THE CROSS AND THE HAMMER collects the second storyline from the Northlanders series and if anything is even more grim and bloody than the first volume, SVEN, THE RETURNED. It’s set in
in the year 1014, a land occupied by Vikings who set out to crush any resistance. A Cistercian priest named Magnus is part of that resistance. In fact, he’s practically a one-man resistance by himself as he wages a guerrilla war against the Vikings, slaughtering dozens of them, with only the help of his adolescent daughter Brigid. So the king of the Vikings sends in a legendary manhunter known as Ragnar to track down Magnus and destroy him. Ireland
This is a fine piece of gritty historical fiction. The only real fantasy element is that Brian Wood’s scripts again include some deliberately anachronistic language, but if you’re willing to accept that going in, it’s not really a distraction. I’m a stickler for such things only if an author sets himself or herself up as a paragon of historical accuracy and then doesn’t live up to it. If you’re not playing by those rules from the get-go, I’m fine with it and will approach a story just as a story. And Wood tells a good story, with a wicked twist in the end.
The artwork in this volume is by Ryan Kelly. I’m not familiar with his work, but I like what he’s done here. As in the previous volume, some of the landscape pages are very effective, and his battle scenes are pretty good, too.
I liked the first volume in this series, and THE CROSS AND THE HAMMER is even better. I have the others on hand and will be getting to them fairly soon, I expect.