Excerpt from The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Half-Drowned King

by Linnea Hartsuyker

The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker X
The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2017, 448 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2018, 448 pages

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Gary Presley
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Ragnvald had studied Solvi on this voyage, for he merited it: both clever and good at winning his men's affections. Ragnvald had not thought to find those characteristics in one man—so often a boaster and a drinker won many friends but was too careless to live long as a warrior. Ragnvald's father, Eystein, had been like that. On this journey all of Solvi's men had tales of Eystein, and seemed disappointed that Ragnvald was not more like him, a man whose stories were still remembered a decade later, a man who abandoned his duty when it suited him.

Solvi laughed at another attempt, another fall, another one of his men who climbed, dripping, over the gunwale and flopped on the deck, chest heaving from the cold water. Solvi had a narrow, handsome face, with high cheekbones, red like ripe apples. In infancy his legs had been badly burned by a falling cauldron left to spill, rumor said, by one of King Hunthiof's lesser wives, jealous of the regard he showed Solvi's mother. Solvi's legs had healed well—he was as deadly a fighter as any Ragnvald had ever seen—but they remained bowed and crooked, and shorter than they should be. Men called him Solvi Klofe, Solvi the Short-Legged, a name that made him grin with pride, at least when his friends said it.

On the other side of the ship another warrior leapt, and nearly fell. Solvi laughed and shook an oar to try to dislodge him. Few men remained to challenge Ragnvald's feat. The pilot's son, slim and surefooted as a mountain goat, was the only other who had completed the challenge, dancing stern to bow and back to stern again.

Behind them sailed the five other ships that still remained in Solvi's convoy. Here and there others had turned off, to return sons back to their farms and fishermen back to their boats. Before that, other ships had taken other paths to islands on the inner passage, where their captains called themselves sea kings, their kingdoms made of no more than rocks, narrow channels, and the men who would flock to their raiding cries. Solvi's father called himself a sea king too, for though he demanded taxes from the farmers of Maer, he refused the other duties of kingship, and maintained no farm at Tafjord.

It was early in the year yet, time enough for another raid across the North Atlantic to winter over again, or a short summer trip to the unprotected shores of Frisia. Ragnvald was glad to be going home, though. His sister, Svanhild, and the rest of his family waited beyond the foothills of the Keel, as did his intended, Hilda Hrolfsdatter. He had won a pair of copper brooches for Hilda, worked by the Norse smiths of Dublin. The Norse king there had given them to Ragnvald as a reward for leading a daring raid against an Irish village. They would look well on Hilda, with her height and reddish hair. In time, she would oversee the hall he planned to build on the site where his father's hall had burned. Ragnvald would be an experienced warrior by then, as thick with muscle as Ulfarr, and wear his wealth on his belt and armbands. Hilda would give him tall children, boys he would teach to fight.

Ragnvald planned to claim her at the ting this summer, when the families of the Sogn district gathered. His family had an understanding with hers, though they had not yet gone through the betrothal ceremony. He had proved himself raiding, won wealth to buy more thralls to work on the farm at Ardal. Now that he was twenty, and counted a man, he could marry Hilda and his stepfather would have no more reason to withhold his birthright, his father's land, from him. Over the winter he had also found a silver necklace that would suit Svanhild perfectly. She would laugh and pretend not to like it—what use had she for silver when she spent her days tending cows?—but her eyes would sparkle and she would wear it every day.

Solvi called Ragnvald and the pilot's son to him. He touched the thick gold band circling his arm, forged by Dublin goldsmiths, set with carnelian and lapis. A king's adornment. If he meant that for a gift, he was a generous lord indeed.

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Excerpted from The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker. Copyright © 2017 by Linnea Hartsuyker. Excerpted by permission of Harper. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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