A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary Review: A sweet feelgood fairytaile with a serious message.
The Blurb: In the world of medieval Iceland, family loyalty and complex codes of revenge are everything. When nineteen-year-old Geirr attempts to seek vengeance against Ari Thorgillsson for the death of his older brother, he is nearly killed himself. But Ari has grown tired of the feud that has devastated their families, and he nurses Geirr back to health. The two reach out tentatively to one another, attempting to bridge fifteen years of hatred and death with a bond of friendship. But trust doesn’t come easily to either man, and friendship may not be enough when it comes to a choice between love and duty.
The Review: The fairy godmother in this tale wears the form of a gorgeous nude man with antlers and an impressive erection, and has been visiting Geirr in his dreams for years now. Geirr is nineteen, an age when most old Icelandic men are already married, but he’s still living with his older brother, Olaf. Geirr doesn’t feel like bedding women, something that strikes him as unnatural and scary, so he has to bury this secret deep within himself.
Both Ari’s and Geirr’s families have been almost entirely wiped out by a blood feud that dates so far back nobody can remember how it started. When Ari kills Geirr’s brother, Geirr attempts to kill Ari, and is seriously wounded. Instead of finishing him off, Ari takes Geirr in, nurses him back to health and reaches out his hand in reconciliation. Geirr knows he should continue the vengeance, but he can’t bring himself to kill the man he soon feels friendship for, much less so when their friendship grows into something more. Yet, Olaf’s wive Eydis seeks revenge, and she manages to sow debt into Geirr’s heart. But when Geirr, incited by Eydis, has his brother’s sword against Ari’s throat, Ari doesn’t react like Geirr expects him to. Geirr has to make a decision: should he follow the old ways, avenge his brother and kill Ari, or reconcile the feud, risk the contempt of other people, but keep the companionship of the man he has come to love.
This story starts out dark and cruel like an old saga and turns into a true christmastime fairytale. The Old Icelandic setting was very unusual yet adding to the mood (I don’t have the faintest idea about Old Iceland, so I don’t know if the author got it right, but he did a good job about making it sound authentic). Both Geirr and Ari were well elaborated, particularly Geirr with all his insecurities and fears, very fitting someone who’s barely more than a boy and has just lost his entire family. Ari is said to be twenty-four, an age at which I can well imagine he was considered a full grown man in this society, given he had been married and his son had died at seven or eight. True to his character, Ari acted very mature when he wanted to end the feud. His grief for his lost wive and child were almost palpable at times, but instead of allowing this to fuel his anger, Ari turned to compassion, which allowed him to show his enemy mercy.
A really Christmasy story about how vengeance only breeds devastation and how love and compassion can turn mortal enemies into friends, even lovers. It was very well written, with believable characters, true emotions and sweet, unhurried eroticism. All of a piece with the collection it’s part of and very likeable.