The Saxon Wolf

by Dee


The Saxon Wolf

Saxon Wolf is the second instalment from The Last Berserker. I finished reading this book in four days because I wanted to know if Bjarki’s evolved. Nope, he didn’t. I have made up my mind about Bjarki as the main character in this series; I don’t like him. I liked Tor better now. She progressed; she fought like a warrior more than Bjarki did. Well, At least she got her parts done right. Her Saxon spirit, her will to fight the Franks, and her love of Garm.

To let the usual book review stuff: I’ve no problem with historical accuracy. It is easy to distinguish the historical part from the fictional ones. The list of battles are okay, I guess. Quite accurate as well. Garm is unharmed, which is a good thing. Two new potentially annoying characters: Fodor and Fidor.

But I have a problem with Bjarki.

A Headache Named Bjarki

I won’t be saying much, I guess, about this second instalment. It is already hard enough to read something that you knew is a battle already lost. Let me be clear, I am not disappointed with how the storyline or historical accuracy was written. It’s all good; Angus Donald did his research very well. But I’m disappointed by how the character Bjarki was created. The author held back on so many levels with Bjarki’s character in my mind’s eye, and I don’t know why. Maybe it is intentional; maybe there are other reasons.

I wrote how Bjarki was an undecided Rekkr in the first book. Well, now he’s simply a lazy warrior. Widukind made him a jarl, and he’s just not going to fight for his land or his people. He didn’t ooze the embodiment of “Jarl of the Three Rivers and Warden of the First Forest” at all.

There were times when they were about to prepare for an attack or defend themselves from an attack, and Bjarki simply said no to summoning his gandr. These are the times when I loudly screamed, “What the fuck, Bjarki!? What the fuck are you waiting for?! Your people are dying out there!”

Every time this type of scene arises, it feels to me that Bjarki just shrugged off his shoulder and says, “Meh, me no fighting right now. No point.”

It’s very, very difficult for me to understand Bjarki’s way of thinking, as a warrior, as a Rekkr, who refused multiple times to summon his gandr. I’d even dare to call him weak. Seriously. Weak. I think his fear of becoming his father, who went Galálar, is a little misplaced. Why? Because you’re in a fuckin’ war now, Bjarki! The Franks are on your doorstep!

I’m writing this review in the state of mind as I just finished watching Barbaren in awe. Compared to how Bjarki behaved in the numerous battles he was on… Dude, Thusnelda will be ashamed to be your ancestor.

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Angus Donald had successfully written something that messed with my head greatly. It’s a beautiful story; it’s an important slice of history, indeed. But I would hope to have my Rekkr, my main character, at least wanting to defend his people from the oncoming army. I know the war will be lost, and I know Widukind will also convert and submit himself under Charlemagne. These are the historical facts that are unchangeable, unavoidable.

By writing Bjarki’s character like this, I don’t see any difference between him and Jarl Ulf or Jarl Hessi, who decided to go AWOL before the battle with their men. For me personally, Bjarki staying but not giving his all to fight for his kins does not make him better than those jarls.

I stopped cataloguing and researching the battles they went through in Saxon Wolf. You can read a list of it in the Historical Notes part of the book. It doesn’t matter how many battles were there to fight on; Bjarki doesn’t want to fight. He’s done, in a wee bit cowardly way, I think. Not as cowardly as Snorri the Hare-Lips, though. But still…

The scene when Charlemagne’s army returned to Eresburg and finally chopped down Irminsul brought tears to my eyes. The things people do to force their beliefs onto others, which still happens nowadays in different forms, baffled me. Humans are arseholes, and that includes me.

But then I thought, this was the scene I was looking for in the first book. It wouldn’t hurt to describe the carnage twice to know the magnitude of destruction caused by the Franks in Eresburg. Irminsul was an important symbol for Germanic pagan society, and it should have received more emphasis during The Last Berserker and Saxon Wolf.

I appreciate the Tony Stank type of joke in Chapter 18 when Bjarki requested an audience with Queen Hildegard. That, I laughed, out loud. Thank you for slipping that in there.

No, no, Angus. Worry not, my dear author. I don’t hate how you write. I hate Bjarki. I am actually thankful that reading your book brought me to sit down and study early Medieval Germanic people in an archaeological context. It’s like going back to the classroom for me, and for that, I am thankful.


Despite my anger and impatience as I followed Bjarki in his journey, I liked how the book ended. See, this is why I liked Tor better now. No spoiler, read the book! I’ve found the missing ingredient of a warrior in Tor. But it’s somehow being held back cause she’s just the second-most important character.

Next Books?

I bet you the next book or books will include the Massacre of Verden or perhaps Battle of Süntel. Mayhap the series will also continue to the betrayal of Thrasco, the Nordalbingian, in the Battle of Bornhöved. The last phase of the Saxon Wars was marked with the establishment of Lex Saxonum in 802. This can also be a theme for the upcoming books. But I don’t hold out hope Bjarki will find himself or ways to control his gandr as he visited the Samis in the far, far northland.

Despite my anger and impatience as I followed Bjarki in his journey, I liked how the book ended. See, this is why I liked Tor better now. No spoiler, read the book! I’ve found the missing ingredient of a warrior in Tor. But it’s somehow being held back cause she’s just the second-most important character.

Here’s an idea: make Tor finds her gandr. Make her the greatest shield-maiden—no—make her the Rekkr she always longed to be.

I don’t feel I’m articulate or eloquent enough in writing this review. My head is still fuming with anger and confusion. Also, maybe the Barbaren film sets a standard of expectations for me because this is a continuation of that historical period, just a different enemy.

I  really hope that if the story continues to when King Gudfred of Dane Mark is in charge of the battles against the Carolingians, Angus Donald will write a better type of warrior. A warrior that wants to fight. Okay, well, those who read history would know this warring period will also end up in fuck-ups and a sad end. But still, I want a better warrior!

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