Reviewed in the United States on June 27, 2020
Escape into a complete world of adventure and satisfying character development. This series will fulfill your quest for salt air, brave deeds, Viking combat, love and friendship - all sprinkled with a bit of magic and mysticism.
Reviewed in the United States on July 28, 2020
Flight of the Wren was a delight from start to finish. Full of rich detail and history. A thoroughly enjoyable read. Highly recommend. You won’t be disappointed. It was hard to put it down!
From Publisher's Weekly:
Fox (The Grace Coffin Series) enchants with his first Viking Age novel, a sweeping medieval saga that stretches across 11th-century Scandinavia. After Hilja’s mother and three-year-old sister are stolen from her village by pillaging Norsemen, Hilja, who is only seven but wise and brave, vows to bring them home, no matter what it takes. Six years later, her entire village is destroyed. As she grows up and searches for her mother and sister, she acquires a fiancé, displays an uncommon sense of honor, and becomes a powerful medicine woman. Meanwhile, Thorkell the Tall, leader of the mercenary Jømsvikings, plays dangerous political and sexual games with Gunnhilde, the queen of Denmark, as her sons, Harald and Canute, vie to be the next king.
This story ticks all the elements of a well-rounded tale: swashbuckling warriors, naked ambition, adventure, and a touch of romance. It’s clearly the first episode of a series, and readers may be frustrated that so many arcs are left unresolved, though enough is wrapped up to be satisfying. Fox rarely missteps; only a few overly raunchy and size-focused references to male genitalia distract from the endearing characters and dramatic action.
Fox’s vivid worldbuilding will easily ensnare readers. His impeccable research, spun into lyrical prose (“These were the bright nights of summer, when the sun orbited the sky in a wild oval”), powers the narrative and makes the occasional bursts of wry wit even more delightful. The supernatural elements are touched on lightly, leaving the characters’ individual choices to drive the plot. This evocative and lovely medieval novel leads readers into a magical, often bloody era that they’ll be sorry to leave.
Takeaway: This exquisitely wrought medieval tale will appeal to fans of both fantasy and historical epics.
Great for fans of Tim Severin’s Viking series, Snorri Kristjansson, Giles Kristian.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A+
From Kirkus Reviews:
Fox’s novel of adventure and intrigue, set in Scandinavia at the turn of the 11th century, follows a young woman from Lapland on a quest to save her family.
As the story opens, 6-year-old Hilja is left alone after her mother and sister are kidnapped by Norsemen. Soon afterward, the local shaman, Taika—also called “the Lady of the Wood”—takes Hilja under her wing and trains her as an apprentice. The training gives the girl an intimate knowledge of the natural world and allows her to communicate with animals. Hilja’s final test, at the age of 14, is a journey to the Underworld, where she receives a cryptic mission from one of its spirits: “You must cross the water to save the bear, heal the devil, find your sister, and help your son unite your land!” Elsewhere, the rulers of the Scandinavian countries plot their alliances and futures. Denmark’s king, Svein Forkbeard, favors his elder son, Harald, as his heir, but he asks Thorkell the Tall, a warrior of renown, to train his younger son, Canute. In Canute, Thorkell sees the potential for greatness, but his wife, the powerful witch Hekka, has her own plans for Norway. Intrigue abounds as Thorkell and Gunnhilde, queen of Denmark, struggle to suppress their mutual attraction. Svein, meanwhile, aims to marry the widow Sigrid of Uppland, whose son is heir to the Swedish throne. Somehow, Fox manages to juggle all of these many and varied storylines with grace and even finds room to write evocatively of real-life customs and rituals of the time and place in which his characters live. The depiction of Beltane, an ancient May Day celebration, is especially vivid. Along the way, the author also artfully embroiders the novel with plenty of historical, cultural, and even religious context; for example, after a fight with a Russian warrior that partly hinges on the definition of the term “Viking,” Thorkell announces to his men, “We can either be Vikings or vassals of Rome, never both.”
An impressive and intricate novel that’s rich in character and full of action.
Reviews for Grace Coffin:
WISH I Had the gift of words and persuasion to convince you to read this book. Though classified as Young Adult, I am 73 and loved every word of this. A girl who considers herself damaged goods and a mother newly wed move into the home of a recently deceased resident of a Maine Islander. . .the Badly Sewn Corpse of the title who had been a good person in life thus his opportunity to return. . .well, it's complicated. . .so just read the book.
The entire premise of the story is so fresh even if narrator himself is in fact an un-dead reanimated corpse. This book is fun, witty, dark and will keep you up reading. Can't wait for the next!
I loved this book. I think it would be a great book for young adults! This book reeks of girl power! GIRLS can do ANYTHING! Can't wait to see what grace does next. Brings real life issues and the supernatural together for a fun read.
5.0 out of 5 stars This book will make you laugh while it makes you think - a fun and fast-paced read!
Grace Coffin is a kickass heroine, who despite a tough past (and she's only 17!) stands up for herself - even in the midst of some very strange stuff going on in the small Maine town she's just moved to with her Mom. I loved this book because it made me laugh AND made me think. Winter Fox illustrates some of the most challenging issues of the modern world with wit and style. As for the strange doings, well, let's just say that sometimes the undead become the good guys... This is a great story, and I can't wait to read the next installment!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 11, 2019
When I finished the first book in the series I couldn't wait to read the next ... and I wasn't disappointed. The storyline may be a little unusual but it is very well written, even humourous places. The two main characters, Cormac (a dead guy) and Grace ((a troubled teenager turned tock star) take it in turns, a chapter each, to narrate the story. It starts with Cormac looking for the bones of his dead wife and ends ... well, read it for yourself to find out how it ends. I couldn't put it down.
This one is from an intern at a publishing company I submitted to:
Dear Winter Fox,
I keep coming back to Grace Coffin and the Badly-Sewn Corpse in my mind, turning it over and trying to examine it in as many ways as possible. From every angle I can think of, I love this book. What you’ve done here is amazing, interweaving these two narratives and characters’ lives together who are so different at first glance, yet so similar. I found myself able to relate both to Cormac and Grace, which I feel is an incredible accomplishment in a Young Adult novel. The characters and their interactions feel very real, as though they were recorded rather than created.
The twists and turns are captivating. You have a knack for doling out only as much detail at a time as the reader needs to keep up, while still lacing hints of what’s to come.
I think you have a unique position with this book. By breaking this discussion of sexual assault into two narratives, you’re able to tackle it from two angles; a survivor, and someone who’s loved ones are survivors. This approach strikes me as extremely powerful because I believe that these two lenses can be recognized and related to by nearly every person who reads this book. I certainly think the narrative is stronger for the fact that both of these viewpoints exist. I really think this is an amazing piece of work, and I’d love to see it published.