Total Pageviews

Friday, July 27, 2012

Under the Mound, written by Cynthia Heinrichs. Simply Read Books, Raincoast. 2011. $19,99 ages 12 and up

"I did. I turned to face the sea and put my hands together to say a quick word for the dead man's soul, though I doubted my prayers could aid him at that hour. Those of us still living under Margaret's influence were the ones in need of help, and so I prayed that what Paul had told me would save both me and Harald, as it had not saved him."

This was the last book that I read from my stack of 32 young adult novels sent from the CCBC for their fall Best Books for Kids and Teens journal. It was an inspiring list and, although it took up a good amount of my days throughout June and July, I am thankful that I had the opportunity to read some wonderful books I might otherwise have missed. That being said, it was a constant reminder to me of the importance of choice in the books that we read. I am an old(er) woman who lives, breathes and wonders at books on a daily basis; I found the pile daunting many days and struggled at times to ignore the other such books that were awaiting my attention.

What an introduction to this book! It took me a bit longer than I thought it would. The sage is 450 pages long; it took me longer to read than I would have thought, perhaps because it was the very last one. In fact, it was fairly easy to read once I really put my mind to it. It tracks Malcolm mac Alasdair's journey of service with Harald, Earl of Orkney. Malcolm's father has a loyalty to the Earl's deceased father and wants his son to travel with him as he seeks to regain the lands his cousin has earlier taken. Malcolm is not a willing participant. He would be much happier at home. The family is in dire straits and needs Malcolm to step up to the plate to help ensure their future success.

Malcolm is an interesting character. He doesn't really want to go; but, he does his best to deal with the hand he has been dealt. He is extremely seasick whenever they cross water, he is bullied and made fun of by the older men who make up the Earl's entourage. He is appalled by the beliefs of Thorir, a poet along to chronicle the trip, who tells stories of Odin and the Norse spirit world. He grows on the reader as the story progresses and I found myself wanting him to be happy and secure once the Earl won his rightful place.

Along the way he meets a very large cast of characters. He also experiences the cold and hunger that marked the times he is living in and the harsh environment that is Scotland and Orkney in the mid-twelfth century. Real life mixes with mythology as they shelter themselves from a wild winter storm in the mound of Orkahaugr.

Filled with action and encased in mystery, the story moves forward quickly. Each character has his own motives for accompanying the Earl and we are left to decide who we might trust. Two women play important roles, showing strength and persistence in making that role important to the telling.

This is a tale for a sophisticated reader who loves history, a lot of description and a number of people playing roles necessary to its final outcome. A list of characters and the inclusion of maps of both Scotland and Orkney prove valuable. If you like reading about other places in earlier times, this is a book to check out.

No comments:

Post a Comment