Einar thought that his first raiding mission would help make him a man. But the day he expected to show his strength and his courage, ended up ruining his life. He witnessed one brother, killing another. And he would have been killed as well, if it weren't for the actions of a brave young Saxton girl. Wilda was only 11 years old, but Einar spared her life in the raid... so she returned the favor, when she saw his brother Bausi attack him.
Even though Einar lived, his murderous older brother put a curse on him. Should he ever tell the village about Bausi's treachery, their two youngest siblings will be killed. And just to be sure no one ever put stock in his accusations, Bausi spread the word that Einar was a weakling and coward in battle. So now he is scorned by his people. He never speaks a word, in fear that he'll spill his secrets and activate the curse. For years he lives a lonely, miserable life. Until he crosses paths with Wilda again.
Now a grown woman, Wilda has been taken as a slave for Einar's youngest brother Sigdir. And when she sees Einar, she recognizes him instantly. She remembers the young man who fought so valiantly, not the coward his people see. Despite a massive language barrier, feelings develop between the two of them. Einar is torn between a yearning for a life with Wilda and the oath he swore to protect his younger siblings against Bausi... and he can't even tell Wilda about his struggle.
I liked the love story between Wilda and Einar. I found it especially poignant, since it happened without words. Both characters were so broken, which made the refuge they found in each other all the more sweet. But it's difficult watching the way Einar is treated. He is so beaten-down, his self-worth is almost completely eradicated. I wish we would have had more time to see him redeemed, both in his own eyes and the eyes of his people. It's a little too miserable at times and I would have liked a few more moments of happiness... maybe more than one interlude between the hero and heroine.
I could have done with a little less prayer and religious reflection from Wilda. And a few details were a little hazy surrounding the curse, especially in how it altered Sigdir. But the book was different from a lot of the standard historical fare and I liked that. It wasn't quite a full length novel... about 150 pages... but it felt longer. 3 1/2 stars. *ARC Provided by NetGalley