Avelynn by Marissa Campbell
Pub. Date: September 8, 2015
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, St. Martin’s Griffin!)
Summary: It is 869. For eighteen years, Avelynn, the beautiful and secretly pagan daughter of the Eadlorman of Somerset has lived in an environment of love and acceptance. She hasn’t yet found a man to make her heart race, but her father has not pressured her to get married. Until now. With whispers of war threatening their land, her father forces Avelynn into a betrothal with Demas, a man who only covets her wealth and status. The dreaded marriage looming, she turns to her faith, searching for answers in an ancient ritual along the coast, only to find Alrik the Blood-Axe and sixty Viking berserkers have landed.
Alrik is unlike any man she has ever known, strong and intriguing. Likewise, he instantly falls for her beauty and courage. The two stumble into a passionate love affair, but it’s more than just a greedy suitor who will try to keep them apart. As the Saxons and Vikings go to war, Avelynn and Alrik find themselves caught in the throes of fate. Can they be true to their people as well as to each other?
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Romance
When I first received this book I mentioned that, while I’m not familiar with historical romance, summer seems like the perfect time to get lost in a love story – and now that I’ve read Avelynn I still stand by my first impression. This was a ‘perfect-place-at-the-perfect-time’ kind of read for me: with temperatures in the 90s and a nice long weekend ahead of me (and a birthday!) I wasn’t in the mood for a heavy story. Enter Avelynn.
It’s the 860s, a time of fierce religious upheaval. As the daughter of a powerful Saxon earl, Avelynn is expected to be a devout Christian…though she secretly practices the ancient pagan rituals, just as her mother did before her. With rumors spreading of a Viking invasion and the unexpected announcement of a betrothal (her father has always been extremely lenient, allowing the years to pass without marriage, allowing Avelynn to have her say when it came to suitors) Avelynn’s world is suddenly rocked to its core. A series of highly symbolic dreams sends her searching for answers. Answers that come in the form of a ship with blood-red sails and a dangerous Viking.
Caught off guard by the band of warriors, Avelynn is convinced she’ll be taken prisoner – or worse. What she doesn’t expect is to instantly fall for Alrik, and their seemingly fated meeting begins a passionate (and highly secret) romance. With the Saxons and Vikings on the brink of war (and Avelynn’s forced marriage looming overhead) could the two ever hope to find a way to be together?
I liked this one. A lot. While I can see it being hit-or-miss with other readers (this book has lots of big, strong men making all the decisions deemed too hard for Avelynn’s pretty little mind to grasp) I was completely, thoroughly, 100% along for the ride. Like I said, I wanted something I could get lost in and lost in I got! I have a feeling this review will be little more than me rambling about how much I enjoyed it, as opposed to an in-depth look at the story. Sorry!
That Avelynn is a debut is astounding! Marissa Campbell paints such a richly detailed picture that I had assumed she’s been writing for years. She clearly did her research and it shows. From the time period and tensions between the Saxons and Vikings to the religions depicted, I was instantly enchanted and if this is her first novel I cannot wait to see where she goes from here!
Perhaps this is a horribly ignorant thing for me to say seeing as how I don’t really read the genre, but I always imagined historical romance (particularly those fabulous bodice rippers) to skimp a little on the character growth, opting instead to focus solely on the swoony romance. I expected Avelynn to follow suit and I couldn’t be happier to admit just how wrong I was! Avelynn started out as a girl whose only care was whether or not she would fall in love. By the end of the novel she’s taken command of her father’s estate while he’s at war, has delivered justice in spades, carves her own identity and solidifies her faith, and goes to battle. Yep. She dons a sword and shield and leads her men to the field. I was NOT expecting that one, so thank you, Marissa Campbell for making a total fool out of me for my silly ideas and putting me in my place!
I had one minor issue with Avelynn and that was the cover. Multiple times throughout the novel it’s stated how long her hair is. A woman isn’t to cut her hair until her wedding and Avelynn’s is down to her knees. The cover features a girl with long hair, yes, but certainly not long enough. That said, she does cut her hair (or, rather, it’s cut for her by the slimy Demas) so perhaps the cover reflects that? A super tiny issue I know, but one I felt I should point out all the same. Covers are important, people!
With comparisons to Outlander, I was immediately intrigued but would have never imagined I’d end up so lost in Avelynn‘s pages. Marissa Campbell has crafted a beautifully researched world full of intrigue and power and I was SO there. While the romance was a bit too quick, I nonetheless stood in their corner cheering them on (and I should point out that the romance is extremely detailed! Definitely for older readers!) I’m absolutely impressed with Campbell’s debut and am thrilled to see what she tackles next – a sequel, perhaps??