Theodore Brun’s A Mighty Dawn is a story of violence and desire, set in early 8th century Scandinavia, a land of ash, snow, lakewater. Its protagonist, Hakan, is the “Chosen Son,” the son of Haldan, Lord of the Northern Jutes and the Vendlings of Vendlagard. One night, a vala (female seer and priestess) disrupts Hakan’s coming-of-age celebration with a haunting prophecy: ‘You will rise and fall again.’
The book is split into three parts, each section marking a stage in the character development of Hakan. After the girl he loves, Inga, commits suicide, Hakan learns from his father that Inga was also his sister. Embittered by his father’s dishonesty, Hakan leaves his home and family in Vendlagard. After he kills his rival, Konur, the son of Karsten, lord of the Middle Jute clans of the Karlung lands, Hakan fashions a new identity and accordingly renames himself, Erlan (‘Stranger’). With his horse, Idun, and his young companion, Kai, Erlan travels to King Sviggar to offer him his services. When King Sviggar’s daughter, Lilla, goes missing, Erlan sets forth again to find her, risking everything as he ventures into the uncertainties and terrors of a dark world and its creatures.
Theodore Brun’s writing flows smoothly, boasting rich descriptions and interior monologue. Coming from an academic background in archaeology, anthropology and history, it is evident that Brun has gone through a commendably great deal of research in order to interweave Scandinavian history and figures of Norse mythology such as Odin, Fenrir and the Norns. In his afterword, the author writes that the novel was influenced by stories like ‘Gylfaginning’, from the early thirteenth-century Prose Edda compiled by the Icelandic historian and poet Snorri Sturluson, as well as the poem ‘Völuspá’ from the Poetic Edda.
A Mighty Dawn is Brun’s debut novel, the first book of the promising Wanderer series. For the upcoming winter months, this novel would suit anyone with a penchant for historical fantasy and mythology. It would also make for an enjoyable and refreshing read for academics and students of history.
Reviewed by Azariah Alfante
A Mighty Dawn
by Theodore Brun
Published by Corvus