Sunday, April 8, 2012

Book review: Catla and the Vikings by Mary Elizabeth Nelson

Catla and the Vikings by Mary Elizabeth Nelson (Published by Orca Books, March 1, 2012)

Thirteen-year-old Catla is an Anglo-Saxon girl living in England in the fall of 1066. Life in her small, isolated village has been peaceful for many years. Catla's biggest worry is her possible marriage to Olav, a much older merchant that Catla doesn't like. Her father will only change his mind about the marriage if Catla gives him a good reason why she shouldn't marry Olav. Catla is taking a walk to think about her dilemma when Viking raiders suddenly attack her village without warning.

As the only person from the village who escaped, Catla must go to find help. The nearest village is over a day's walk away, and Catla must travel there all on her own, with the threat of being attacked by other raiders or wild animals. Luckily, halfway through her journey Catla meets up with Sven, a boy from her village who was returning home after a trip to York, the nearest city. Together, the two teenagers must come up with a plan to defeat the Vikings and convince the other village to help them.

I liked this book, but I didn't love it. I learned some interesting facts about life during this time period that I didn't know, such as the fact that in times of war the women in small villages often had to fight alongside the men, and that gender roles were more varied than I would have expected. However, I found the ending to be unsatisfying since a lot was left unresolved. Near the end, it's suggested that an even larger attack by the Vikings is coming, and I wish that the ending hadn't been left so open. Perhaps there will be a sequel, but I hate being left with a cliffhanger when a book appears to be a standalone novel until right before the ending.

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