Wednesday, May 6, 2020

The Cold Hearth

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions
Garth Pettersen will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour

"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 above suspicion.

my review...
Some books are so real about history and customs that one must remember it is fiction,  made up tales for us to enjoy. It is this type of book that I catch myself going to the computer to search and see if something is real and/or the truth. Such was the case of Pettersen’s book. A few of the customs I looked up existed. Remember, this is not important in the fiction genre; just fun to see you have a researcher as a novelist.  

I must tell you when I begin a book and the first pages are filled with lists of characters and a glossary, I am immediately somewhat turned off. The flow of the reading is very important to me. I’m not talking about reading fast, I’m talking about not having my concentration broken. Not having to look back to see “who was who” so to speak. There were a lot of characters with difficult names to keep in my mind and a lot of terms to understand. Almost like a history book.

This book contains quite a bit of violence. It also contains some sexual scenes and some very “graphic” language. I can’t say that it made me put the book down but there was a lot of it; the violence being what bothered me most. There is another way to look at this.  Garth Pettersen wrote in a manner that mere words on paper were vivid enough to bother me. Almost as if I were watching a tv show. The kind where you cover your eyes because you don’t want to see what happens. Is that a talent? Probably so. Maybe this just wasn’t my type of book.

This is Book 3 from a series titled “The Atheling Chronicles”. All have good reviews. Check them out.

read an excerpt...
“But come, Harald.” Erral motioned to the open doors. He gave orders to a thrall to see to our horses.

Beornstan and Kipp dismounted and followed.

“May your hall be blessed,” I said, crossing the threshold. Open-shuttered windows along the two sides let in a goodly amount of light. Many folk inhabited the hall, standing, sitting, or preparing the meal. Children played, and a few elders sat watching. The robust aroma of roasting meat encouraged my stomach to rumble like thunder in the hills.

Conversation among the adults stopped at my entrance, leaving only the joyful cries of the children to fill the hall. I believe Erral must have given a meaningful and menacing look to his folk, for talk resumed as my host took me round to meet everyone. Though a few of the older men— uncles by blood or marriage— barely covered their hatred for all things Danish with the demands of hospitality, most were friendly and welcoming. Wihtlac, the brother-in-law, greeted me warmly and presented his motherless but well-fed young daughters. I met Erral’s sister and her husband, other in-laws, cousins, married and widowed aunts. The mood grew in spirit; I believe most were honored to receive a son of King Cnute— for whether loved, feared, or loathed, my father was still ruler over them— and I am sure more than one wondered if they were greeting a future king. And no one wondered more than me.

Erral ushered me toward an elder-woman who sat on a bench in a corner where there were no drafts. She wore a coarse woolen blanket like a shawl, green kirtle, and leggings. Her thin, white hair was braided and coiled tightly, crowning a wizened, tired face furrowed with creases and grooves that spoke of sun-baked toil and cold hardship. Her eyes revealed the clouded, milky-blue dullness I had beheld on others who could no longer see.

“Ealdemoder,” Erral said. His grandmother looked up at the sound of his voice. “I have brought a guest. This is Harald.”

“Your health, Ealdemoder,” I said.

“And yours, son of kings.”

I had expected her voice to be higher pitched and frayed, but she spoke in soft, measured tones, smooth like worn leather.

“Come closer.”

I dropped to one knee before her and leaned in. She reached out with a hand, found my shoulder, and followed it with her fingers until she reached my face. She felt the shape of my jaw and chin, cheekbones and brow before lowering her hand. Her touch was gentle, as if she reached across the gap between the dead and the living.

“Is it not frightful what the old and unsighted can get away with?” She laughed whole-heartedly and Erral with her.

When I realized that I had been made the brunt of a jest, I laughed as well. “I think you have a strong, pleasant face, Harald, son of Cnute. No scars yet?”

“Scars I have aplenty, Ealdemoder: I am missing a finger, there is a serpentine scar on my forearm, the mark of an arrow high on my chest, and a good-sized rent on my crown.”

 “You have been busy.”

“No, my enemies have been busy.”

 “Just so. Give us your hand— I’ve already had my way with your face.” The old woman’s lips formed a sly smile.

If I had not enjoyed her wit, I would have felt like fresh meat for the pot. I rested my left hand, the one with the missing finger, palm upward on her bony thigh. She explored the contours and calluses of my hand with care.

“A strong hand.” She turned it over, caressing the knuckles. “You have the love of a good woman, do you not?”

I had not expected such a turn. “My wyf, Selia— my treasure.”

“Refreshing to hear a man speak so of his wyf. Erral, too, loved his dear wyf.”

 I sensed Erral’s discomfort as he shifted his stance.

“She was a fine, happy woman, my granddaughter. She died much too young, but many do. Have you met her beautiful children?” She released my hand.

“I have. They are indeed worthy of your pride.”

“Ealdemoder,” Erral said. “Supper is ready. It is time for food and drink.”

“Fine. Snatch the young man from my clutches. If he stays much longer, I’ll become wet in the loins, and that hasn’t happened in years.”

Erral and I laughed together at the old woman’s brazen humor.

“Enjoy the meal, Mother,” I said.

“And you, Harald, son of kings.”

As Erral and I made to leave, I heard her add, “Keep her safe.”

“What was that? I asked, turning.

 “Your wyf,” the old woman said, her gaze set at nothing, “they will kill her, too.”

about Garth Pettersen...

Garth Pettersen is a Canadian writer living in the Fraser Valley near Vancouver, BC. When he's not writing, he is riding horses or 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 for the Windsor Editions (UK) Short Fiction Prize. Garth Pettersen's historical fiction series, The Atheling Chronicles is published by Tirgearr Publishing and books one and two are available at most online outlets (The Swan's Road and The Dane Law) and book three, The Cold Hearth, is now available for pre-order.

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  1. I liked the excerpt, sounds good.

    1. Thank you for commenting, Rita. I'd love you to read and review The Cold Hearth.

  2. Thank you, Our Town Books, for hosting this stop on the book tour, and thank you for the honest 4 star review.

    1. Mr. Pettersen (or Garth)...anyone would like to meet a person who has done so much research on the Vikings and Saxons and I would be one of those people. Enjoyed having you here and wish you the very best of luck with your book -kathy


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