book review, historical fiction

Review: The voyage of Freydis by Tamara Goranson

The Voyage of Freydis by Tamara Goranson is a retelling of the Viking age Icelandic Saga about Freydis Eiriksdottir, daughter of Eirik and sister of Leif. Goranson positions Freydis in a loveless, physically and emotionally abusive marriage with the powerful landowner Thorvald in Gardar, Greenland. The depictions of abuse, both mental and physical, are explicit. While the reader may think the depictions are too dramatic or “soapy,” the nature of abusive relationship are in fact that insidious, manipulative, and dark. Perhaps it is a reflex to disbelieve anyone could be so cruel, yet these abuses are many peoples’ lived truths. It’s no surprise then that Freydis plots her escape from Thorvald with the help of Icelandic couple Finnbogi and Logatha. Freydis first turns to her brother, Leif, for help after his return from Vinland, however Leif is not as sympathetic or helpful as a modern reader would imagine a brother to be. All around her, the men in her life seem to fail her until she meets the Icelanders.

With Leif’s blessing and approval, however, Freydis journeys to Vinland (modern day Newfoundland) with Finnbogi, Logatha, and the other Icelandic crew to trade with the native population at the longhouse settlement Leif had already established there. With freedom almost within her grasp and a strong friendship forming with Logatha, Freydis is devastated to find that Thorvald has not only learned of her escape plan and route, but has also beat her to Vinland. Violence flares as the Icelanders and Greenlanders clash, yet Thorvald narrowly escapes with his life. The Icelanders, though, are not out of the woods from danger yet as they must face their first harsh winter in Vinland.

It is here, amid the harsh winter and starving crew, that Freydis ventures out to hunt for her people. Sick and injured while battling the elements, Freydis is found by the native people of Vinland and taken back to their village to heal for the rest of winter. Tentative and hesitant at first, given her abusive past, Freydis finds a gentle and tender love she never expected.

The Voyage of Freydis was a fast, engaging read and kept me on the edge of my seat. The end was absolutely heartbreaking and I can’t wait to read the second book in the series, The Flight of Anja, to find where these characters ended up.