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A Yarn Fit for a Norse Saga - an Editorial Review of "Among Sea Wolves"

Among Sea Wolves book cover

Book Blurb:

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ "A yarn fit for a Norse saga. Full of action, poetry and heart; a thrilling voyage through the vibrant world of the twelfth century." Matthew Harffy

1150: The Whale Road. An epic medieval adventure, set in the Viking world of 12th century Orkney. To change their doom, Skarfr and Hlif must pay the price.

Warrior-poet Skarfr embarks on a death-defying pilgrimage with his ruler, Jarl Rognvald, from the wind-whipped shores of Orkney to the Holy Land. He is one of the few men trusted by the Jarl, whether facing sea-monsters or murder.

Fifteen ships sail on the ‘whale road’ in the pilgrims’ fleet. The only woman among the ‘sea wolves’, Hlif is respected as much for her practical skills as for her mystical gifts. Yet beneath her indomitable façade lies a secret – she is handfasted to Skarfr, their love forbidden by the Jarl’s decree.

As tensions rise, Skarfr is torn between fealty to his Jarl and devotion to Hlif. One oath must be broken but which one? How can he steer a course between loyalty and love without losing his honour?

Book 2 in The Midwinter Dragon series, from an award-winning writer, Among Sea Wolves is perfect for fans of Madeline Miller's mythic storytelling, Bernard Cornwell's gritty realism, and Matthew Harffy's visceral medieval sagas.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ "Made me want to read on... just one more chapter... and then another, and another. Late into the night!" B A Morton

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐"Top quality literary historical fiction; a cracking story with action and adventure based on real events, plus a touch of magic. Highly recommended." J.G. Harlond

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Author Bio:

Jean Gill author photo

Jean Gill is an award-winning Welsh writer and photographer living in the south of France with two scruffy dogs, a beehive named 'Endeavour', a Nikon D750 and a man. For many years, she taught English and was the first woman to be a secondary headteacher in Wales. She is mother or stepmother to five children so life was hectic. Join Jean's special readers' group at for private news and exclusive offers.

Editorial Review:

Among Sea Wolves is a fantastic piece of historical fiction set in the Viking era. Readers are carried along the waves of adventure and intrigue from the very first page. They are taken down winding twists and turns, plots and subplots making the novel feel like an epic saga within itself.

Skarfr, one of the novel’s protagonists, is traveling by sea with his Jarl, Rognvald. Skarfr is both a warrior and a skald, whereby his purpose on this trip is to fight and write saga’s depicting Rognvald’s journey and heroism. Rognvald is on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to receive the blessings of the White Christ, as expressed in the following by Rognvald, “We need to succeed in this pilgrimage so our names are forever honoured among men, and we need the blessing that awaits in the Holy City to make sure of our place in heaven. It is true and right that payment is always taken.” This is a significant voyage as there is a split between individuals following the ‘old ways’ and those following the White Christ. The old ways include worshipping many gods. Throughout the novel, readers feel a sense of tension between followers of the old gods and those of the White Christ. Not only is there tension between groups, but there is also confusion within the psyche’s of individuals. This is evident when Rognvald succumbs to requesting a rune reading from Hlif, the ship’s housekeeper and seer, implying that he still wants guidance from the gods as runes are not acceptable within the ideology of the White Christ. His uncertainty is exemplified when he says, “If they (the runes) want me to turn back, I will not pit the old gods against the White Christ. I will turn back.”

While Rognvald has noble aims and intentions, leaving Orkneyjar, his earldom, instigates many problems regarding leadership. It is accepted that Orkneyjar has two Jarl’s, Rognvald being one of them and Thorjborn being the other. However, with Rognvald at sea on a pilgrimage which may last many years, that leaves a place vacant with several individuals hungry for power, wealth and glory.

While there are plenty of scenes brimming with action, fights, and the perilous dangers of battling with the elements of the sea itself, interwoven amidst this is a moving love story between Skarfr and Hlif. However, as in a great epic romance, their love is doomed from the beginning. Hlif is under Rognvald’s charge and he has forbidden her to marry. Hlif is considered to be cursed as she is the daughter of a murderer and finds it impossible to escape from the shadow of her father’s reputation. As such, Rognvald took her in out of kindness to be his housekeeper aboard the ship. Therefore, a union between her and Rognvald’s best warrior and skald is forbidden.

Overall, the pacing of the story was excellent and kept readers gripped throughout. Each scene was engaging and played upon readers emotions. Characters were all well-developed and both their internal and external struggles were well depicted. Additionally, one of the author’s many strengths involve the use of apt and vivid descriptions making the scenes easy to visualize, as if one was watching a movie. An example of this would be when one of the character’s, Fergus, sets sail and describes both his inner and outer experience, “As their ship neared Orphir, Fergus saw more and more striped sails converging on their destination, like the pack of sea wolves Skarfr called them in his poems. Far too many to beach them all, and the newcomers lay at anchor, men ferried ashore by the small boats dropped down from their host ships or sent out from the shore. Fergus had never seen such a gathering and his heart thumped, knowing only too well the terror that two or three such sails could instil in the lookout and the villagers who watched the sea-raiders approaching. But this time, he was among them, and he timed his breathing to the steady rhythm of his oars to calm his heart.”

Reading Among Sea Wolves felt like an epic journey within itself. The action-packed scenes intertwined with the magical and mystical underpinnings of the beliefs of the time truly created an immersive experience into a totally different world. Despite the outside layer of the world looking different from how it does now, the human condition, the motivations, angsts and joys remain very much the same from then to now. The attention to historic details truly captured how living during the Viking era must have felt.


“Among Sea Wolves” by Jean Gill receives 4.5 stars from The Historical Fiction Company


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