Category Archives: Justin Hill

Justin Hill : Viking Fire (Review)

 

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Justin Hill

(1971 – )

The first of Justin Hill’s Conquest Trilogy, chronically the momentous events that surround the Battle of Hastings, in 1066, will be published in Spring 2011.

Justin is an English novelist whose work has twice been nominated for the Man Booker Prize. He was born in Freeport, Grand Bahama Island in 1971 and was brought up in York. He was educated at St Peter’s School, York, and was a member of St Cuthbert’s Society, Durham University. He worked for seven years as a volunteer with VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) in rural China and Africa, before returning home to Yorkshire in 1999. His internationally acclaimed first novel, The Drink and Dream Teahouse, won the 2003 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize and a 2002 Betty Trask Award, and banned by the government in China. It was also picked by the Washington Post as one of the Top Novels of 2001.

Author Web site

Viking Fire  (2016)
(The second book in the Conquest Trilogy series)

viking

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In 1035, a young fifteen year old Viking is dragged wounded from the battle. Left for dead, for the next twenty years his adventures lead him over mountains, down the length of Russia and ultimately to Constantinople and the Holy City of Jerusalem.

Drawn into political intrigue he will be the lover of Empresses, the murderer of an emperor; he will hold the balance of power in the Byzantine Empire in his hands, and then give it all up for a Russian princess and the chance to return home and lead his own people, where he must fight the demons of his past, his family and his countrymen in a long and bitter war for revenge and power.

Told in his own voice, this is the astonishing true story of the most famous warrior in all Christendom: Harald Hardrada, the last Viking.

Review

Its been 5 years since Shieldwall, the immensely impressive first book in the Conquest Trilogy. I personally have been waiting for this book with bated breath (and i may have nagged him a few times), Justin Hill is a hugely talented writer, so when my advance copy landed i dived right in.

This book follows the life of Harald Hardrada, aka King Haraldr Sigurðarson given the epithet Hardrada (harðráði, roughly translated as “stern counsel” or “hard ruler”. Justin Hill takes his life story from the boy in his fathers house, the hero worship of his brother (King Olaf, later St Olaf), through his battles and growth to manhood, his battle with enemies and elements, his journey across the known world to the wonders of Miklagard (Constantinople) the heart of the Byzantine Empire. The main part of the book concentrates on Haralds rise in the center of the worlds power and his gaining of wealth, wealth enough to return home to lay his claim to the title King of Norway, and aspired to do the same with Denmark. He brought home some of the civilization of Greeks to the nordic world, a sense of permanence to their history. Ultimately we know the ending, a step to far, a kingdom beyond reach, England.

As ever with Justin’s books i learnt loads while being educated, i mean… did you know Harald founded Olso? i didn’t. The whole story felt like a thrilling education, sitting on the shoulder of a giant, while he grew to manhood and created a legend. The style of the tale totally draws the reader in, you are part of the tale, you ride and grow with Harald as an intimate member of his band. you experience every emotion, every hurt, every reversal of fortune and ecstatic victory. You can experience what a force of nature the man must have been. Most of all you can feel the research and passion of the writer in every well crafted phrase and character.

I’m a big fan of the big well planned pitched battle in a historical fiction book, but much more i love a well crafted tale that brings to life something poignant and that’s what this book is. The defeat at Stamford Bridge is written in such an emotive way and is inevitable, but the book as whole has you so invested that you have a longing, a desire that Justin has changed history, that at the end Harald will charge the English line and defeat them, that the fateful death will not arrive. How this amazing mans story has not been a bigger part of the education in this country i don’t know, he plays a major part in 1066 and a turning point in the nations history. I hope that this 950th anniversary and this book help show more people just how much.

Written in such an emotive, gritty engaging style, this book will captivate many a reader. For me it now sits as the current best read of 2016. How long it will remain in yet another year of excellent books…..well its going up against Giles Kristian in a few weeks that’s going to be a test, but what a battle of the vikings that will be, either way… This is a stunning book, a stunning read, it has displaced some amazing books for the title or best book 2016 so far, and unlike 99% of the books i read, i will be reading this book again, this is going on the best books ever shelf. I loved it, its a book that stays with you long after you finish it.

(Parm)

Series
Conquest Trilogy
1. Shieldwall (2011)
2. Viking Fire (2016)
Novels
The Drink and Dream Teahouse (2001)
Passing Under Heaven (2004)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2015) (with Wang Du Lu)
Novellas
Things Too Far Away (2013)

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Justin Hill