First published back in November of 2010, ‘Berserker’ proved to be one Scottish born author William Meikle’s more popular and well-received novels.

DLS Synopsis:
After a tragic accident which left Orjan crippled, the young Viking lad later finds that he is cursed with a strange foresight that increasingly pulls him out of reality and off into the astral plain of the wyrd.  Here the young Viking storyteller glimpses ominous visions of events that will take place, images from the distant past, and great stories from the times of the Gods.

Now, many years since Orjan’s fateful accident, the young Skald finds himself on his first Viking excursion along with his close friend Viking Tor Tyrsson and three longboats full of Viking traders and warriors.  Upon arriving at a seemingly deserted village, the Viking troupe discovers that they are not alone in this until recently occupied encampment. 

A beast, with thick white fur, razor-sharp teeth and powerful claws is found wandering around in the immediate vicinity.  The monstrous yeti like creature is clearly a female.  Her nature is initially just that of curiosity towards the sudden arrival of the Vikings.  But things soon turn nasty when Kai Persson, son of their great captain, Per Johansson, slaughters the towering beast in cold blood. 

But the beast was not alone.  From out of the nearby woodland comes forth another of the yeti like creatures; this one larger and more ferocious looking than the female that was just slaughtered.  Wracked with sorrow, the beast pulls out the dead foetuses from the belly of the fallen female as the Vikings look on in horror.  And as the stand there, surrounding the mourning beast, they know that the bloodshed has only just begun.

From here on a ferocious war is waged between these powerful beasts known as the Alma and the Vikings.  Hell-bent on revenge for the savage slaughtering of their own kind, the Alma will stop at nothing to bring down every last Viking upon their native land.  When the three Viking longboats are destroyed whilst anchored just off the shoreline, the Viking’s find themselves trapped on the Alma’s hometurf with nowhere to run to.

Meanwhile, Orjan the Skald has located the local inhabitants of the island.  A colony of dwarfish natives who hide within the relative safety of a nearby cave.  And within the shadowy stone enclosure, the Skald finds intricate cave paintings depicting the great story behind the history of the natives and Alma that dominate the land.

Back on the snow-covered shoreline, following the death of their captain, the Viking’s are now under the direction of the cowardly Kai Persson.  But the band’s new captain is far from competent at leading the Viking’s through this dangerous predicament.  His personal vendetta against Tor Tyrsson has clouded his vision, along with an inherent cowardice and greed.  And these failings in their leader may just bring the end to the Vikings as they are pitted against the hordes of the bloodthirsty Alma.

A brutal war between beast and man is about to break out.  A war that originates from back when it was the time of the great Gods.  And it is a brutal war that will test the strength and honour of each and every Viking...

DLS Review:
Oh yes…this was fun!  A monstrously energetic pulp novel, offering up Vikings doing battle against hordes of ferocious yetis.  All set in a blisteringly cold backdrop.  It’s one of those novels that just needs to be read during the dark wintery months.  And, with a good whisky on the go and a thick blanket to keep out the chill, you’ll be set for an action-filled romp of barbaric violence and Viking honour.

Meikle starts off with a surprisingly quick introduction to the principal characters that the story is centred around.  First up with the principal protagonist – the young Viking warrior Tor Tyrsson.  Meikle has made the character rough and ready in a gritty-heroic fashion, with plenty of ambition and courage burning through his veins.  It’s Tor’s first Viking excursion, so it’s somewhat of a momentous occasion for the fresh-faced warrior.  But Meikle works this into the storyline well, showing the character’s growing confidence and a purposeful passion for the ‘Viking spirit’ that pushes Tor on to become a natural leader.

However, perhaps the most interesting of the characters is that of Orjan the Skald.  Crippled from a young age, his slight physical disability prevents the young Viking from becoming a fully-fledged warrior.  Instead Meikle has made the character into a traditional Nordic storyteller.  Interestingly, the Skald’s position within the ranks of the Vikings is revered with a great importance.  Meikle utilises many of these intriguing Viking traditions, incorporating them into the captivating latticework of the tale.

The story’s progression is delivered solely around these two characters, with the chapters alternating between the viewpoints of Tor and Orjan the Skald.  Whilst Tor’s storyline is inherently drenched in blood and bursting with violence, Orjan’s chapters are more atmospherically subdued and imaginatively spiritual.  This works incredibly well with a layered effect allowing the reader to take a breath in between the action-packed violence of Tor’s desperate fighting.

The inclusion of the character of Kai Persson, and his subsequent rise to becoming captain, adds an additional subplot to the tension-rich storyline.  The arrogant and instantly dislikeable character allows for the inclusion of a more honour-driven fight for our principal protagonist.  With Kai’s underhanded, cowardly and altogether devious actions forcing the hand of the Viking’s, the tale doesn’t lack in friction or the potential for another fight.

‘Berserker’ is certainly not shy on the ‘gore and violence’ front.  Far from it.  Meikle wholeheartedly embraces the energy and passionate violence of the characters, injecting a furious pace into the entire length of the tale.  The bloodshed comes thick and fast from early on, with the author’s obvious enjoyment with laying down the violence, plain to the reader from when the very first Alma is slaughtered. 

Meikle’s incorporation of Nordic mythology into the tale gives a brave but incredibly rewarding additional element to the storyline.  From the very outset, Orjan’s dreamlike visions through the wyrd are constantly hinting at some greater spiritual depth.  And so with tying in the magnificence of the Nordic Gods and much of the bold Viking mythology, Meikle adds an even grander plot to the novel as a whole.

Indeed, with strange resurrecting of colossal gods thrown in for good measure, Meikle goes hell-for-leather with a powerful and utterly captivating grand finale that will keep you quite literally perched on the edge of your seat until the final drop of blood has been spilt.

Although somewhat short in length, the novel in nonetheless packed to the very rafters with barbaric Viking violence, beastie bloodshed and adrenaline-pumping action.  It’s almost impossible to put the tale down once you embark upon this pulpy Nordic gore-filled adventure.

The novel runs for a total of 262 pages (on a Kindle with standard sized text).

© DLS Reviews

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