Review: Birkebeiner by Jeff Foltz

Jeff Foltz graciously sent me a review copy of his novel "Birkebeiner: A Story of Motherhood and War" back in November and I'm embarrassed to admit that I'm only just now getting around to a review.

You might remember that I posted an interview with Foltz here that you might want to have another look at to give you some background information.

In "Birkebeiner" Foltz essentially takes the famous story of Prince Hakon that has spawned two commemorative cross-country ski marathons and made it into an action/adventure tale.  He brings the characters of Torstein, Skjervald and Inga to life and lets you follow them on their epic flight to safety.

In writing the book, Foltz spent a fair amount of time doing research in Norway.  I had always been under the impression that Torstein and Skjervald skied with Prince Hakon alone, but from his time in Norway, Foltz concluded that there are several variations of the tale and in some of them Inga accompanied the two warriors.  From the perspective of narrative, the inclusion of Inga allows you to add many different layers of dramatic tension, so I can see why Foltz would have made the choice to include her. 

The book is well paced and well-edited and is a solid read.  One thing that readers might find a little bit jarring, however, is that Foltz makes the somewhat unconventional choice to write predominantly in the present tense.  Here is an excerpt to give you an idea:

"At that, Inga turns her face up.  The tear hits her like driven sleet.  This great protector, this mightiest of their warriors, a man who has not winced from the slashes of swords or the prick of spears is crying too, sobbing like an orphaned child.  Skjervald Skrukka looks from him to her and back, a man whose skut has sailed into a storm he wasn't expecting and who has no capacity to deal with it, let alone understand where it comes from."

As you can see, present tense lends a kind of urgent intimacy to the writing. In small doses it can be very effective, but my personal preference is to read standard past tense.  However, I can't decide if I think that just because that's what I'm used to reading, or if it's somehow reflective of the writing.  I guess the only answer is to encourage readers to pick up the book (or perhaps visit Folt's web page and request an excerpt) and decide for themselves.

Jeff Foltz's Birkebeiner takes the story most of us Birkie skiers know only in passing and brings it fully to life.  For those of you who can't get enough information about the Birkebeiner or its roots, this well-researched adventure ride is definitely the book for you!

No comments:

Post a Comment