Jack’s fingers ached and blisters had formed on the palms of his hands. Once he could have done this work without harm. Once his skin had been covered with comfortable calluses, protecting him from the slippery handle of the sickle, but no longer. For three years he’d been freed of farmwork. He’d spent his time memorizing poetry and plucking away at a harp—not that he’d ever equaled the Bard. Or ever would.
Sweat ran down his forehead. Jack wiped his face and only succeeded in getting dirt into his eyes. “Curse this job!” he cried, hurling the sickle to the earth.
“At least you have two hands,” said Thorgil, sweating and laboring nearby. She had to hold the bracken ferns in the crook of her arm and slice through them with her knife. Her right hand was frozen, useless, yet she didn’t give up. It both impressed and annoyed Jack.
“Why can’t someone else do this?” he complained, sitting down in the springy bracken.
“Even Thor does inglorious chores when he’s on a quest,” said Thorgil, stolidly dumping an armload of bracken into a growing pile. She turned to gather more.
“This is no quest! This is thrall work.”
“You’d know,” retorted the shield maiden.
Jack’s face turned even hotter as he remembered how he’d been a slave in the Northland. But he swallowed the obvious response that Thorgil herself had been a thrall as a child. She was prey to dark moods that rippled out to blight everyone around her. That was the word for her, Jack thought grimly. She was a blight, a kind of disease that turned everything yellow.
Nothing had worked out since she’d arrived in the village. It took the utmost threats from the Bard to keep her from revealing that she was a Northman, one of the murdering pirates who’d descended on the Holy Isle. Even as it was, the villagers were suspicious of her. She refused to wear women’s clothes. She took offense readily. She was crude. She was sullen. In short, she was a perfect example of a Northman.
And yet, Jack had to remind himself, she had their virtues too—if you could call anything about Northmen virtuous. Thorgil was brave, loyal, and utterly trustworthy. If only she were more flexible!
“If you’d shift your backside, I could harvest that bracken. Or were you planning on using it as a bed?” Thorgil said.
“Oh, shut up!” Jack snatched up his sickle and winced as a blister broke on his hand.
They worked silently for a long time. The sun sent shafts of heat into the airless woodland. The sky—what they could see of it—was a cloudless blue. It pressed down on them like an inverted lake—hot, humid, and completely still. Jack found it hard to believe that a storm was on its way, but that’s what the Bard had said. No one questioned the Bard. He listened to birds and observed the motions of the sea from his lonely perch near the old Roman house where he lived.
A rumbling sound made both Jack and Thorgil look up. The blacksmith’s two slaves had arrived with an oxcart. A moment later the large, silent men crashed through the underbrush to gather up the bracken. They tramped to and fro, never speaking, never making eye contact. They had been sold by their father in Bebba’s Town because they were of limited intelligence, and Jack wondered what kind of thoughts they had. They never seemed to communicate with each“Jack, Thorgil, and the Bard are off on a new quest in this immensely satisfying conclusion of the trilogy that began with The Sea of Trolls and continued in The Land of the Silver Apples” in this “beautifully written tale” (Kirkus Reviews).
It begins with a vicious tornado. (Odin on a Wild Hunt, as the young berserker Thorgil sees it.) The fields of Jack’s home village are devastated, the winter ahead looks bleak, and a monster—a draugr—has invaded the forest outside of town.
Soon, Jack, Thorgil, and the Bard are off to right the wrong of a death caused by Father Severus. Their destination is Notland, realm of the fin folk, though they will face plenty of challenges and enemies before get they get there. Impeccably researched and blending the lore of Christian, Pagan, and Norse traditions, this expertly woven tale is beguilingly suspenseful and, ultimately, a testament to love.
The concluding volume of the heroic Sea of Trolls trilogy from National Book Award winner Nancy Farmer finds Jack and his companions on a journey that may end up righting old wrongs—if they survive.