God of Vengeance (The Rise of Sigurd #1) by Giles Kristian

Write on: Wed, 23 Dec 2020 by  in Gary's Reviews Read 2482

'...the storm of swords...Dragon against dragon...The Red War'

God of Vengeance is the first in Giles Kristian's epic Viking saga, The Rise of Sigurd, a prequel series to The Raven Saga. Having recently read his brilliant duology of Lancelot and Camelot, it was only a matter of time before I explored the deep fjords of Kristian's historical Viking world and I was not disappointed by what I found. 

As the name suggests, this is a story about revenge. Sigurd is the son of Jarl Harald, a powerful and respected chieftain who is oath-bound to the treacherous King Gorm of Avaldsnes. When his father and brothers are betrayed by the king in a fight against the ambitious Jarl Randver, Sigurd finds himself on the run with few friends and plenty of enemies. What follows is a fantastic historical adventure immersed in Norse mythology and more blood than could be drained from the poet Kvasir. 

The mid-section of the novel reminded me a lot of the old Magnificent Seven movies, except instead of a gunslinger travelling around the American West, here we have a young drengr roaming the cold waters of eight century Norway. And like Chris Adams, Sigurd gathers quite the crew. These include the axe-wielding giant, Svein, the mystifying shield maiden Valgerd and the mad priest Asgot. My personal favourites were Olaf, who once served as Harald right-hand man and who is like an uncle to everyone, and Black Floki, a mysterious young warrior with an unnatural gift for violence. Each of these characters are vividly brought to life, their relationships deep and the bonds they form natural and meaningful. 

I loved Kristian's blending of history and mythology in Ancient Britain and found more of the same here. The gods are often invoked and have a major impact on the decisions characters make, with the All-Father himself playing a significant role in Sigurd's story. In order to avenge the murder of his family, Sigurd must first gain the All-Father's favour, leading to some very interesting scenes. In fact, Sigurd is similar to Odin in many ways. The other characters' arcs are also deeply rooted in mythology, with plenty of comparisons to certain gods and demigods. I admire what Kristian has done here. 

This would not be a Norse saga worth its mead in telling without its share of epic battles and there are plenty, including some of the best ship-to-ship combat you will find in fiction. You can almost taste the salt and blood that smears Njord's waters. The land battles are just as good. Kristian throws readers right in the thick of the steel-storm, axe in hand, shield raised as warbands clash. At most, the biggest battles number about a hundred or so warriors. Not only does it make sense to Sigurd's story, but each fight felt raw, desperate and real. There is no question that Kristian knows how to write war. I'm sure Tyr would be proud. 

Overall, God of Vengeance is a fantastic first book in what is shaping up to be an epic saga. I enjoyed it so much that I went and bought the rest of the trilogy immediately upon finishing it. I recommend this to all fans of historical fiction and Norse mythology. 


Gary is a small town Irishman with a love for all things historical and fantastical. He works as an English and History teacher at post-primary where he endeavours to instil and nurture a love for reading and writing in students. Tea is his weakness. Reading is his passion. His one goal in life is to buy a castle when he retires.