The Shades of Winter
Morgan Smith, author
An aging band of sea raiders set out on one last voyage of revenge, and get a whole lot more than they bargained for. Tam Isliefsdottir wasn’t planning to end her life in a futile attempt for vengeance, but when your brothers- and sisters-in-arms need you, what can you do? Leaving her son and her granddaughter behind and sailing to the shadowy island of Alvandir, she expected to die gloriously for the sake of her country, her king, and her own reputation. Nothing is as it seems, however, and it hasn’t been for the last twenty years. Tam and her Kyndred are in for the surprise of their lives.
The disjointed latest standalone installment in Smith’s Viking-esque fantasy series, the Averraine Cycle, finds the aging and world-weary Tam Isliefsdottir leading her comrades, the Kyndred, in a retaliatory raid on a mysterious island protected by dangerous magic. After encountering a vicious legendary monster, they rescue someone thought long gone who may bring new hope or tragedy down on them. The story’s events don’t always seem to connect, and sometimes they feel as if they’ve lost their relevance until the climax approaches. The pacing is irregularly balanced among action, flashbacks, and occasionally sluggish sections where little happens. But Tam still draws readers in as the tired warrior driven by a frustration; her continual struggles, both in combat and in her personal life, and her once-deep relationship with her rescued companion make her sympathetic. This novel covers ground too seldom trod in any variation of the Viking setting, and despite its flaws, any fan of quasi-historical fantasy will find it enjoyable. (BookLife)