Discovered among Rosemary Sutcliff 's papers after her death in 1992, Sword Song is the swashbuckling epic of a young Viking swordsman, banished from his home for unintentionally killing a man, who takes up a new life as a mercenary.
"Gr. 9^-12. Discovered after Sutcliff's death, this epic tale focuses on Bjarni Sigurdson, a Viking swordsman. Banished from his homeland for accidentally killing a man, Bjarni hires himself out as a mercenary on a ship sailing from Dublin along the coast of Scotland. During years under the seafaring mentorship of Onund Treefoot, Bjarni grows from boy to man, living the life and learning the trade of a mercenary and eventually discovering the woman who will capture his heart. Whether Sutcliff is calling up the ale houses of Dublin or the battle-torn moors of Scotland, her descriptive language and dialogue transport readers back to a time and place not usually visited in young people's fiction. Fans accustomed to her intriguing subjects and masterful storytelling will not be disappointed. --Helen Rosenberg"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"For all the rough edges in Sutcliff's posthumously published novel, it nonetheless brings far-off times, peoples and places vividly to life. As the story opens, 16-year-old Bjarni Sigurdson is banished for five years from Rafnglas (for killing a man who kicked his dog), a Viking settlement in the Lake Country of present-day England. Bjarni becomes a mercenary swordsman, first shipping out to Dublin with a merchant, then attaching himself to various historical Viking leaders as they raid, fight and carouse (the Norsemen drank a lot of ale) through the Hebrides, Orkney Islands and northern Scotland. Shipwrecked in Wales, he is rescued by and in turn rescues the healer Angharad, whom he ultimately brings home to Rafnglas as his bride. A foreword notes that Sutcliff always wrote her books in three drafts, and that she was midway through the second for this novel when she died in 1992. Perhaps that explains why this third-person retelling of Norse Atlantic sagas at times seems curiously detached and episodic, in marked contrast to the smoothly paced first-person narrative of The Shining Company, published two years before her death. Studded with dashes and ambiguous pronouns, the sentences are often Jamesian in length and a glossary is sorely lacking (though there is a nicely detailed map). This may be best suited for more mature readers, but adolescents, especially boys, will likely identify with the protagonist, whose hot temper is his worst enemy, and fans of Viking lore will not be disappointed. Ages 10-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved