Source: Bought copy
It is AD 758 and the great hall of Harald, Viking jarl, is alive with memories retold of past adventures and deeds. Harald himself takes on the role of skald, his warriors gathering around his high seat, leaning back into their cloaks, comforted by the fire, warmed by the mead, while Grimhild, Harald’s beautiful wife, nurses their newest born, Sigurd. Jarl or not, Harald is a brave man because the subject of his story is another lord, none other than Grimhild’s father. As she watches on, fiercely but with a spark dancing in her eye, Harald tells his tale of daring and danger to his men and their wives, inspiring the young and the untested to seek out their own glory, but never would there be such a prize again as the prize that Harald and his friends fought for all those years ago.
What follows is a thoroughly entertaining, colourful tale of a group of young Vikings competing to out do one another on a reckless, foolhardy quest. While it initially reminds us of the high spirits of youth, timeless in any age, the mood soon turns – these are Vikings, after all – and violence and gore and mayhem will have their way. But this is also a memory, the jarl’s no less, retold time and time again no doubt, and so it captures and enhances every moment. The fact that the warriors of the story are naked and hairy for much of the tale does much to add to the enthusiasm of the narrator and his listeners. As for the nature of the Terror – Harald lets the tension build.
The Terror is a perfectly formed short story by one of the finest writers of historical fiction about today, Giles Kristian. One of the reasons why The Terror works so well, quite apart from the deeply evocative and powerful language, is because it is Harald’s own short story, told to us in his distinctive voice, in a spirit of warmth and camaraderie, bringing the reader into his inner circle, placing him or her by the fire and filling their head with a colourful, raucous memory from Harald’s glorious youth.
For those who enjoyed God of Vengeance this year, The Terror is also a wonderful opportunity to learn a little more about the parents and home of Sigurd, the Viking hero of God of Vengeance, before the tumultuous events that open that novel. If you’ve not read God of Vengeance, or the fabulous Raven trilogy, then The Terror is the perfect introduction to Giles Kristian’s remarkable skill as a creator of lost Viking worlds. Violent, warm, humorous and cruel, this story encapsulates so much of the appeal of Giles Kristian’s writing while adding even more to the background and mood of God of Vengeance. I was fond of Sigurd before but now I’ve had this glimpse of what he was fighting for and why I love him even more.
The short story, which you can enjoy in under an hour, is accompanied by the opening of God of Vengeance.