Wednesday 1 May 2024

Book Review - The Sea's Edge (The Atheling Chronicles, Book 4) by Garth Pettersen

The Sea's Edge
(The Atheling Chronicles, Book 4)
By Garth Pettersen

Publication Date: 7th November 2023
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing
Page Length: 247 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

1030 C.E.: Harald, the second son of King Cnute—ruler of Engla-lond, Danmark, and Norvegr—with his wife Selia, attempt to live as landholders in Mercia, away from the constraint and intrigues of his father's court.

However, on a rare visit, Cnute tells Harald he's being sent to the Kingdom of Dublin to meet with their Norse-Irish allies. Harald’s mission is to coordinate an invasion of the northern Welsh kingdom of Gwynedd to replace King Rhydderch who is growing too powerful on England’s borders.

Harald is reluctant to be involved in his father-king's affairs of state, and not just because his beloved wife, Selia, is unwell. Harald cannot refuse to go and assures Selia he will not have to take part in the fighting.

Once on his journey, Harold is not drawn to his Norse-Irish allies but comes to respect the foe he must kill.

Will Harald carry out his father-king’s commands to unseat a strong and just rule, or will he tread a more righteous road, which will destroy the life he and Selia have built together?

Harald, the second son of King Cnute, and his wife Selia, strive to establish themselves as landholders in Mercia. Harold has no political ambitions, and he enjoys the refuge his land brings from the pressures and politics of his father’s court.

Harald’s attempts to live a tranquil life as a landowner are in vain. With King Rhydderch gaining more power in Gwynedd, Cnute instructs Harold to travel to the Kingdom of Dublin and meet with their Norse-Irish allies. Cnute’s wish is to have Rhydderch’s power contained, and, ideally, to have him eliminated. 

His father’s command couldn’t have come at a worse time, as his wife is still unwell after miscarrying their child. He does not want to leave her when she is in such a vulnerable state but he does not have a choice. He assures Selia that his involvement will be limited to a diplomatic mission and he won’t participate in any fighting. Nevertheless, in this peculiar and frequently troubled realm, matters are not as straightforward as they seem at first, and Harald discovers himself pitted against an adversary for whom he holds nothing but reverence.

The Sea's Edge by Garth Pettersen is the enthralling fourth novel in the The Atheling Chronicles series.

Once again, Pettersen has presented his readers with a book that is a truly gripping account of ambitions, greed, war and betrayal. It is in all ways an absolute success and one that held my attention from the opening sentence to the final full stop. It is a book that was certainly worth the wait and one that I enjoyed immensely

Pettersen demonstrates his eloquence and expertise in writing about this historical period. True to form, the historical context in this series is meticulously studied. With his talent, Pettersen makes history vibrant and gives a fresh perspective to characters, many of whom have been forgotten by history. Pettersen’s accomplishments as a historian and author are truly impressive and deserving of praise. I always enjoy reading one of Pettersen’s books because they are consistently satisfying.

As a reader, you can’t help but like Harold, he’s such an endearing character. One might assume that as the son of King Cnute, he would embody all the traits of an arrogant nobleman. However, he rejects such a life and instead seeks simplicity. He wishes to distance himself from politics and he is not one for currying favours. However, he is at all times dutiful to his father and even though he does not want to leave his wife and his farm he obeys his father’s orders and takes his men into the kind of situations he would rather wish to avoid. Despite his desire to avoid it, he is a shrewd politician with a keen intellect and the ability to assess situations before taking action. Regarding Lago ab Idwal, he notices the man’s weakness and understands his father’s motive for keeping him as King of Onglisey - a weak king is easily manipulated and controlled. It doesn’t take Harold much time to realize that Madwen, Lago’s wife, is the real force behind Lago’s reign. 

Madwen gives off the impression of being an extremely cold and manipulative woman. Her game, although different from Harold’s, is just as successful in achieving her desired outcomes. She has an intuitive understanding of why Cnute wants her husband to remain in power, and she fully accepts the situation. The depiction of Madwen by Pettersen prompts readers to contemplate the true influence of noble women, despite outward appearances. Although often overlooked, Pettersen suggests that noblewomen had a significant impact on the relentless game of power and kingdoms in this era. The depiction of Madwen was superb, and she played a pivotal role in propelling the story forward.

Pettersen handles delicate subjects, notably Selia’s miscarriage, with caution and a great deal of care. He skillfully portrayed the profound emotional anguish of the loss. Selia’s gentle nature truly captures the reader’s heart. She is a kind-hearted woman, searching for her path amidst immense personal suffering. In her husband’s absence, Selia must rely on her own strength to persevere. Selia was wonderfully drawn, and I found myself truly invested in her character and her story.

The battles and fights in this novel are depicted in detail without crossing into the realm of horror. The depiction of battle exhaustion and the subsequent emotional turmoil was excellently portrayed, giving readers a genuine sense of the emotional price involved in war. The depiction of fellowship among those on the same side was masterfully illustrated. Harald’s men respect him because of the authentic relationships he builds, not because they fear him or his father. His strong bond with his comrades, particularly his close friends, effectively showcased his character and made it evident to the reader why they would willingly join him in battle. 

This book consistently explores the concept of loyalty. There is the loyalty to king and country, but also the loyalty between a man and his wife. Characters the reader least expects reveal additional types of loyalty. The concept of loyalty was explored in a very intriguing and thorough manner. 

While The Sea’s Edge can be enjoyed on its own, understanding the main characters requires knowing their backstory. Taking this into consideration, I would highly recommend reading the first three books in the series before tackling this one. The novels are short enough that you can read them each within a few hours, allowing you to devour the entire series in a single weekend - if you’re willing to forgo all housework and stay up late into the night! It’s easy to read all four books, one after the other, because the series is so utterly captivating.

The Sea's Edge (The Atheling Chronicles, Book 4) by Garth Pettersen is a welcomed addition to the series and it is one that I enjoyed immensely. 

Pick up your copy of
The Sea's Edge

Garth Pettersen 

Garth Pettersen is a Canadian writer and historian who lives with his wife on a farm in the beautiful Fraser Valley near Vancouver, British Columbia. When he is not writing, he is looking after horses and mending fences. He has a bachelor's degree in History and a background in Education (History, English, Theatre). Garth Pettersen's short stories have appeared in several anthologies and in journals such as Blank Spaces, The Spadina Literary Review, and The Opening Line Literary 'Zine. His award-winning historical fiction series The Atheling Chronicles is set in Anglo-Saxon/Danish England early in the eleventh century and features the largely unknown figure of Harald Harefoot, second son of the “Viking” King Canute. Reviewers have praised the author for his extensive research on the era.

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  1. Congratulations, Garth. You must be so please.

  2. Another series to add to my every growing to-read list. Congratulations on such a fabulous review.

  3. Thank you for the excellent review, Mary Anne. Much appreciated.


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