Doomed to wander. Destined for glory.
Erlan Aurvandil has turned his back on the past and his native Northern lands, taking a perilous journey to the greatest city in the world, Byzantium.
But as his voyage ends, Erlan is brutally betrayed, captured and enslaved by a powerful Byzantine general.
Meanwhile, Lilla Sviggarsdottír, Queen of Svealand, has lost her husband and with him, her kingdom. Leaving her lands and people behind, Lilla journeys east on a new quest: to find Erlan and raise an army mighty enough to defeat her usurper.
But when she reaches the great city of Byzantium, she discovers a place in turmoil. A dark tide is rising against the Emperor from within his own court.
As the shadows darken and whispers of war begin to strengthen, Erlan’s fate becomes intertwined with that of the city. Are they both doomed to fall, or can freedom be won in the blood of battle?
Theodore Brun studied Dark Age archaeology at Cambridge. In 2010, he quit his job as an arbitration lawyer in Hong Kong and cycled 10,000 miles across Asia and Europe to his home in Norfolk. A Burning Sea is his third novel.
I haven’t read the previous novels in this series, but that didn’t seem to make a huge difference to enjoying this epic saga of Vikings in Byzantium. Erlan is seeking the King of Kings, a cure for the curse placed on him, and is told to head south.
Lilla is looking for Erlan and a way to claim back her queendom, stolen from her by a cruel and vicious thug of a man, who happens to be her late husband’s brother.
Both of them arrive in Byzantium (now Istanbul) just as an army arrives on its doorstep, determined to claim the city and its empire for the caliph Suleyman. They find themselves in the Emperor’s palace as war breaks out.
I really liked both Erlan and Lilla, but Einar (not so) Fat-Belly was easily my favourite character, a jolly, axe wielding Norseman, he comes with Lilla to protect her, and ends up serving Emperor Leo alongside Erlan.
A lot happens and is given plenty of room to happen in this chunky book, in between battles there’s romance and betrayal, feasts and hardship. There’s also religion and its many faces – Byzantium was a Christian city crowned by the Hagia Sophia, named for God’s female side and wisdom.
I found this interesting as I don’t know a huge amount about this period of history, being more familiar with the religious Crusades of the medieval period, which also saw Muslims and Christians clash over land for many years, and involved to the violent sacking of Constantinople (another of Byzantium’s names) in the 13th century.
This was a really interesting book and I really enjoyed it. Somewhere in my family history are some Vikings of some nation and I’ve always been fascinated by the history of the northern reaches of Europe.
If you like big historical epics, with lots of detail thrown in (although the author admits moving some things around historically speaking) and enjoy battles, plots and long journeys that don’t go to plan, then this is for you. Enjoy!
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.