Tor, Sep 2001, 27.95, 444 pp.
In the tenth century, Gunnhild, daughter of a Norse chieftain, learns her lessons quite well as a child. Her father's concubine teaches her how witchcraft can aid and protect a female from men. The death of her mother teaches her to never yield to male ogres and their demands and commands. Gunnhild vows to never be a weak female dependent on the other sex for safety and comfort.
To attain her goal of total independence, Gunnhild trains under witches and sorcerers learning the crafts. She marries the only man she ever felt affection for, Eirik Blood-Ax. Together with their strengths and iron-wills, they will either forge a dynasty that legends will whisper about for millenniums to come or fade to dust under the relentless attack of their enemies who want this union to fail.
Poul Anderson is already a legend among speculative fiction readers and authors. Yet his latest dark tale, MOTHER OF KINGS, shows why the recently deceased author has been revered for decades and the recipient of so many prestigious awards. The genre's guru blends mythology and history into a powerhouse of a tale that tells readers the story of Gunnhild, a real persona who has received legendary status over the last millennium. The gritty but vivid story line provides a powerful look at the tenth century as rarely seen by literature except perhaps Beowulf and that is a few centuries earlier. The beginning of the end of the Age of the Vikings is fitting posthumous triumph from one of the greats.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner