REVIEW: The Winter Serpent by Maggie Davis
“Doireann is the proud daughter of a Scottish chieftan, her beauty renown
through the land of her father, and yet she chose to remain unbound and alone, free from submitting to the desires of any man. As the tides of war and pillage reach her homeland, she finds herself sold into the hands of the fearsome Viking pirate Thorsten, the wild leader of the frenzied Norse Bear Cult. She must survive the humiliation of being Thorsten’s woman, through pagan rituals and violent battles, as only her pride keeps her from submitting to his passion….”
Dear Ms Davis,
I first read The Winter Serpent years ago in the late 70s and lost my copy during a move. I thought vaguely about getting another but when I checked prices of OOP ones, I was shocked at the amounts. So when this was re-released in trade paperback a few years ago, I began to look for another copy. I will warn anyone wanting to read it, that this edition has a few errors in the typesetting but it’s nothing major.
This is more a historical novel than a romance. To be honest, by the end, there is still very little love lost between Dorieann and Thorsten. Throughout the book, we see clues that he cares for her more than he’s letting on but she hides any feelings she might have as she plots for revenge. The book shows just how powerless most women of the time are and I can’t blame Dorieann for attempting to gain through stealth and guile a bit of it for herself. She’s essentially alone in her fight for her due from the clans and in trying to arrange her life to suit her. Almost all the men in her life attempt to use her to further their own plans or to gain her beauty for themselves. As one man she knows tells her, she is one of the three things men want in life: power, wealth and a beautiful woman. Dorieann realizes early on that she must look after her own interests as no man will do it for her.
The Winter Serpent was first published in 1958 so a) no overt sex though you know when it’s happening b) it’s told mainly from the heroine’s POV though we get a few scenes from minor characters (but none from Thorsten) and c) it’s very descriptive and really puts you into the time frame of the story.
Warning: Dorieann is taken unwillingly by Thorsten the first time (not really described) and there are two other captive women the Vikings bring back from a raid who also suffer from rape (also not really described). I like that you write these in a very matter of fact way and don’t make them gratuitous scenes. There are also some violent battle scenes.
Some readers might get a little annoyed with Dorieann when she seems a little selfish but I kept remembering that she really is alone in this book and there is no one else except for an old family retainer who is looking out for her interests.
Fate seems to be the main theme of the book. Is it determined at birth (what the Vikings think) and inescapable or can you fight it and forge your own destiny (what Dorieann tries to do). Readers looking for a very realistic view of the age and a slightly older style of writing and storytelling this might be worth a look. Oh, and the new cover is so much better than the 70s era, ripped bodice one I had that pictured Dorieann sitting beside Thorsten, grabbing his knees. B for you.