Third in series is excellent stand-alone
By Mark Lardas
Published June 17, 2007
“A Mankind Witch,” by David Freer, Baen Books, $7.99 paperback, 499 pages.
Cair Aidin is a corsair king whose ship sank out from under him. Fortunately, a passing ship rescued him. Unfortunately it was a Norse raider on a slave-hunting trip. His rescuers view him as a point of profit.
Cair could ransom himself. His North African kingdom would pay handsomely for his safe return. But he is now in Norway. Between Cair and home is the Holy Roman Empire. The Empire has a price on Cair’s head. It can outbid Cair’s kingdom.
Cair instead decides it is safer to become a thrall in the kingdom of Telemark, in Norway. Given time, he could escape.
Cair does not believe in witches or magic. Cair is willing to let his fellow slaves believe he is a man-witch. They are superstitious barbarians in his eyes. They believe in trolls and grendels, after all. But if they think Cair is a witch, they will leave him alone. Cair encourages the belief with some basic psychology and conjuror’s tricks.
Such is the situation at the opening of “A Mankind Witch.” Set in an altered 16th-century Europe, it starts out as if it is going to be a standard variant on “A Connecticut Yankee.”
Author David Freer is playing a joke on Cair and, to an extent, on his readers. As the story unfolds, you learn that, in this world, magic, trolls and grendels do exist.
The powers of darkness are working with King Vortenbras of Telemark. Vortenbras seeks a return to the Viking good old days of plunder and pillage. The dark powers wish to undermine the Empire, bastion of Christianity.
Pawns in the game include Cair, Vortenbras‚ stepsister Signy and the emperor’s nephew, Manfred Prince of Brittany.
A pagan relic has been stolen from Telemark, and Manfred is sent to help find it. Vortenbras wants it to remain lost and uses his sister as a scapegoat in the theft. But Cair has fallen in love with Signy and sets out to rescue her. The action that follows is fast-paced, absorbing and enormously entertaining.
“A Mankind Witch” is the third book of the “Heirs of Alexandria” series to appear, but is the second book chronologically in the events of the series. It does not really matter. It is an excellent stand-alone novel.
Freer was co-author in the other two books. He goes solo, this time and does a first-rate job.
Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian and model-maker, lives in League City.
Swiped whole from the Galveston Daily News.
Go buy this book. 🙂