Author: Marissa Campbell
Genre: historical fiction
Published: September 8 2015
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
Marissa Campbell's debut novel is a winning combination of romance, history, and adventure sure to appeal to fans of Diana Gabaldon.
It is 869. For eighteen years, Avelynn, the beautiful and secretly pagan daughter of the Eadlorman of Somerset has lived in an environment of love and acceptance. She hasn't yet found a man to make her heart race, but her father has not pressured her to get married. Until now. With whispers of war threatening their land, her father forces Avelynn into a betrothal with Demas, a man who only covets her wealth and status. The dreaded marriage looming, she turns to her faith, searching for answers in an ancient ritual along the coast, only to find Alrik the Blood-Axe and sixty Viking berserkers have landed.
Alrik is unlike any man she has ever known, strong and intriguing. Likewise, he instantly falls for her beauty and courage. The two stumble into a passionate love affair, but it's more than just a greedy suitor who will try to keep them apart.
As the Saxons and Vikings go to war, Avelynn and Alrik find themselves caught in the throes of fate. Can they be true to their people as well as to each other?
Marissa Campbell ventures into a turbulent time and place for her debut historical novel Avelynn. I love finding historical fiction stories that aren't set in the more popular eras of the genre, or based on the most infamous figures known from then. Focusing on 869 in England and a Lord's daughter from Wedmore definitely qualifies; this wasn't a rehash of stories I've already read. Campbell has an eye for detail and description; her characters are lively if not wholly three-dimensional. There's a lot to offer in Avelynn, and it's very readable.
I was engaged in this story early on in the 350-page length. Campbell's writing style is smooth and natural but the plotting and pacing are less polished. I had issues with the time jumps as the story progressed -- one chapter could cover just a few days, but then a new paragraph/chapter begins and it's weeks or months later? It was disconcerting and led to more than a bit of confusion and distance from the story being told.
Possibly as a result of the timing and pacing issues in Avelynn, I also had issues with how fast Alrik and Avelynn go from possible enemies to head over heels in love with one another. It happens much too quickly. I couldn't buy the rapid relationship as authentic for either character; it didn't make sense. Star-crossed love is a great trope if it is done well, but Campbell failed to take the time to develop their interactions into a believable plot point.
I liked Avelynn as a character, however. She was strong and independent without being an anachronism. She was intelligent and fair, but her narration could also falter, or venture into telling instead of showing. Alrik was given less to work with, since he isn't a POV character and features into the story less than Avelynn. There was certainly chemistry but I found the relationship to be a misstep.
Avelynn has a lot to offer Outlander fans, I think. The feel of the two stories is a lot alike (save the time travel) and the romance really is the focus of much of the story once it is introduced. If those two aspects draw you to a book, then this is a good fit for a next read.