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Reviewed by Saifunnissa Hassam for Readers' Favorite
Sagas & Sea Smoke by Susan Nicol is a contemporary novel about an extraordinary young archaeologist, Audrey Vincent. The fictional story draws its setting from an actual Norse archaeological site, L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland. The site is thought to have been settled by Leif Eiriksson around 1000 AD. Audrey, an exceptionally gifted student at the University of Winnipeg, is a member of an international team of archaeologists re-excavating L'Anse aux Meadows. A rune stick of Leif Eiriksson's brother, Thorvald, has been found at the site. Audrey's ancestors were from Iceland and Norway, and she speaks several languages, including Icelandic. She has an excellent knowledge of the medieval narratives, Saga of the Greenlanders and Icelandic Sagas. No one knows what parts of these narratives are based on reality and what is fiction. Audrey believes the Sagas are based on the lives of real Vikings. On her previous archaeological digs, she has experienced visions of ancient people. At L'Anse aux Meadows, she has visions of Norsemen. She is part of a team, where there is camaraderie, jealousy, and conflict. Audrey makes major new discoveries and comes into her own.
I enjoyed reading Susan Nicol's Sagas & Sea Smoke because of the way the author brings together the modern day and the past. The re-excavation of the only known Viking site leads Audrey into a major new discovery. I loved the approach Nicol takes to tell the story of how that happens: she weaves together Audrey's reality of the present with the historical and mythological details of the Norsemen. I was hooked into the story right from the outset when Audrey sees a vision of a burning Viking ship. Every chapter begins with a quote from the Sagas. I loved the way that reaches into the past and moves the story forward into Audrey's own reality. The story picks up in pace and action as Audrey connects important pieces of an archaeological mystery. I liked the way her character grows as she faces the challenges of making tough decisions that test her as an archaeologist, and that also test her friendship and romance with her best friend Luc Laliberte.