A Note from the Publisher
Welcome to Nordskog Publishing’s inaugural fiction book in a new series of Noble Novels! As our ongoing series of “meaty, tasty, and easily digestible theological offerings” continues with excellence, we have pride and joy in now presenting, under the imprint, fiction books that are exciting, thrilling, enjoyable, and fun, and which ring out the admonition of the Apostle Paul in his epistle to think on those things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy. . . . “And if you do, the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9).
West Oversea is an ideal book to begin our new series. Lars Walker’s fiction story is based upon true, historical facts at the turn of the second millennium. Many of the novel’s characters are based upon real Vikings, men who were courageous and indeed noble. This story is about my paternal ancestors, the Vikings, during the time of much of Norway’s conversion to Christianity, and it is ideal for our initial fiction offering. My great grandparents and grandfather, Andrae (Arne) Nordskog, immigrated from Norway to America (New York) in the late nineteenth century. As a boy, I grew up in our home listening to the famous Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg’s (1843-1907) Piano Concerto in A minor (la mineur-a-Moll), “The Song of Norway,” and I am listening to it now, even as I write this Foreword. My Italian mother, Elinor, used to say regarding my dad, Bob, “I’ve taken a liking to a Viking.” My dad used to relate the old story of how “10,000 Swedes were chased through the weeds by one Norwegian.” American historian and my good friend Dr. Marshall Foster (founder-president of the World History Institute) gives us some quick snapshots of the Norwegians – who were traders as well as warriors – in the latter years of the first millennium after Christ’s resurrection.
Guthrum, the Viking king, took almost all of England by force, but was later defeated in 878 by Alfred the Great (a Christian king of England), who became his godfather and educated him and his leaders in the Christian faith. Erik the Red was a wild Viking who was convicted of murder and exiled first to Iceland and then to Greenland. His son, Leif Eriksson, was sent back to Norway near the end of the tenth century and converted to Christianity. He later returned to Greenland to convert the settlers to Christ, and eventually made a voyage to explore new lands to the west which had previously been seen by other Norsemen. These lands, we now know, were part of North America. Norwegian King Olaf Trygvesson, who died early in the eleventh century, tore down idols in the country and forcibly converted the pagan Norwegians to Christianity.
Lars Walker’s third novel about the Vikings begins in the year 1001. King Olaf Trygvesson is dead, but his sister’s husband, Erling Skjalgsson, carries on his dream of a Christian Norway that preserves its traditional freedoms. Rather than do a dishonorable deed, Erling relinquishes his power and lands. He and his household board ships and sail west to find a new life with Leif Eriksson in Greenland.
This voyage, though, will be longer and more dangerous than they ever imagined. It will take them to an unexplored country few Europeans had seen. Demonic forces will pursue them, but the greatest danger of all may be in a dark secret carried by Father Aillil, Erling’s Irish priest. You won’t want to put this book down. Read on!
Tusen Takk, Gerald Christian Nordskog, Easter, 2009
What Readers Are Saying
Reviewed by Hal G. P. Colebatch
West Oversea, by Lars Walker (Noble Publishers) is a fine tale set in the days of the first coming of Christianity among the Vikings.
West Oversea is that apparent rarity today, a good story, skillfully told, with, as well as attractive and believable characters, the right human values, and an important theme.
Oversea also has the rare quality of the best epics—The Norse Atlantic Saga, The Iliad and The Odyssey, or to take a modern example, The Lord of the Rings—a quality of entering into a fresher world.
The colours are brighter, the men and women straightforward in their heroisms or villainies. It is a story, like the great sagas, not exactly simple but with a profound and wise simplicity which makes reading it a refreshing experience. It reminds me, also of the atmosphere of largeness and magnificence evoked by a line in C. S. Lewis’s The Last Battle: “A bowl of wine for the noble Centaur!”
I have written on a number of occasions that modern Christian writers have failed, apart from C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and a very few others, to create a Christian-oriented (as distinct from a Bible-bashing) popular literature and art, and that this is one of the reasons for our civilization’s present desperate malaise.
Lars Walker shows the task is not hopeless. West Oversea is not just a good story of rip-snorting adventure, the uncanny dwellers of the Hollow Hills, the clash of sword and axe-blades, and the conflicts in the ancient north between the followers of Odin and Christ. It is also a serious and often beautifully written description of what it meant to be both an adventurer and a Christian in those spacious days.
It is the story of a Christian priest, Father Aillil, in Viking Scandinavia, just after the first millennium, in a society which is just leaving the pagan world and in which pagan powers are still very much present (belief in them in Norway and Iceland has not died out even today). [Father Aillil]…falls in with Erling Skjalgsson, a real character from Norse history, who may well have journeyed to Iceland, Greenland, and Vinland (North America) and known Leif Eriksson. The narrator priest, Irish by birth, travels in search of his sister to Norway, to Iceland—perhaps the most extraordinary of cultures in the ancient world, where literature and poetry flourished in the long, dark, volcano-lit winter nights—to Greenland, and to North America—Vinland the Good—where in actual fact a Viking settlement was planted and nearly survived, although it was doomed to be defeated in the end like the Greenland colony, a victim of technological overreach: the winters were too terrible, the distances too great.
Lars Walker knows not only his Norse history, but Viking society, manners, and technology as well, making the book a painless education in the ancient world’s ways of living and thinking.
Viking means literally pirate hiding up a creek, and we are so used to thinking of the Vikings as one-dimensional rape-and-pillage merchants we often forget their other aspects, as great traders and explorers, with certain highly-developed arts…[All] that they scorned, as a term of insult, a straw death—that is, dying on bed rather than in battle. A Viking under a great debt to another man tells him: “You may ask anything of me. Anything at all, save my honour.” That last qualification is of supreme importance.
It would be their descendants, the steel-clad ranks of Norman (“Northman”) and medieval chivalry who, in the following centuries, saved Europe by providing the backbone of the ranks of the Crusaders. Indeed, we may see here the crusaders’ valour and chivalry in embryo.
Lars Walker shows brilliance in taking us into the skulls and skins of those incredibly daring, but often cruel and treacherous, men and women of the ancient world, battling not only the elements and hostile natives, but all the manifold bogies of paganism with nothing but sinews, courage by the ship-load, a little dawning technological knowledge, and a partly understood Christianity, to which they cling—or some of them do—with a childlike, touching faith, in a world where supernatural terrors are embodied all about them. As one would expect with seafarers of such a time and place, there are touches of theological discussion, but these never become heavy or boring.
The priest, in temporary possession of Odin’s Eye, is granted occasional visions of the future, including a chilling vision of our own future—whose omens we can see in any daily paper—when Christians have once again become a persecuted minority, and the wonderful achievements of Christianity-based science and technology—”houses as big as mountains, ships that sailed to the moon”—have been allowed to come crashing down (though even in this dark vision, a saving remnant remains). The many battles and slaughters are described with the bare, laconic, stoic style reminiscent of the real Norse sagas and skalds as well as the Homeric epics. Yet within this, the author has been able to delineate real and memorable characters, with real and varied strengths and weaknesses.
I await Lars Walker’s next work with impatience. I am glad to learn this is one of a series.
Hal Colebatch, Perth Australia, Winner of the West Australian Premiera Literary Prize
West Oversea is a gripping Viking saga. Lars Walker understands the unique Norse mindset at the time of the Vikings’ conversion to Christianity, and he tells a tale of seafaring adventure and exploration of new worlds that will keep you on the edge of your chair – and make you think.
Dr. John Eidsmoe, Colonel, Alabama State Defense Force; Pastor, Assn. of Free Lutheran Congregations; Constitutional Law Professor; Author, Christianity and the Constitution
In this Erling Skjalgsson saga as told by his faithful companion, Father Aillil, Walker takes us from Norway, to Iceland, to America, to Greenland, and back. This book is not only a delightful tale of adventure and bravery, but there is also an undercurrent of commentary on contemporary culture and values.
Rev. Paul T. McCain, Publisher, Exec. Dir., Editorial Division, Concordia Publishing House
I cannot give a high enough recommendation to Lars Walker’s Norse saga. You will not be disappointed. You will be blessed.
Hunter Baker, writing in the American Spectator online; Author, The End of Secularism
It is refreshing to read popular fantasy built on a foundation of solid research and love of the medieval Icelandic sagas. . . . Amazing. . . . This reader welcomes more fiction from Walker’s pen.
Dale Nelson, Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity
Action, excitement, and the sheer fun that reading can be. . . . Deeply, profoundly Christian . . . but in a bold, battling way.
Gene Edward Veith, Author, The Spirituality of the Cross
Not for spiritual sissies. . . . Rowdy action and a realistic look at the human and spiritual costs of religious and cultural conversion.
Rita Elkins, Florida Today
Lars Walker, a frequent commenter on this blog, is a novelist of note. He is also a Christian and a Lutheran. His faith comes out loud and clear in his fiction, but, unlike many “Christian novelists,” he is not preachy or sappy or didactic. With Lars, the Christian themes don’t substitute for a good story; rather, they contribute to the good story.
Lars specializes in historical fantasy. He is especially interested in Vikings, writing about the ancient Norse seafarers and warriors at the time when they were first getting converted to Christianity (around the year 1000). In addition to all kinds of swordplay, battles, and adventures, his characters are involved in spiritual warfare, as the old heathen magic, lore, and demons array themselves against the followers of Christ.
Lars has a new book out, West Oversea, that I enjoyed greatly. Like his earlier Viking novels, Erling’s Word and Year of the Warrior, it features the characters of the warlord Erling, a historical figure, whose dedication to doing what is right sometimes gets him into trouble, and Father Aillil, an Irish priest with a vivid personality (who reminds me somewhat of Martin Luther in his self-deprecating but life-affirming faith). This time, they journey to Iceland, then Greenland, then Vinland, a.k.a. America. They connect with the discoverer of that rich but dangerous land, Leif Erikson. (I did not realize that he was a Christian. His father, Erik the Red, was not.) At one point, Father Aillil has a vision of the future that perfectly captures–and refutes–the particular kinds of Godlessness of both modernism and postmodernism and suggests what might come next. The book is full of fascinating lore, thought-provoking ideas, memorable characters, exciting action, and just good story-telling.
I could hardly put the thing down.
Gene Edward Veith, Author, The Spirituality of the Cross
If the measure of an author is the literary company he keeps, I can’t remember another book review of mine that name-checked such an all-star writing team. It’s not often that any one author is refreshingly original enough to evoke comparisons to Le Guin, Hillerman, Cornwell, Schaara, and Peters, especially because most of them never sat on a bench in a Viking hall telling sea stories. I hope it’s plain that Walker ranks with fast company, and West Oversea is more than good enough to make me want to read his other work. Erling is an honest merchant who can also fight, and Father Aillil, though frequently seasick, is excellent company. You’ll want to follow them around, and cheer them on.
West Oversea takes the tone of a saga, only with an accessibility that had me turning pages like a madwoman to find out what new wonder Lars Walker would create for me. I want to read everything else he’s ever written!
Subtitled A Norse Saga of Mystery, Adventure, and Faith, West Oversea comes from the point of view of Father Aillil, an Irish priest who has heard that his sister Maeve is living as a thrall (slave) in Greenland. When brave, wise, and good Viking chieftain Erling Skjalgsson loses everything to his unscrupulous older brother, Father Aillil convinces him to set sail for Greenland to trade with Leif Eriksson. Before he leaves, Father Aillil is given a talisman called the Eye of Odin, a gray eye that gives Father Aillil the second sight. Despite his initial misgivings, the lure of power overtakes him and soon he is losing his faith and putting Erling, Erling’s wife and son, and all Erling’s men in jeopardy. (Read the full review here)
I enjoyed very much Mr. Walker’s novel. I appreciated that he compared and contrasted Christianity in a pre-modern era to Christianity in a post-modern era. It was also a fine read, one that I did not want to put down. To put together a scholarly and honest look at the world and Christianity with fine writing is truly a rare thing. Thanks!
Rev. Michael Berg, Wood Lake, MN
First Things review of West Oversea by Anthony Sacramone:
“Of Wolves, Warriors, and Walker”
The latest novel by Lars Walker, the author of an acclaimed series of fantasy novels of Old Norse stories and adventures and related matters, has just been released by Nordskog Publishing.
West Oversea: A Norse Saga of Mystery, Adventure, and Faith is Walker’s fifth novel and the third in a series about the Vikings and the efforts of their leaders to establish a foundation for Christianity in their land and elsewhere.
Like the others in the series and Walker’s other books, it’s based on facts and is the product of meticulous (and loving) historical research on Walker’s part.
S. T. Karnick
As with Walker’s previous books, West Oversea is a fast, rapidly moving story told by Father Aillil as a memoir. You will not find any sermonizing or preaching in the narrative. Instead, you get colorful descriptions and active storytelling of individual events inside a greater story arc. In addition to the colorful and engrossing characters, you also get insights into times far gone. Mr. Walker presents a practical insight not only into the how and why of Norse settlements in Iceland, Greenland, and North America (Vinland), but also how trade between those colonies and the established homes in Norway most likely took place.
I found West Oversea to be a worthy continuation of the Erling Saga. The book reads so fast that when it’s done, the reader is left both satisfied with the ending and still longing for the story to continue. That’s my favorite kind of book. When you add in the fact that nowhere in the story did I find myself tempted to talk back to some silly bit of neo-paganistic stupidity or leftist indoctrination puppet-speak, it only makes it that much better.
Judy and I are enjoying greatly West Oversea. It is a delight and a rare window into our roots.
Tim Carlson, Scandinavians from Missouri
As teachers, we often need to learn about subjects of little to no interest to us. That’s exactly how I felt about Vikings when I placed them on our list of things to study this year. After reading West Oversea, I find the subject fascinating me. West Oversea is an adventure novel set during the time of Leif Ericson. The story is told in first person by Father Ailil, the priest to Erling Skjalgsson. Erling is a good man who seeks to see the spread of Christianity in Norway. He is an honorable leader, a friend to slaves, and a willing adventurer. When Father Ailil suggests going to Greenland for the purpose of finding his long-lost sister, Erling is kind enough to agree. The trip is complicated by demonic forces that grab hold of all they can get, beginning with Father Ailil.
West Oversea provides an educational and entertaining view of Viking life. It’s also a great morality tale that addresses temptations and the effects of sin in the spirit realm. Some parts of the book were high action. Others were quiet and thought provoking. The list of characters was extensive and a bit intimidating. Nevertheless, I was completely locked into the story before I even finished the first chapter. I was locked into the story. I truly didn’t expect to get hooked!
I believe West Oversea is most appropriate for upper middle or high school ages. There are instances of foul language in the book, and Father Ailil has a struggle with lust that is alluded to but not graphically explored. Parents may want to read the book prior to giving it to their child. Reading it ahead would also allow you to discuss truth, temptation, greed, and many other interesting topics. It’s important to remember that West Oversea is a depiction of Christianity forming in Norway. These characters are not well-versed Christians, and they are portrayed as men who seek God while struggling with releasing their pagan ways. If you prefer to avoid flawed characters, then you will want to stay clear of this book.
I enjoyed West Oversea very much. I felt so caught up in the story that I could almost feel the fierce cold of the Icelandic snow. I would recommend this book to others. The price is typical for books of this length. For $12.95 you can join me and become hooked on the fascinating life of Vikings.
Heather Randall, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine
Ever since I can remember remembering I have been fascinated with Vikings. I think it began when I read a condensed version of Beowulf in a Childcraft encyclopedia. The story was exciting and the pictures of huge warriors wearing horned or winged helmets wielding massive swords captured my imagination. Shortly thereafter I discovered Norse mythology and my interest in all things Viking skyrocketed.
However, the more I learned about the Vikings the more I understood that they were not, to put it mildly, friendly to Christendom. As the product of a devout Southern Baptist upbringing this was always somewhat troubling for me. Imagine my excitement when I discovered Lars Walker’s books about Erling Skjalgsson, Norway’s first Christian lord. The first book, The Year of the Warrior, is a rousing page turner that I simply could not put down. Simply put, it is an exciting mix of historical fiction and fantasy. Mr. Walker has continued Erling’s saga with his most recent book, West Oversea. In this book, Erling and his companions journey to the new world. As with the first book, West Oversea not only delivers an action-packed story but also some penetrating spiritual insights. However, it does this without getting “preachy” or sacrificing good story telling. If you are strapped for gift ideas then look no further, just remember to get a copy for yourself.
I’m just finishing reading West Oversea.
It is a marvelous tale of Scandinavia and the New World, of legends and legendary figures, of love and hate, of what it means to be human or inhuman, and of the role of faith in human lives — with deep meanings for those a thousand years ago, while just as meaningful for today. NPI can truly be proud to have published West Oversea, just as I am very happy to have read it.
Birgit & Eugene Elander, Gotland, Sweden & Georgia, USA
Some in Hollywood might think folks on the Right have limited artistic ability and should stick with investment banking and talk radio. Others, with a more open mind, believe people should pursue any vocation to which they feel called. A novelist in Minneapolis, thankfully, is nottaking career advice from Hollywood. The Culture Alliance’s latest Fiction Fridaynewsletter focused on the work of Lars Walker, particularly West Oversea.
S. T. Karnick
In a time when popular culture celebrates the lack of faith, even overt hostility toward Christianity, Lars Walker arrives to present an adventure novel that celebrates and encourages the Christian faith.
“Lars Walker’s third novel about the Vikings begins in the year 1001. King Olaf Trygvesson is dead, but his sister’s husband, Erling Skjalgsson, carries on his dream of a Christian Norway that preserves its traditional freedoms. Rather than do a dishonorable deed, Erling relinquishes his power and lands. He and his household board ships and sail west to find a new life with Leif Eriksson in Greenland. This voyage, though, will be longer and more dangerous than they ever imagined. It will take them to an unexplored country few Europeans had seen. Demonic forces will pursue them, but the greatest danger of all may be in a dark secret carried by Father Aillil, Erling’s Irish priest”
Rev. Paul J Cain
What would you do if Odin decided to haunt you because he was angry you’d left him for Jesus?
When a pagan society is Christianized, it must determine how to either leave behind or incorporate its old talismans and traditions into its new Christian faith. This is seldom an easy task, as any missionary who has dealt with the dangers of syncretism can attest. Old habits die hard. A worldview cannot be wiped out in a day simply because those who hold to it no longer want to believe in it; some ideas are so deeply ingrained that it may take several generations to be rid of them.
But what if a society had trouble leaving behind their old gods because they were real? What if Christianity wasn’t the only true myth?
Lars Walker explores these and other questions in his newest novel, West Oversea. In this historically based fantasy tale, a priest named Father Aillil struggles with how to live out and share his Christian faith in a place and time when the pagans and their gods were still overwhelmingly influential. The year is 1001, and Father Aillil, an Irishman living in Norway, struggles to reconcile his beliefs with the paganism he’s trying to leave behind. Though he is a devout Christian, he is reluctant to part with the mythic eye of Odin, which was passed on to him by a man who wished to have him destroy it. The eye gives Father Aillil the ability to see into the spiritual realm, where his interactions with both the dead and the living have a profound effect on him, much as he tries to deny this.
West Oversea is first – like all great reads — a great story. The skeleton of the narrative could exist in any genre whether it’s the British Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars or a cattle drive up from Texas to Dodge City, KS to a group of Norsemen in 1002 A.D. heading out across the ocean – West Oversea — in search of redemption, riches, and whatever God (or Fate) has in store for them.
The story begins in Norway right after the turn of the millennium when Norway was mostly a Christian country with remnants of its old Pagan ways reemerging every so often. One of the recurring jokes has people swearing by the gods in front of priests and correcting themselves apologetically. This is the Norway of the saved, but the not yet sanctified.
West Oversea is the sequel to The Year of the Warrior, and Walker has again written a wonderful tale of adventure, heartache, and vikings.
In this epic journey, Irish priest Father Aillil accompanies viking hero, Erling Skjalgsson on a journey to Greenland, and there are many demons and temptations waiting for them along the way.
One of the many blessings of these books is the fact that Walker stays true to the characters that lived in these time periods. With the Christianization of the viking culture, there is an epic clash between the old pagan ways and the new Christianity that is, now in this second book, completely dominant. Christianity and paganism clash in ugly, real, and thought-provoking ways.
I’m a firm believer in showing the WHOLE picture, and though this book is a historical fantasy, it presents an entertaining and enlightening story that doesn’t shy away from the reality of that time period.
Also of note is the way Walker writes. He seems to draw inspiration from the original viking histories that have survived over the centuries. It leaves the reader with a powerful sense of the time period.
Did I mention the writing is beautiful?
When I read The Year of the Warrior, Walker skyrocketed to my top five list of favorite authors, and after reading West Oversea, he remains there.
If you want an amazing sword and sorcery historical fantasy that is a shining example of how a Christian author can write fiction that is both deeply Christian, and yet honest, pick up The Year of the Warrior, and West Oversea. You’ve got to read them both!
Lars Walker’s new book, West Oversea, is the sequel to The Year of the Warrior. Walker has again written a wonderful tale of adventure, heartache, and Vikings.
In this journey, Irish priest Father Aillil accompanies the Viking hero, Erling Skjalgsson, on a journey to Greenland; there are many demons and temptations waiting for them. One of the many blessings of this book is the fact that Walker stays true to the characters that lived in those times. Within the Viking culture, there is an epic clash between the old pagan ways and Christianity which becomes completely dominant.
Of note is the way Walker writes. He seems to draw inspiration from the original Viking histories that have survived the centuries. This book leaves the reader with a powerful sense of the Viking period.
West Oversea was a pleasure to read. To meet Leif Ericcson again, not in a school book but on his home turf, was fun. The characters were interesting and believable and I lived in the story as I read.
Marilyn Eastep, Norwegian
West Oversea is a fictional account based on Norse legends. It’s not a genre I read a lot of, but I rather enjoyed this one.
Father Aillil is an Irish priest who settled in Norway. West Oversea tells of his attempt to find his sister who has been sold into slavery, in Greenland, it seems. Father Aillil convinces Erling Skjalgsson to embark upon a journey to Leif Eriksson’s Greenland, searching for his sister.
In the process, Father Aillil is given a powerful talisman, a relic straight out of pagan Norse mythology, the Eye of Odin. The Eye has given the priest the gift of Second Sight. But the question is, can the Sight be trusted? It seems to be giving him bad information, drawing him astray, and towards death.
West Oversea details the journey of Father Aillil, Erling Skjalgsson, and a host of others as they journey toward Greenland, visiting Iceland, and the mainland of America in the process.
Spoiler Warning: Father Aillil never finds his sister. When he finally returns to Norway, he discovers that she appeared in his hometown shortly after he departed on his journey, and has since disappeared. To be honest, I was a little disappointed in this ending.
Lars Walker does a great job of depicting the struggle to continue to follow God in a world full of distractions. When these distractions are vying for your attention, you have to do whatever it takes to stay focused on Christ. Father Aillil decides that, in order to destroy the Eye of Odin, it may just require that he cut off his own hand to do so.
While West Oversea does well at describing the intense conflict between serving God and being distracted by the world, I found it somewhat lacking in explanation of Norse mythology. I felt like the story required that I have an understanding of the stories of the Vikings. And as a result, I couldn’t follow the story as closely as I would have liked.
All in all, I feel like West Oversea was an interesting book, and Walker definitely knows Norse history at the time Christianity’s influence began to take hold. And Walker does a good job of bringing out the struggle between light and darkness.
If Norse mythology and Viking stories interest you, then you need to check out West Oversea.
Wow! Loved this. I read this with my son and found it to be very interesting. It follows the same type of story line as C.S. Lewis’ fantastical story Voyage of the Dawn Treader. As we read it we were transported back in time to a season of adventure. This is the first book by this author that I have read, but now I am up for reading his other works as well. Much like Lewis one can’t read just one and stop. For now we (my son and I) are captivated by the characters and feel as if we know each one. Their adventures, heartaches, and struggles became our own as we read this story. What better way to fall in love with history than to read fiction based on historical figures.
I would recommend this for homeschool families looking for good classical literature. Also for any C.S. Lewis fan this is a great read – you will not be disappointed.