling Chronicles) published by Tirgearr Publishing was released in 2017 and Book #2, The Dane Law, in September of 2018.

Connect with Garth: Website • Goodreads • Twitter.

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See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx