Dagmar of the Northlands by John C. Adams
ISBN13 9780463155431, ebook, £3.20
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
When her half-brother, Njal, kills her stepfather, Konung Thorlack, Dagmar is disgusted when the they make Njal their new ruler. But she must overcome her frustrations and leave her home and loved ones support Njal in the raids he orders to deflect from the manner of his rise to power.
Dagmar falls into the category of epic fantasy. There are multiple points of view throughout which can be difficult to keep track of if this isn’t your normal read. Lots of them are introduced at the beginning quite quickly with plenty of back history and I found that a little confusing. I’d just gotten my head around one person before I was whisked away to a new character, however I was rewarded for sticking with it because it is beautifully written.
Dagmar is a sequel, Aspatria, which I have to confess, I haven’t read, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying Dagmar or understanding the politics involved and that is key because the politics of Aspartria and the kings and clans involved drive the narrative forward as much as the characters’ reactions to it.
The world-building is strong. It’s easy to get lost in the world of Aspartria because it is so vividly imagined and the characters are well-rounded and believable. Although Dagmar isn’t necessarily the main character, she is instrumental to the plot, so I can understand why she gets top billing. The story also focuses on the heart-breakingly sad story of a three-way royal marriage which is failing because of the death of a child. Duty forces the character Gortah and Queen Dextra of Aspartria together even though just thinking about the other hurts. The presence of Ludwig, Dextra’s younger husband, is uncomfortable as his priority is on his own power rather the feelings of the other characters.
I found this to be an example of self-publishing done right. My reading was never pulled up by typos or overly complicated sentences which helped me while I was working through the different characters and the political, and romantic, twists and turns. It is a complex story with multiple characters and the sprawling landscape of a world torn apart by heavy family history, difficult sacrifices, and naked ambition. Recommended for any fans of epic fantasy.