The Golden Wolf book review
By Leroy Douresseaux
July 12, 2019 - 06:23

Writer(s): Linnea Hartsuyker
ISBN: 978-0-06-256374-3
$27.99 U.S., $34.99 CAN, 448 pp, Hardcover

The Golden Wolf cover image

The Golden Wolf is the new novel from author Linnea Hartsuyker.  It is the direct sequel to The Sea Queen and is also the third volume in “The Golden Wolf Saga” book series.  This book, like the others, is set during the 9th century A.D. and in Norway's “Viking Age,” specifically the time that marks the ascendancy of the first King of Norway, Harald Fairhair (called Harald Halfdansson in this novel).  The Golden Wolf focuses on Ragnvald Eysteinsson, his sister, Svanhild, and their spouses, children, and allies – with King Harald's campaigns as a backdrop.

The Golden Wolf opens with the children of Ragnvald and Svanhild's extended families meeting at sea and making decisions that will change the course of their lives.  There actions will also play a crucial part in King Harald's ongoing campaign to consolidate his power in Norway and abroad.

Ragnvald has long held to his vision of King Harald as a “golden wolf” who will bring peace to Norway as its conqueror.  Ragnvald, however, has also long held to the second part of that vision; for all that he has assisted and will continue to assist his king, Harald’s success will eventually mean Ragnvald's own doom.  Ragnvald is grateful to have his beloved sister, the fierce and independent Svanhild, once more at his side to help keep their kingdom secure.  She is free from Solvi Hunthiofsson, the evil husband who used her, but she is now one of Harald’s many wives.  Soon, Ragnvald will cut Harold's long hair, a sign that the king is ready to put down his sword and to rule Norway, not as a warrior, but as a king.

That, however, must wait.  An old enemy may have kidnapped Ragnvald's niece, Svanhild's daughter, Freydis Solvisdatter, from whom Svanhild is estranged.  Ragnvald's sons:  the gifted Einar, the princely Ivar, and the adventurous Rolli, are no longer children.  Harald's sons are also grown, and now, Ragnvald's sons may have to compete with the king's heirs for land to rule.  This is especially true of Harold's son, Halfdan Haraldsson, who openly plots rebellion against his father and seeks alliances with his father's enemies.  The young seek to begin building their own legacies, and their elders are preparing to enter their twilight years – if they live.  King Harald may be the “golden wolf,” but does he devour friends, like Ragnvald, as easily as he does foes?

THE LOWDOWN:  In the first book of the “The Golden Wolf Saga,” The Half-Drowned King, Ragnvald is the lead character, although his sister Svanhild is the lead in about a third of the novel.  In the second novel, The Sea Queen, brother and sister are co-leads.

In this final novel, The Golden Wolf, author Linnea Hartsuyker once again expands the scope of her narrative.  There are multiple subplots and settings that range from Norway and Denmark to regions in and around Scotland and Iceland.  The primary expansion, however, is in the characters and in the character drama.  The Golden Wolf is the grand finale in which the characters pay the price for both their ambitions and for the ambitions of those to whom they tie themselves.

I am still having a hard time believing that “The Golden Wolf Trilogy” is comprised of Hartsuyker's first three novels.  By the third novel, we can no longer credit “beginner's luck.”  As a novelist, Hartsuyker is a natural.  In The Golden Wolf, the complexity and depth with which she presents not only character and personality, but also interpersonal relationships, politics, intrigue, and family dynamics are breathtaking.  Honestly, to make readers care deeply about even The Golden Wolf's villains and characters who deserve harsh outcomes (which she often made me do) is the mark of both a good writer and a good storyteller.

To put it simply, The Golden Wolf is a damn fun and fine read.  In singing her praises, I can say that it is Linnea Hartsuyker's fault that I don't want to say goodbye to these characters.  The Golden Wolf is the intimate, heartfelt end that a great trilogy needs to assure that it is indeed great.  Dear readers, add The Golden Wolf to your summer reading lists.

I READS YOU RECOMMENDS:  Fans of “Game of Thrones” and of historical fiction will want to read The Golden Wolf.

10 out of 10

Rating: 10/10

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