Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Review of Fires of Winter by Johanna Lindsay

Fires of Winter by Johanna Lindsey. I have become quite fond of historical romances recently. My TBR shelf contains majority of HR books.
I love the fact that I get to learn about a whole different world along with a whole new story. That is why I wanted to try out historical romances set in a different age and different time than the 18th and 19th century England. And my quest led me to Johanna Lindsey's Fires of Winter. A book that is almost 40 years old!
This is set in 9th century in northern Norway i.e the Viking Age. I know a little bit about Vikings. I had heard that they were riders, marauders and murderers who pillaged villages and town and stole everything of value and enslaved the defeated folk. Well, they are everything aforementioned and more.

The Blurb:


Lovely and dauntless, abducted by invaders from across an icy sea, Lady Brenna vowed vengeance -- swearing no Viking brute would be her master...no barbarian would enslave her noble Celtic heart.


Yet Garrick Haardrad, the proud and powerful son of a ruthless Viking chieftan, claims her with a primitive abandon that leaves her breathless, igniting fires of passion that blaze through the cold Nordic nights and forge the unbreakable bonds of a fiery, eternal love.

My Review:

Lady Brenna is a proud warrior. Raised by her father like the son he never had, she is a skilled fighter and horseman. She values her pride more than her life. And when her father betrothed her to a son of the much hated Vikings chief, she has to let go her pride and become the Viking's bride to protect her people. But instead of a wedding, the Vikings destroy her village and take her hostage as their slave.

Garrett Haardrad is a cynical man who has given up on women and love. Betrayed and bitter he has no use for the Celtic slave his father has bestowed on him. He is reluctant to place his trust on her and second guesses her every move. But, even Garrett can't ignore the effect Brenna has on him.

Proud and defiant, both Brenna and Garrett are locked in a battle of wills. He wants her to bend and accept him as her master. She will not rest until he gives his battered heart to her.

I know that the olden times weren't sympathetic with women, but reading about rape and abuse as an everyday event messed up my mind in the beginning. It's not even the author's fault because no matter the damage to my delicate sensibilities, these things did happen. And to not include them when writing about the Viking age will make it less authentic. I being an author myself will have to include the not so sunny elements into the tale if I chose to write in a violent age.

Not only does the Viking men rape the captive women and slaves repeatedly throughout the novel, the hero Garrett himself rapes Brenna twice. I just kept on hoping through the entire ordeal that he would stop by some divine intervention. But, that did not happen. It was really hard to continue reading after that. And the fact that he felt bad about it later really doesn't make a damn difference. Yes, he does have his redeeming qualities, but absolutely nothing excuses raping a woman.

I swallowed the bitter pill and forced myself to see the setting of the book. I am born and brought up in a democratic country where every single person has his own exclusive rights. But there were times, in the not so distant past were people were treated unequally and often brutally. I have been brought up to show compassion to all and never harm another person, but what if I was a Viking? It's really hard to judge the occurrence of  a Viking world in the 9th century with the lens of a modern 21st century.
I could go all feminist and raise banners against this, but I have decided to accept the harsh truth. There was a time when raping women wasn't an offense and occurred everyday.

Garrett was raised a Viking and it would be odd, or worse wishful thinking, if he behaves out of his character and treat Brenna like a perfect gentleman. I think if you have triggers with rape, you really shouldn't read the book. It will raise your hackles. I cringed, but I powered through.

I loved Brenna and how she deals with the hardship through life. I've always thought that rape survivors shouldn't be melancholy or blame themselves for what happened. They should be in rage, angry beyond words and want to chop off the balls of the person who did this to them. Because whatever happened is in no way their fault. They should learn to place the blame in the right place.

I know it is very very easy to talk about it when I've never faced anything near to rape. But, I've not been sheltered to it in the society I live and I really hope there is a day when a woman raped will not feel impure or in any way responsible for what happened.
And Brenna does exactly that. Both the times when Garrett forces himself on her, she becomes angry not desolate. She plots revenge, not blame herself. I was like ' you go girl!'.

I remember the same with Lisbeth Salander in 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo'. I admired how she dealt with abuse and never wallowed or placed any inch of blame on herself. I want this to be the mentality taught to woman of today.

It was a really different experience reading this book. I had to understand the mindset and thought process of people back then and decide whether I was okay with reading further. But somehow I came to terms with it. The Vikings weren't perfect. Many might even be cruel and mean. But there was good, love, compassion, forgiveness, kindness among them. They were a society fighting for survival amidst bitter cold, wilderness, lack of resources etc. I can respect that. 

The story sans the violence was really good. It was fresh and I loved it. I even came to like Anselm by the end of the book. It was completely organic and had an impact on me. I liked the narration and would love to read more books in this genre. The only complaint I had regarding the story was how easily Brenna forgives Garrett. For a proud woman I thought such an action was a bit superficial.

The Yarmille chapter had its lose ends. I wanted more justice for what she did. I mean Brenna had to go through a lot because of her. I also was left with a sour taste in my mouth about Garrett's actions. He chose not to trust Brenna until he had proof. I guess one bitten, twice shy.

Garrett and Brenna complement each other. They are thrust together in this unlikely situation and I liked how they taught themselves to deal with it. 

My Rating:

In spite all this, I really liked the book. It gave me a new experience and a new story. I give this book 4 stars.

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