Today on The Tattooed Book Geek it is my privilege to be closing the blog tour for A Mighty Dawn (The Viking Chronicles Book 1) by Theodore Brun with a fantastic guest post courtesy of the author himself.
This blog tour is to coincide with the recent release of the paperback! I actually read, reviewed and really enjoyed the book when it was first released as a hardback all the way back in March last year.
I was contacted by the author in December due to my review and asked by him (massive thanks) if I would like to take part on this blog tour, how cool is that! 🙂
Of course, I said yes and so to go along with the guest post that Theodore has written and as an additional extra, I am going to include my original review to share my thoughts on A Mighty Dawn.
Some epic fails
A Guest blog by Theodore brun
It goes without saying that an epic novel like A Mighty Dawn demands a lot of research in order to create a world that feels authentic. Long hours and days have been spent in various libraries, sifting through texts about Scandinavian archaeology or Norse mythology, or traipsing through museums to peer into glass cabinets at artefacts from the period, wondering how they might fit into my story. And then there’s Wikipedia, of course.
But there’s nothing like getting your hands dirty with some practical research. So I thought I would describe one of two instances when this didn’t quite work out as planned.
One New Year’s Eve, depressed at the prospect of another uninspiring party at the house of a friend of a friend’s – even worse, I was a sympathy invite – I decided to call off sick and see in the New Year on my own. I drove off to Holkham beach on the north Norfolk coast, not entirely sure what I would do when I got there.
As midnight approached, I wandered in the darkness through the pine woods that bordered the beach, listening to the winds in the treetops, gazing up through the branches at the clouds chasing overhead, trying to imagine what characters like Hakan or Lilla would have felt in the same situation. I then walked out to the sea and watched the waves for a while, overshadowed by a vast canopy of stars, breathing in the “Northernness” of a chilly winter’s night. It could have been the 21st century; it could have been the 8th. Nothing would have been different. And to feel the way the mind and senses wove together was useful, even illuminating. However, on my walk back to the car, it seemed my night-dreaming had gone on a bit long and the tide had come in behind me, leaving me on the wrong side of a tidal creek. After plunging knee-deep into glutinous Norfolk mud at the cost of one trainer, as I trudged back to the car, mud-caked and a bit fed up, I reflected that there were probably wiser ways of generating the same experience. Still, better than seeing in the New Year exchanging insipid platitudes over warm champagne.
Swordplay, of course, plays a big role in A Mighty Dawn. Because I find choreographing fight scenes probably the hardest thing about writing this kind of book, I thought what better way to sharpen my descriptive skills than to experience some medieval combat myself. One Google search later I found myself armed, shoeless, and slightly afraid, in what I thought was a very confined space to be facing a master in the arts of medieval sword-fighting. I was wearing a fencing mask. Which was just as well, since my instructor was repeatedly jabbing me in the face with the point of his fake sword, shouting, “Go on, hit me! Hit me!” Of course, I couldn’t. In fact, I couldn’t do much that seemed very deadly at all, even after eight hours of tuition. It’s a sad moment in a man’s life when he has to admit to himself that he’s just not that dangerous with a sword.
But I did learn one important thing. Anyone who didn’t know what they were doing with their weapon of choice in that early Viking world would be dead within five seconds. Training, training, and more training seemed to be the key.
However, as far as commitment to the cause went, nothing quite matches my decision to bicycle across Sweden in the footsteps of Hakan’s lonely journey. Launching from Gothenburg in the southwest, my route cut straight across the country, northeast to Gamla Uppsala, the ancient royal seat of the Swedes. The idea was to get a sense of the topography, the lie of the land, the smell of the place and an appreciation of the physical challenges Hakan might have faced.
