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Bracelet of Bones by Kevin Crossley-Holland

Bracelet of Bones (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Kevin Crossley-Holland

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633267,205 (3.33)15
Title:Bracelet of Bones
Authors:Kevin Crossley-Holland
Info:Quercus Children's Books (2012), 288 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:children's/young adult, historical fiction, read 2017

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Bracelet of Bones by Kevin Crossley-Holland (2011)



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Something a little different about the Vikings: in the 11th century Solveig travels from Trondheim to Miklagard [Constantinople] to reunite with her father, Halfdan, who is there part of the Varangian Guard. She passes Ladoga, Kievan Rus, Black Sea, then her destination and reunion. The author must have researched thoroughly, but the story and characters fell flat. And how on earth could a young girl travel such a distance and in dangers--such as rapids on the Dnieper River--without some male figure hurting her? Her companions in the trading ship all treated her like a sister or daughter [depending on their age]. That was a bit hard to believe. The map tracing her journey was a gem! The author states that discovering in Aya Sofia the name "Halfdan" carved on a balustrade in Runic letters gave him the idea for the story. ( )
  janerawoof | Jun 17, 2016 |
Solveig's father leaves her with her step-mother and step-brothers to rejoin his old leader Harald in Miklagard. Solveig sets out to follow him, an impossible journey across half the world. Crossley-Holland is one of the best story-tellers out there, with an instinctive appreciation for the role of myth and spirituality and poetry in everyday lives. Therefore the journey is vivid and fraught and wonderful, full of living, breathing characters and sudden, horrible dangers, hidden threats and tensions amidst joy and laughter and fellowship. Beautifully written and thoroughly alive, this is a gem of a book. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
Book One of The Viking Sagas

When the Viking mercenary Halfdan leaves his family to join Harold Hardrada in the great city of Constantinople, his daughter Solveig feels abandoned. She decides to follow her father, and sets off down the river in his old coble. Traveling alone, a teenage girl is vulnerable. As Solveig navigates the river routes, she meets up with other travelers, and trades her skill at carving bones for passage on their boats. But even with the aid of her new friends, such a long journey is perilous, and Solveig has no proof that her father will even be waiting at the end of her adventure.

It's obvious that Crossley-Holland did his research on Viking customs and practices during this time period, and the text is rich with historical detail. I can now easily imagine what a Viking home looked like, or how the ships sailed, or the difficulties faced by those who struggled to reconcile traditional religious beliefs with the new Christianity spreading at this time. It's all very good and interesting. But if you've ever wondered what life was like for a young girl in the 11th century Viking world...well, this probably isn't the most representative story. Solveig, a fourteen year old girl, travels thousands of miles by herself and experiences little harassment? Sorry, but I find this rather hard to swallow. I'm almost certain such a traveler would end up robbed, raped or kidnapped into slavery. It just seems so unrealistic in a novel that is otherwise determined to be as grittily real as possible.

I could almost overlook this discrepancy for the sake of a good story if Solveig was at least engaging, but she isn't. She's got very little personality. Her only passion is the intense longing for her father that drives her through this incredible journey. Other characters are equally underdeveloped, making it difficult to care about their fates, and the apathy generated slows the tale until it's a wearisome slog rather than an epic saga.

Would the lack of character depth have bothered me when I was a child? Probably not. I think that a child interested in Vikings might really enjoy this story. But Bracelet of Bones lacks the narrative strength to delight adult readers. The world-building is strong, but peopled with such forgettable men and women it seems like something of a waste. ( )
  makaiju | Jun 7, 2014 |
Showing 3 of 3
Crossley-Holland writes prose with a poet's eye and love of words, painting a vivid picture of the world his characters move through, whether it's the morning mist on the river or the smoke from a funeral pyre. "The acrid smoke dwindled. At last it thinned to no more than a silver stream. Heaven swallowed it. The air began to clear." It almost sounds like a line from an Icelandic saga or a retelling of a Norse myth, which is no surprise from a writer so deeply imbued with the spirit of the north.
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for Twiggy
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"Is this it?" Solveig called out?
"To be a Viking woman," she said, "you have to be a man as well."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
It is 1036. Halfdan is a Viking mercenary who is determined to travel to Constantinople and become one of the Viking Guard serving Empress Zoe. He promises to take his daughter, but one morning Solveig wakes up to find him gone. Setting off in her own tiny boat, she is determined to make the journey from Norway to the breathtaking city. Her boat is washed up, but Solveig is undeterred. What awaits Solveig as she continues on her summer journey across the world? She finds passage with Viking traders, witnesses the immolation of a young slave girl and learns to fight. She sees the clashes between those who praise her Norse Gods and the new Christians. In this perilous and exciting world, a young girl alone could be quickly endangered or made a slave. Will Solveig live to see her father again, and if she survives, will she remain free? A glittering novel that explores friendship and betrayal, the father-daughter relationship, the clash of religions and the journey from childhood to adulthood.
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It is 1036. Halfdan is a Viking mercenary who travels to Constantinople to become one of the Viking Guard serving Empress Zoe. He promises to take his daughter, but one morning Solveig wakes up to find him gone. Setting off in her own boat, she is determined to make the journey from Norway to the breathtaking city.… (more)

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