Book Review: Seidman by James Erich
I’ve never actually read a novel set during the Viking era before, and this one turned out to be a real treat. Seidman is a highly original coming of age novel that blends sorcery, adventure, and a touching love story. The effort to which the author has gone to research the period is obvious. Culture, religion, folklore … he weaves it all seamlessly into the narrative, bringing it to life without in any way slowing the pace.
Kol may have been raised on his family’s homestead in Iceland, but his slight build and fragile health have always made him unsuited to heavy farm work. Therefore, when he receives the offer of an apprenticeship from Alfdis, a respected local sorceress, he jumps at the chance. Under Alfdis’s tuition and the affection of the sorceress’s family, Kol grows happy and strong whilst mastering the ancient art. Best of all about his new life is Alfdis’s grandson, a boy only a little older than Kol. Lively and good-natured, Thorbrand takes Kol under his wing, and it isn’t long before the two are inseparable.
The more time Kol and Thorbrand spend in one another’s company, the clearer it becomes that their closeness runs deeper than friendship. Of course, no one must find out. For a man to want another this way is utterly forbidden. Moreover, upon the death of his father, Thorbrand will be chieftain with a duty to marry and produce an heir, whilst Kol’s destiny lies across the sea in Norway, battling to save the sorcerers from extinction. As their lives take them on very different paths, it seems impossible that their love can ever be more than a distant dream.
The thing that struck me as particularly good about this novel was how we get to see Kol and Thorbrand grow up, following their progress from carefree boys interested only in each other, to mature young men with their own responsibilities. Though the story does have a strong fantasy element, the developing relationship between the heroes is incredibly realistic, taking into account the attitudes towards homosexuality at the time, and is in fact one of the most poignant I’ve come across in a while.
If you like novels that transport you to foreign lands, are rich in description and historical detail, and have plenty of magic and romance thrown in, you will almost certainly enjoy this book.
Written for Rainbow Book Reviews