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'"I want a thrall," said the man Thormod. Our eyes met and held.'
In exchange for six gold pieces and a wolfskin cloak, Jestyn is sold in the Dublin slave-market and becomes shield-thrall to Thormod Sitricson of the Dublin Garrison. Master and slave. . .yet between the two grows a bond of friendship so strong that when the Vikings set sail for their own lands, Jesten accompanies Thormod as his blood-brother. But Thormod's homecoming is not a happy one: he finds his father dead—slain by the brothers Anders and Herulf, who have now fled the country. Thormod and Jestyn set out in search of them, following the Viking trade-routes to Kiev and, beyond, to Byzantium: 'Two brothers against two brothers who will not turn back before all be finished, and the Death songs sung for those who are to die.' Jestyn is drawn unwillingly into the Blood Feud, taking up a cause which is not his own and from which, on his part, the spirit of revenge is missing. But the day comes when for Jestyn too the Blood Feud is something personal and obsessive.
The action of Rosemary Sutcliffe's new novel, set in the late tenth and early eleventh centuries, takes the reader not only to the more familiar Viking territories but to their less well-known Eastern settlements, and from there southwards to Constantinople. It provides a complex and moving exploration of the conflict between men's instincts and their codes of honour.
—from the dust jacket
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