And that’s what I got, up to a point. It was a journey of roughly 600 miles, which might sound a lot, but it didn’t feel particularly epic. The topography was generally quite flat, no mountains or even many hills. Just forests and lakes, forests and lakes, with a bit of rolling farmland thrown in. Although the experience of passing through some thick Swedish spruce forests, and seeing the blisters of rock bubbling out of the ground now and then was helpful, the impression I had when I reached Uppsala was that it was all a bit… well, easy. And to be honest, that came across in my first draft. When my editor said it was all good, we just needed to make Halan’s journey more arduous, more epic – you know, mountains and ravines and glaciers and snowdrifts and stuff, my bleating response was, “But it’s not like that!”
Not acceptable. Which is where the idea for Hakan falling sick came to mind. If you’re feverish, hallucinating, weak with hunger and delusional then even the simplest walk through the woods can become an unending bone-chilling, muscle-wasting nightmare.
All of which goes to show that you shouldn’t be too dismayed by epic failures in your research. Usually something useful can be gleaned, even from the worst of them.
A Mighty Dawn (The Viking Chronicles Book 1).
Sworn to honour.
Broken by betrayal.
Hakan, son of Haldan, chosen son of the Lord of the Northern Jutes, swears loyalty to his father in fire, in iron, and in blood. But there are always shadows that roam. When a terrible tragedy befalls Hakan’s household he is forced to leave his world behind. He must seek to pledge his sword to a new king. Nameless and alone, he embarks on a journey to escape the bonds of his past and fulfil his destiny as a great warrior.
Whispers of sinister forces in the north pull Hakan onwards to a kingdom plagued by mysterious and gruesome deaths. But does he have the strength to do battle with such dark foes? Or is death the only sane thing to seek in this world of blood and broken oaths?
Purchase A Mighty Dawn (The Viking Chronicles Book 1).
My Review for A Mighty Dawn:
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Taking place in 8th century Scandinavia A Mighty Dawn tells the tale of Hakan, the chosen son of Haldan of the Northern Jutes, after swearing an oath to his father Haldan, a terrible secret is unearthed and uncovered, it’s a shocking revelation and the immediate aftermath is devastating with heartbreaking consequences for Hakan. With no other option, Hakan forsakes his birthright and his name leaving behind his people and all he has ever known, with Hakan gone he renames himself Erlan “stranger” and sets out on an arduous and perilous trek to find meaning, a purpose and a new master.
He still wondered what she meant by that. Now he would never know. The dead kept their secrets close.
For the most part, A Mighty Dawn reads like standard historical fiction rather than a fantasy book. The fantasy aspects are few and far between, a glimpse at the beginning and a prophecy that is mentioned and alluded to during the story but, for the most part they are moved to the backseat and put on the back burner before finally coming into play and more to the forefront of the story near the end.
Leaving the fantasy element in the background works well for the story being told within the pages A Mighty Dawn. While there is the overarching story of mysterious disappearances, first alluded to in the prologue and then again when Erlan and Kai reach Svealand. For me, the book was Hakan’s journey and transformation through loss, pain and suffering, to Erlan and finally to acceptance of life and new beginnings.
It takes until near page 300 for another fantasy element to be mentioned, that of the earth-dwellers. Recounted by a Seidman, he tells the tale that the earth-dwellers are another name for ‘darklings’ the monsters told in nurses stories in an attempt to stop children misbehaving. The earth-dwellers are deemed by some to be the cause of mysterious deaths plaguing the country of Svealand, but for the most such rumours are classed as nonsense and those who think that derided, with the disappearances more than likely due to an invading party.
It’s then another 50 pages before we actually get our first glimpse of the sinister creatures roaming Svealand and finally at around the 430-page mark the evil force behind the mysterious killings is shown and the fantastical element revealed.
‘Hate is chaos. Wild as a wolf, she is. Loose her on the world, and blood will run just about anywhere.’
As the main character I really liked Hakan and then Erlan, he is a haunted yet captivating character for the story to focus around who you really feel for, fate screwed him over in an unexpected and shocking way and his journey to a new master and his redemption is one you really lose yourself in, you often find yourself questioning, is he searching for a new life or looking for his death?
