Known as the Barbarian, Magnar MacAlpin is a fierce ruler for those under his command. As leader of the Wolves of Clan Sutherland, his loyalty and obedience lie with Scotland. However, the king’s last demand is not something Magnar will tolerate.
After Elspeth Gunn’s brother the Chieftain of Castle Steinn is murdered, she flees with her nephew, and finds safety amongst a band of men who are rumored to be part wolf. When the king forces her to wed a heathen Northman, she fears losing her heart and soul not only to the man, but the beast as well.
In order to restore peace to a shattered clan, Magnar and Elspeth travel a treacherous path that challenges their beliefs. When evil seeks to destroy ancient traditions, will Magnar be compelled to restrain his wolf or allow him free to protect those he loves?
This is Mary Morgan’s third series. I was fortunate enough to acquire an ARC (advanced reader’s copy). I expected a delightful read, since I fell in love with her Fenian Warriors and Dragon Knights Series. I wasn’t disappointed and know if you loved her two previous series, you’ll keep reading Morgan!
The prologue and first chapter set the story. With my eagerness to get at the heart of the story, I didn’t take the time to appreciate the details of the setting, nor Magnar’s inner-conflict. Dear reader, don’t make the same mistake I did. (I reread that portion)
It’s obvious how much thought and research went into creating this world. World-building is Morgan’s forte, along with her imagination, making it all believable.
Norse and Picts mythology play an important role in The Wolves of Sutherland series, as does magic. Who doesn’t love magic? I did a little Googling of the gods mentioned in dialogue. It’s fascinating. If you are anything like me, I love to learn something from a story, aside from the entertainment factor.
In the first few pages, we learn about Odin, a god with many talents, including skill with divination through runes and magic. Magnar calls upon Forsetti, the God of Justice, pleading to know what he should do, Rorik utters the name of god Loki. Then there is Dagda referred to by a young Erik.
A powerful Seer, Ragna, lives at Magnar’s old home, Kirkjuvagr (pronounced ‘kirk-u-vaar), in the Orkney Islands. She calls him home to tell him his mother died and gives him two letters his mother wrote before she died. These letters change the direction of his life.
The fun twist to this story is Magnar and six others, guards to King William of Scotland, are both man and wolf. The plot thickens when Magnar finds out his twin brother may be alive and endowed with the same magic, making him man and wolf.
Elspeth and her nephew escape by foot from Castle Steinn during a battle to take over the castle. Her brother, the chieftain, is killed. Elspeth escapes to the forest. Her only thought is to protect her seven-year-old nephew, Erik Gunn. With no horse, no food or shelter, they both are very vulnerable, making them easy pickings.
Elspeth is loyal, spunky and open-minded. She accepts, albeit slowly, the idea of beings, both man and wolf, and the magic that created such. Can she live with the ideas of magic and gods and still be a believer of her religion?
She gets to find out when the King commands her to marry Magnar. Their rocky start adds spice, even though both are drawn to the other yet daring not to admit it. It’s a delicious romance that seasons the story, allowing the reader to get to know both these characters.
Book 1 additionally introduces all the guardians, but most time is spent with Rorik (wolf), friend to Magnar. Rorik doesn’t like Ragnar (obviously that’s another story). Gunnar is intriguing because magic from the old religion touches him, while his faith is in the new. Young Erik Gunn is a delightful character and thinks beyond his years. I see him straddling both religions and accepting them. (my opinion—could be way off, but I’ll find out!)
Morgan’s pen is powered with magic of days gone by! I hope you join me in reading this series and if you haven’t read her others, please do!