Monday, March 10, 2014

Bracelet of Bones by Kevin Crossley-Holland

Bracelet of Bones

Author: Kevin Crossley-Holland
Publisher: Quercus
Series: Viking Sagas #1
Pages: Hardcover, 336 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: March 11, 2014


Crossley-Holland, a winner of the Carnegie Medal, the Guardian Children’s Fiction Award, the Smarties Prize Bronze Medal, and the Tir Nan-Og Award, and numerous other distinctions, has written an absorbing fantasy novel for young adults with a formidable heroine. The Guardian praised Bracelet of Bones as “superb” Crossley-Holland writes “with a poet’s eye and love of words, painting a vivid picture of the world his characters move through, whether it’s the morning mist on the river or the smoke from a funeral pyre.”

One morning Solveig wakes to find her father, Viking mercenary Halfdan, has broken his promise to her by leaving to join the Viking Guard in Constantinople, without her. Deciding to follow him, Solveig sets off in a tiny boat and into an epic adventure, encountering Swedish traders, a ghost-ship and a Russian king, braving arrow-storms and witnessing a living sacrifice. Through it all, Solveig’s belief in her father is unwavering. Will she ever reach Constantinople? And will her father be there? An imaginative and poignant novel that explores friendship and betrayal, the father-daughter relationship, the clash of religions and the journey from childhood to adulthood, Bracelet of Bones is a vivid adventure not to be missed.


I am not quite sure what's going on with me lately, but I keep on  having completely wrong exceptions of books. The Bracelet of Bones is no exception. Although I did read the blurb before requested the ARC, for some reason I kinda had in the back of my mind that this was a fantasy. Ok, so admittedly knowing my memory for names is bad at best, I should have known that I wouldn't necessary connect the right name with the right blurb. But see books come with covers, so I remembered the pretty cover was a story about a girl from Norway, during Viking times. Which it is! Since it was quite clear from the beginning that this is what Bracelet of Bones is about, I was sure I am reading a fantasy book. When I was about a third in, I had the suspicion that I might be wrong and read the blurb. So long story short. This is not a fantasy but a historical novel.

It's an epic story about friendships, clash of religions, coming of age and fathers-and-daughters. The best part about this is definitely the way the story is told.  Crossley-Holland knows how to tell an epic story. Though this isn't told over thousands of pages, no it's in a average sized book. Still in this relatively short span, Crossley-Holland brings across many subject and brings many thoughts to mind.
While this is a great journey, with many adventures, the novel is somewhat slow paced, not boring, but more reflective. So very much my kinda thing; I was enchanted by the prose and enjoyed the story, but mostly loved the thoughtful and subtle aspects of the novel.

The plot is interesting, but possibly my least favorite bit of the story. The entire way it was written, while I thoroughly enjoyed it, made this somewhat slow. Let me warn you this is not a sugar-glossed version of the past, no it's rather realistic. So it's not only not your HEA but be prepared for heartbreak and sorrow, but also for loss. The plot lets you quiver between despair and hope, which I guess is to a great credit to the writing of Crossley-Holland. But also no doubt due to the wonderful character building.

At the beginning of the book is an inventory of character names and who they were. It's several pages long and holds many unfamiliar names. Can you imagine how worried I was? See me, mrs. crapy-name-memory, staring at the list in utter despair? Well, though at time I had to concentrate on who was who, not once did I go back to check who I was dealing with. So yes, there are a rather big amount of characters all with not exactly familiar names, but the character building is so well done, I feel like I know them. I know who is who- and most importantly I connected with them. And yes, I said them, because I connected with every one of them. This is told from Solveigh's POV, but I got to know most of the characters, the left impressions on me, and though I saw them through Solveigh's eyes, I cared for them (even the slightly more unpleasant ones) and felt like I knew who they were.

The world building is absolutely amazing. I know quite a bit about ancient history. I also am quite clued up on the Norse gods and their mythology.  And I have traveled through some of the area's this is set. So I was pleasantly surprised to find things, I didn't know. In fact after finishing the novel, I dashed to our library checking out dates, names of hero's and brushing up on my history of that time. Then I hit google. Honestly Crossley-Holland did an amazing job at bringing the time to life.

A beautiful book, that inspires thought, bring the past to life and is full of subtle wisdom.


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