Monday 21 March 2016

#ReviewMonday with KM Lockwood - The Stones of Winter ( previously The Yelling Stones) by Oskar Jensen

All is not well at the Danish Viking court of Jelling. Home to the mysterious Yelling Stones (three witches turned into stone in the middle of screaming a fierce spell), it's always been a place of power and a haven for 'the old ways'. But recently certain members of King Gorm's court have been muttering about 'modernisation' - not that fourteen-year-old Princess Astrid is concerned about much of that. She's far more worried that her family seem to want her inside sewing, or planning a marriage, rather than letting her explore the forest or ride her beautiful snow-white horse, Hestur.
But Astrid is about to find herself at the heart of a battle that will change her life forever. Leif, an ambitious and talented young poet, arrives at her father's court with unsettling news. Leif announces he has been sent visions from the witches of the Yelling Stones, saying a dangerous and powerful force is coming - one that will change the face of Denmark - and only Astrid and Leif can stop it. But with danger all around them, including trolls, witches and a terrifying creature called 'The Beast', can they tell who the real enemy is in time to stop them?
Published by Hot Key Books 2015
240 pages in paperback
Cover by Hannah Christenson
Summary via Curtis Brown Agency
A Viking princess and a brave poet must unravel the mysteries of their ancient land in order to protect it.
I love anything set in the Viking era – and this deals with the clash of cultures in a way that doesn’t patronise. It shows the struggles between different beliefs and kingdoms with teens right at the heart of it. It’s like the Vikings! TV series without the sex and violence, but more magic and characters younger readers will identify with.
Astrid and Leif are both appealing and their adventures crack along at a fair old pace. It’s a fascinating mix of mythology and real history – the author is unafraid to tackle big ideas once we know our main characters well. There are runes, some historical notes and a glossary to add to the interest – but you don’t need to study these to enjoy the story. I would recommend it for a fairly experienced reader from Year Five upwards who loves history and mythology. As the Hot Key symbol says, it’s all about Vikings, Action, Family Feuds and Power. 
As for the cover, I have taken the unusual step of including a shot of the back. This embodies the wild Northern spirit of the story better, and avoids showing the faces of the protagonists. I like those left to my imagination – but I realise that’s a matter of personal taste.
To sum up, it’s a saga brought to life for bright, contemporary readers.

K. M. Lockwood lives by the sea in Sussex - see the pics on Instagram. She fills jars with sea-glass, writes on a very old desk and reads way past her bedtime. Her tiny bed and breakfast is stuffed full of books - and even the breakfasts are named after writers. You'd be welcome to chat stories with @lockwoodwriter on Twitter.

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