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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
Thorfinn and the Witch’s Curse: The Forerunner Series Book 1 takes the reader deep into the heart of Viking-occupied Britain at the beginning of the ninth century. Author Jay Veloso Batista shows us a fragmented land that is dominated and ruled by a mixture of Angles, Saxons, Danes, Celts, and Scots, where the languages and dialects are as varied as the many different ethnicities that inhabit these isles. Thorfinn (Finn) is a timid, ten-year-old boy growing up in a typical Viking family in Britain at the time. Some of the family, his Uncle Karl for instance, are away on raiding expeditions (known as going Viking) but the bulk of the family is intent on creating a life and earning a living from the hard work of farming, trapping, hunting, or artisanship. Finn is only the third boy in the family and his father has set him on the path of life with a forestry apprenticeship. Finn’s life takes an unexpected turn when he, his brothers, and a friend seek out adventure and discovering an old place of legend. Their encounter with an evil witch will change Finn’s simple existence forever when he discovers he has been turned into a vardoger – a living ghost. Finn now has the ability, whilst his body sleeps, to transfer between Midgard (everyday life) and another similar realm where he is a ghost, while his physical body rests. His ability to move unknown amongst his family, friends, and enemies allows him to become privy to many things including dangerous plots against his family and specifically his uncle. Will Finn find the courage and the ability to stop these evil men intent on destroying his family and the upcoming nuptials of his older sister?
As a lover of fiction based on historical periods, surprisingly, I have read little of this dark period in Britain’s history and after reading Thorfinn and the Witch’s Curse, I find myself asking why have I not read this genre before? Author Jay Veloso Batista beautifully draws you into this tale of familial love, loyalty, and sacrifice that gives a different view of the Norsemen that we have always been told were intent on rape, pillage, and destruction. To be sure, there is plenty of action and fighting in this tale but the central themes are those of family, love, devotion, and cultural pride. Although this was a time of constant conflict the author shows how through careful matrimonial alliances peace was often maintained and families were built across cultures. One of the joys of historical novels is that they expose the reader to new and exciting legends and beliefs. This book does a fantastic job of introducing and elucidating on Norse lore, magical, beliefs, and cultural norms. The characters ring true and, as a reader, it was easy to be drawn to the young Finn, who, as a third boy in the family, was destined to live an ordinary and unexciting life. The unexpected adventures he stumbled over gave a depth of character to the young man that bodes well for future iterations of this series. As an author I have not come across before, Batista strikes me as one well worth following and I am certainly invested enough in this story to want to read Book 2. I await it with bated breath and can highly recommend this book.