When Kai is introduced he acts as the perfect foil to the wretched and tortured soul that is Erlan. Kai is the comic relief, adding the humour and together they make a great double act and as we follow them they become more than friends, they become brothers. Often you will find yourself sniggering at something Kai has said and his youthful exuberance makes him a very likeable character.
There’s plenty of well-developed secondary characters included too, Sviggar and Lilla are both very interesting characters that add depth to the story and Sviggar’s wife Saldas and his son Sigurd are two to watch out for (me thinks they will be getting up to mischief in the future books). We learn enough to be intrigued by them and their actions while also knowing that more is being kept back to be learnt about them in the upcoming books. The minor characters are also engaging too with their own personalities and traits.
The action is well written, brutal and visceral when it needs to be and there is plenty to be found in the pages to keep even the most action orientated and bloodthirsty reader happy.
Vengeance could drink of his blood.
The pacing overall is good, for the most Brun keeps the story moving forward and while it is slow-paced at times, A Mighty Dawn is never boring and the slower pacing aids in developing Erlan as a character.
When the fantasy element is incorporated more fully into the story, it doesn’t feel like it has been shoehorned in and thanks to the Norse legends, religion and superstitions that abounded at the time feels organic to the story.
The world building by Brun is stellar, it’s a cold, lonely and bleak road travelled by Erlan as he attempts to reach Svealand, it’s a desolate journey and Brun does a good job of depicting the despair felt by Erlan, you feel the solitude and isolation along with him. The snowy and barren wilderness is a treacherous landscape with the cold being a constant and dangerous foe as Erlan and then Erlan and Kai battle the elements to reach their destination.
Brun’s writing expertly balances description, dialogue and action alongside the quiet moments of reflection and inner torment crafting an epic tale. Weaving together history, fantasy and myth like the Norns twining the threads of fate in A Mighty Dawn, Brun has created an excellent debut and a top quality read.
About Theodore Brun.
(author picture and biography is taken from his author website)
Theo is an established author and public speaker.
At Cambridge, he studied Dark Age archaeology (amongst other things), graduating with a BA in Archaeology and Anthropology and an MPhil in History. After university he trained as a solicitor, qualifying into the area of arbitration law where he worked for several years, including for two Magic Circle firms. His career took him first to London, then to Moscow, Paris and finally Hong Kong.
However, in 2010, disenchanted with the law and with the germ of an idea for a series of novels already in his head, he quit his job in Hong Kong, jumped on a bicycle and pedalled 10,685 miles across Asia and Europe to his home in Norfolk. At this point he sat down in a spider-infested cottage to write the first volume in his epic historical fiction series, the Wanderer Chronicles. Four years later, A Mighty Dawn was published by Corvus Atlantic. Its sequel, A Sacred Storm, is due for release in July 2018.
Theo is a third generation Viking immigrant, his Danish grandfather having settled in England in 1932. One could say Viking stories are in his blood. They did also form a small part of his degree, but the truth is they only came alive for him through the discovery of Wagner’s Ring Cycle when he was studying for his law exams. Through this unlikely portal, Theo discovered the hoard of stories from the old Scandinavian and Germanic worlds which underlie many of the works of authors like Tolkein, CS Lewis, George RR Martin, Neil Gaiman, Giles Kristian and Bernard Cornwell to name a few. It was this material that provided the inspiration for the first two novels in his Wanderer Chronicles series.
Besides writing, Theo is also an acclaimed speaker and has presented to a wide variety of audiences about his epic bike journey and about creative writing, as well as inspiring young people to dream big and pursue their passions.
Theo is married to Natasha. They live in London together with Natasha’s daughter, Ella, their baby girl, Talitha, and an unruly dog named Wilmo.
Theodore Brun can be found:
Follow The Tattooed Book Geek on: