Brothers of the Wild North Sea – Harper Fox
His deadliest enemy will become his heart’s desire.
Caius doesn’t feel like much of a Christian. He loves his life of learning as a monk in the far-flung stronghold of Fara, but the hot warrior blood of his chieftain father flows in his veins. Heat soothed only in the arms of his sweet-natured friend and lover, Leof.
When Leof is killed during a Viking raid, Cai’s grieving heart thirsts for vengeance—and he has his chance with Fenrir, a wounded young Viking warrior left for dead. But instead of reaching for a weapon, Cai finds himself defying his abbot’s orders and using his healing skills to save Fen’s life.
At first, Fen repays Cai’s kindness by attacking every Christian within reach. But as time passes, Cai’s persistent goodness touches his heart. And Cai, who had thought he would never love again, feels the stirring of a profound new attraction.
Yet old loyalties call Fen back to his tribe and a relentless quest to find the ancient secret of Fara—a powerful talisman that could render the Vikings indestructible, and tear the two lovers’ bonds beyond healing.
Warning: contains battles, bloodshed, explicit M/M sex, and the proper Latin term for what lies beneath those cassocks.
When more eloquent reviewers talk about lush, lyrical prose, Harper Fox’s writing comes to mind. Written in the same descriptive style as Seven Summer Nights and narrated beautifully by Hamish Long, Brothers of the Wild North Sea is a captivating tale of monks eking out a living at the northeastern edge of Britannia year 687. These were harsh time when Northernmen or Vikings frequently landed on these shores to raid villages.
Caius or Cai is a very spirited monk and also the abbey’s physician. He saved the Viking warrior Fenrir after the latter was left for dead by his fellow raiders. Soon Cai and Fen grew closer until they were closer than brothers. It warms the heart of unemotional me every time Fen says beloved and Cai calls him love in return.
Endearments were precious and they come easily to both.
Cai, beloved—he had taken the words, folded them carefully and placed them in the back of his mind. Endearments blurted out in passion’s extremity were too sweet, too fleeting to set store by. And yet still the world was transformed.
Cai is also the reluctant leader of the monks of Fara. Reluctant but a natural. The monks and the villagers come to turn to him for direction. At first Cai questioned his position but later made peace with it. Fen was at his side as Cai trained the monks to fight. I love how the monks accepted Fen into their fold, even calling him brother. They even seem to tacitly understand what Fen meant to Cai and leave them both to their business.
The main antagonist of the story was Aelfric, a hellfire and brimstone kind of monk which is the kind of lawful evil antagonist I hate the most. He succeeded the Abbot Theo after Theo died from a Viking raid. I thought Aelfric is going to make the entire book painful to listen to but I’m glad I put my preconceived notions aside and put my faith on on the author. The way Cai dealt with Aelfric was very satisfying indeed but I’m also glad Aelfric saw the truth at the end.
The big macguffin of the story was the Treasure of Fara. The Vikings want it because it is said to contain some power. The search was a minor thread but the treasure itself have a big symbolic and mystical significance. There was a prophetic dream and actual prophesies from the Lady Danan that were refreshingly quite literal and to the point unlike the obtuse and clever riddles that is usually the case with these things.
There were also a lot of WOLF that ties in with the whole thing.
He had a strange dream. In it, a wolf came from the sea. Cai, standing on the moonlit beach, felt no fear.
Pretty obvious who but it doesn’t detract from the beauty of this:
Fen caught his hand—a promise kept—and held on. “I have often wondered,” he said, “about the true meaning of Gleipnir. It was nothing but a scrap of leather—lost again now.”
“Yes. I think we left it in the dunes.”
“But you see, I still have it. To me you are home—my tribe, my honour. To me you are Gleipnir—the cord that binds the wolf where fetters fail. Forever, my beloved Cai.”
Harper Fox set herself a very challenging task of creating a convincing historical love story between a monk and a Viking. I have no way of knowing the accuracy of details but she was able to pull it off without making things anachronistic. The setting and the era is something rarely done in MM and she was able to draw me into the harsh Britannic life at the edge of the world, despite this being something that is far beyond my ken. There were also folklore and magic realism that added an extra layer to an already intricate tale. I liked the exploration of how religion and science should be in people’s life and it was interesting to see the kind of science they had at that time. The book is over 13 hours long, a bit lengthy and could use some pruning. I think the author was being thorough with the various threads and I’m just glad she has a deft hand that kept me glued to the story. Poetic, nuanced and evocative, I think this is one of Harper Fox’s best books.
4.5 – perfection is only half a step away