Smile of the Wolf by Tim Leach
Smile Of The Wolf is historical fiction set in eleventh century Iceland written in the style of a story handed down through the generations, told as a winter past-time.
This is the tale of two men: Kjaran a poet, singer or skald, who sings in exchange for food and shelter, and Gunnar, an ex-warrior, now a father and farmer. One night the pair set out to hunt a ghost. Instead, they kill a man. Under Icelandic law they should pay the man’s family a blood-price, but instead they try to hide the murder.
Gunnar’s guilt gnaws away at him and the pair are exposed at the annual Althing gathering. Kjaran takes the blame for the murder and is made an outlaw for three years. Now he can be legally hunted down by the victim’s family to avenge the man’s death. He took the blame in an attempt to keep Gunnar and his family safe, but three years is a long time to be on the run.
This is a tale of cold and darkness in a desolate setting. The laws of the land revolve around honour and feuds. With their Viking backgrounds, the inhabitants fled old homelands in search of a new start. They wanted to leave behind Norway and a king who drove them from their homes. They hoped for a land where every man was equal. But keeping the peace amongst men who come from warring backgrounds is hard and blood-feuds are accepted practices. The problem is, where do they end?
I would describe this as slow-paced, reflecting the story-telling style. It is also quite cold and harsh with just the odd hint of warmth and hope, rather like the landscape of the wintry isle. A book which made me yearn for a soft blanket, a roaring fire and a cup of hot-chocolate to chase away my chilly feelings.
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Eleventh-century Iceland. One night in the darkness of winter, two friends set out on an adventure but end up killing a man. Kjaran, a traveling poet who trades songs for food and shelter, and Gunnar, a feared warrior, must make a choice: conceal the deed or confess to the crime and pay the blood price to the family. But their decision leads to a brutal feud: one man is outlawed, free to be killed by anyone without consequence; the other remorselessly hunted by the dead man’s kin. Set in a world of ice and snow, this is an epic story of exile and revenge, of duels and betrayals, and two friends struggling to survive in a desolate landscape, where honor is the only code that men abide by.
Writer, climber, whisky drinker, chess dabbler and general purpose layabout. London exile currently encamped in the North and loving it. I’ve studied and taught creative writing at the University of Warwick and worked in bookshops in London and Greece.
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Reblogged this on Viv Drewa – The Owl Lady.
An excellent review, Rosie. The Vikings are fascinating. They make a very short appearance in both of my two new books.
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