Book Review: The Erling Skjalgsson Saga

Walker, Lars. The Year of the WarriorWest Oversea: A Norse Saga of Mystery, Adventure, and Faith; Hailstone Mountain: The Erling Skjalgsson Saga.

This four-book series (books 1 and 2 combined in a single volume in The Year of the Warrior) is told from the perspective of Ailill the Irishman, who was captured in a Viking raid and claimed to be a priest in order to save his skin. His tale is one of becoming what he initially pretended to be: Ailill’s struggles with God and faith and ministry are as visceral as the aftermath of the battles strewn across Scandinavia.

The Saga is refreshing in its viscerality (I made that word up; trademark pending). If you’re looking for clean, sterile, cookie-cutter, not-found-in-reality Christianity, look elsewhere.

Like every good story, the characters learn and grow and fight their way to the end, neither unscathed or unchanged.

On a different level, Walker’s turn-of-phrase is stunning. Of the passages that I highlighted in the Kindle version, no small percentage of them were simply his metaphors and similes. For example, from Hailstone Mountain:

It went on an on, like a bishop’s homily… (Kindle Location 3059).

The path was as narrow as a maiden’s waist, and the ice that coated it as smooth as a Pelagian’s tongue (Kindle Location 3062).

Or these from The Year of the Warrior:

unruly as another man’s dog (KL 2891).

The noise of their howling and our screaming would have given Azazel nightmares (KL 4416).

I felt like a fat man on thin ice (KL 6635).

I was sicker than a pregnant bride (KL 6784).

But above all, this was a series of glorying in the power of Jesus and His gospel over sin and self and Satan. I quoted often from the series to my Facebook page; the passages were too good to not pass on. (They’re even better in context, obviously.)

Do any of us love Him worth the use of the word? He loves us–that’s the point. Even the best of us raise our pitiful love to Him as a child raises some dead thing he’s found in the field and brought home to his father, and the father pretends it doesn’t stink and says thank you because he loves his child (KL 3186).

But there is one act of courage that can be done only with God’s help. That is to set aside all the rags you’ve covered yourself with and all the props you’ve stood yourself up with, and risk your life on starting fresh under His mercy (KL 4539).

I can definitely see this being a series I’ll return to often. It’s great storytelling–the kind that confronts you, inspires you, and leads you to wonder and worship.

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