THEY CAME ON VIKING SHIPS, Jackie French, Angus & Robertson, 280 pages, paperback, NZ$16.99 ISBN 0-207-20011-4 [NZ agents: HarperCollins]
Always good and always unpredictable, Jackie French has created a stunningly convincing historical adventure story in They Came on Viking Ships. The main character is Hekja, a Scottish girl, who is captured by the fearsome Freydis Eriksdöttir, and sails with her, first to Greenland, and then on Erik’s expedition to Vinland, facing dangerous seas and hostile Skraelings (native Americans).
This is a vigorous and well-researched action story, which takes a hard look at violence and its consequences. French draws from the Viking sagas which describe the complex Freydis as both murderous (killing five women with an axe) and heroic (charging the attacking Skraelings, sword in hand, when nine months pregnant). Hekja’s adventures with Freydis (including charging alongside her) will captivate young readers of both sexes. This book has the wide appeal of all well-written and lively stories.
This review first appeared in The Press, Christchurch, New Zealand on 21st January 2006.