Gr 9 Up-Joining the men of Spjothof, Norway, as they set sail on a fighting voyage, Lidsmod is full of pride and anticipation. At this same moment in A.D. 794, in a small village in England, Wiglaf, who was born with a withered arm, is serving wine to the monk Aethelwulf. The lives of these two young men become intertwined when the Norsemen attack Wiglaf's village, steal the gold from the abbey, and destroy everything that moves. Wiglaf is spared-in his frantic desire to escape death, he bites the leg of his attacker and is saved by a Norseman who believes he is special because of his arm. In the next few days, the two young men establish a relationship that ultimately allows Lidsmod to help Wiglaf escape. Full of graphic violence from beginning to end, the book provides a look at a culture in which war and killing were ways to honor the gods. At the same time, it shows life in an alternative culture in which Christianity guides the lives of the people. Though readers may be stunned by the violence, it was a large part of the lives of the early Norsemen. The motivations of the various characters are clear, and though some of them are repugnant, readers will understand why they behave as they do, and, in many cases, care about what happens to them. Hard to read because of the gruesome scenes and hard to put down, this book provokes strong emotions and raises many fascinating questions.-Barbara Scotto, Michael Driscoll School, Brookline, MA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
In this swashbuckling, often violent adventure set in the eighth century, Cadnum (In a Dark Wood) shows how a clash of cultures profoundly affects two distant enemies: a young Viking warrior and a monk's apprentice. At age 17, Lidsmod is eager to embark on his first pillage. He is proud to be sailing on the Raven to a distant place rumored to hold much treasure. Meanwhile, 13-year-old Wiglaf, afflicted by a withered arm but pious and blessed with the gift of healing, goes about his life in his English village. Alternating Lidsmod's eventful voyage with bucolic scenes of Wiglaf's days, the author provides a sharp contrast between the mores and beliefs of the two boys. Readers will find themselves continually switching loyalties until, inevitably, the protagonists meet during a bloody battle. Unsurprisingly, Wiglaf proves to be more consistent and noble, remaining quick-witted and compassionate during and after his brutal kidnapping. Lidsmod's sentiments and values are more slippery. Although he can identify with the captive boy, his thirst for blood and glory never significantly wavers; and although he agrees that Wiglaf should be freed, he sees no wrong in keeping the holy relics his shipmates stole. If the moral to the story is somewhat muddy, graphic scenes of murder, torture and ruin are perhaps all too clear. Ages 14-up. (June) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.