Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Legend of Alfhildr by HW Coyle and Jennifer Ellis

As the uncovering of an ancient English burial site progresses, it reveals the truth about who is buried there. The Legend of Alfhildr is a story within a story about an archaeological dig and the very revealing findings it discloses, not only about the legendary Viking warrior Alfhildr, but also about one of the young student excavators of her grave site. Alfhildr was a Dane, living in England around the turn of the second millennium, 1000 AD, a time of great peril and conflict between warring Saxons and Danes who inhabited the land.

An individual apparently born with ambiguous genitalia, we learn that Alfhildr was initially raised as a boy until events beyond this young person's control reveal the true nature of her being. In an act of desperation and rebellion, she takes up the sword and in so doing, embraces the life of a warrior. Before long she becomes a legend known for her disparate qualities of fighting prowess and personal compassion, while slowly coming to terms with her emerging womanhood.

HW Coyle and Jennifer Ellis' story is fraught with uplifting ideas about feminism and glimpses in to what it means to be a woman and make oneself heard in the world, particularly in a society where females are subjugated and dominated by angry and almost constantly warring males. Thought by many to be a witch, Alfhildr is in reality a fine example of a human being, who in part, because of her own internal conflict, transforms into a fierce and fearless champion of the downtrodden who displays an empathetic, innocent and caring spirit, making her an example to all she encounters. Wise beyond her years and deeply spiritual in ways that the Christian portion of the populace considers pagan, Alfhildr demonstrates a mystical rapport with animals and people alike, while displaying her skills as an accomplished archer, swords person and fighter, leading an ascetic life in her forest realm as her legend unfolds.

The Legend of Alfhildr is a haunting and magnificent adventure, filled with raw battle scenes, complex and realistic military strategy, while depicting wonderful and moving spiritual relationships between the main protagonist and a host of characters including a very unique wolf and crow. The author, a master of history, dialogue, symbolism and the depiction of graphic battle scenes, sets the tone for a realistic glimpse into these harsh times of yore that eerily reflect our present day conflicts and prejudices, be they religious, sexist or transphobic. The author uses this tale and the descriptions of her characters to paint a critical portrait of English society at this ancient time. However, it would seem that her story has great parallels in our modern day world and brings to mind the old saw that those who do not learn by the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them.

1 comment:

  1. A very well written book overall and an engaging story. Also an interesting contrast to Bernard Cornwell's series about the same era.
    I thoroughly enjoyed it.