Sunday, July 09, 2006

The King Hearafter by Dorothy Dunnett

A very odd book. I was enjoying it very much at the beginning, and quite liked Thorfinn, barbaric but clever pagan viking that he was, when suddenly he turned into Francis Crawford of Lymond. Oh well.

I wonder, is Dunnett only capable of writing that sort of hypercompetant, ultra-energetic Great Man character, or is it only that she thinks that is the only type of character worth writing about? They make me tired, and I never quite believe in them.

But Thorfinn wasn't quite Crawford, for which I was grateful. First, he was wrong occasionally. Several times, in the end, when everything started to go bad. (Maybe Francis screws up later in the series?) And I liked his stubborn paganness, while at the same time slightly despising his political using of christianity.

And Groa. Why on earth, if he loved her, did he neglect, avoid, and insult her for five years running? I must be missing something.

I liked Thorkel. In some ways he was more heroic than Thorfinn, more to my liking. Although a little too devoted, like . . . A kickable dog.

Were death rates really so high, amongst early-medieval royalty? A wonder anyone wanted to become king, if it meant lisence for all other claimants to burn your house around you, marry your wife on your deathbed and slaughter your family as potential rivals who would do the same in their turn.

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