In Viking Age Iceland, where boys are expected to grow into strong farmers and skilled warriors, there is little place for a sickly twelve-year-old boy like Kol until he catches the eye of a seið-woman—a sorceress—and becomes her apprentice. Kol travels to the sorceress’s home, where her grandson, Thorbrand, takes Kol under his wing. Before long Kol discovers something else about himself that is different—something else that sets him apart as unmanly: Kol has fallen in love with another boy.
But the world is changing in ways that threaten those who practice the ancient arts. As Kol’s new life takes him across the Norse lands, he finds that a new religion is sweeping through them, and King Olaf Tryggvason is hunting down and executing sorcerers. When a decades-old feud forces Thorbrand to choose between Kol and his duty to his kinsman, Kol finds himself cast adrift with only the cryptic messages of an ancient goddess to guide him to his destiny—and possibly to his death.
HERDIS was sitting in front of the tent, spinning wool into a coarse gray yarn as she soaked in the sunlight. But when she saw Thorbrand approaching with Kol limp in his arms, she jumped up in a panic.
“Kol! What’s happened?”
Ottar scoffed. “He just fainted again. They’re making a big deal out of nothing.”
The old sei’kona gave him a withering look, and he fell silent.
Herdis gave the old woman a nervous glance but addressed Thorbrand. “Bring him inside, please.”
Once Kol was settled on the sheepskin bed he shared with Ottar, the old woman sent Thorbrand off to fetch Harek. She also ordered Ottar to bring Bjarne, and no one questioned that she should be obeyed.
“Is anything done for the boy when he’s in this condition?” the sei’kona asked Kol’s mother.”
Herdis was flustered, both by her son’s illness and the woman’s presence. “Bjarne doesn’t allow us to coddle him.”
This earned her a snort of derision, so she quickly added, “I sometimes give him some hot broth, or boiled mint or meadowsweet.”
“Do so, then,” the woman said curtly. “I’m no healer.”
While Herdis hurried back outside to boil some water over the campfire, the sei’kona sat down beside Kol. He was feeling a little better now, so he was able to sit up.
“What’s your name, boy?”
“I am called Alfdis. And I’d like to ask you some questions.”
Kol nodded, hardly daring to say no.
“Tell me about what happened to you down by the shore.”
James Erich has had a passion for young adult fiction since he himself was a teenager. His first published story was in his middle school literary magazine and it still occupies a place of honor on his bookshelves. In his high school and college years, he was saddened to see how few positive stories with gay protagonists there were, but is delighted to see that changing. James recently joined the ranks of YA novelists, and his first YA novel received two honorable mentions from the Rainbow Awards—for Best LGBT young adult/coming of age and Best gay debut novel/book. He is openly gay and lives with his husband in the small town of Raymond, New Hampshire.