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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
The Vardoger Boy is Book 2 in the Forerunner Series from Jay Veloso Batista. It is 878 A.D. and the Danish (Viking) rulers of parts of North England are under attack from the Saxon Kingdom in the south. The Danish family led by patriarch Agne Agneson answers the call of their Viking King to strike south and destroy the Saxons. Agne and his eldest son, also Agne but known as Cub, strike south, along with Agne’s men and other Viking warriors to finally put down the Saxons. Agne’s brother Karl, having narrowly avoided being killed by a blood feud in the first book, heads back to sea to return to the village where the werebear and his followers are killing and eating the local citizens and where he left some of his crew to protect the village. Karl takes Agne’s youngest son, Thorfinn, with him to teach him the ways of the Viking. Thorfinn is a Vardoger (a living spirit) who is able to travel the realms whilst he sleeps, guided by his friend and fellow spirit, the raven Raga. The blood feud that almost saw Karl killed is not over though and Agne’s wife and remaining children will find their lives turned upside down, with their menfolk gone and nothing to protect them from a woman and her family bent on vengeance.
The Vardoger Boy is as explosive and exciting as the first story in this series. Author Jay Veloso Batista has perfectly captured the times he writes about, the struggles for survival and the brutal cheapness of an enemy’s life. By bringing in the aspect of Danish or Viking lore, their magic, and their rituals, the author has created a fascinating insight into the family life of the time that lifts this book well above its competitors in the genre. I had read book one in the series and although it isn’t necessary to enjoy book two, I would recommend it as it provides a seamless and explanatory journey into the next adventure. I appreciated the author’s three separate and different story arcs that keep a reader focused on more than just one plot development. The style of warfare practiced by the Danes was fascinating and it is clear they were a well-disciplined group of warriors despite the general conception of Viking rape and pillage. The arc that captures the adventures of Thorfinn and his developing magical powers was perhaps the most interesting of the three but what I really did appreciate was the continual growth and development of the characters I had met and enjoyed in the first book. This is clearly not the end of the adventures of Thorfinn and I look forward to the next book in this series. If you love historical fiction, Viking lore, or just a jolly good adventure, I can highly recommend this book and this series.