Desperate to make a settled life for her people in a brutal, inscrutable land, the Viking seer, Bera, feels the earth convulse during the hard birthing of her daughter.
The red sun is hidden and a curtain of fire spans the whole horizon and up beyond sight, making the dark weave of time crackle with terrible knowledge.
Somehow this upheaval links from the black bead of her necklace to the precious black stone, Obsidian. Bera has to connect with the land, to read and understand its ancient patterns of death and rebirth, to find out how she can stop the approaching disaster. Her quest takes her to a community in the Far North, where the black stone is guarded. The folk there worship the serpent. What power does the Serpent King have and what would he do to take the stone? There are others from her past who also want it. As her visions start to come true, Bera has to steal Obsidian and then use it. But at what cost? Obsidian gives a stark reflection of her true nature – and reveals what the worst sacrifice of all will be.
Steeped in the life and beliefs of the Norse peoples, able to evoke the power of the sea and the land, Suzie Wilde’s new novel is a gripping, standalone adventure. Rich in atmosphere and character, Bera’s story allows us to understand old myths in a way that has resonance in the modern world, through the action of one strong Viking woman.
Praised by readers, critics and writers alike (bestselling author Lee Child said of The Book of Bera: Sea Paths, “Wonderfully imagined and wonderfully written.”) Suzie Wilde’s novels are perfect for fans of Giles Kristian or Conn Iggulden and all those who have enjoyed the acclaimed TV series Vikings.
Hands are close to her face; the rust of blood. There is no pain like this. The known world convulses and a dark tunnel presses her in an agony of spasms. She is suffocating. The earth tilts; shifts. There is only a woman’s face to keep her here and not passing through the gateway to Hel. She can already smell it, close. Brymstone and blood. The woman’s hands. Not safe, at all.
‘Breathe,’ says the woman.
‘Yes, you can. Come on. For me.’
That voice. That’s something to hold on to. But who? No time to remember. There is something dark here, something wrong. Life blurs as the ground rocks. This, new, bad pain makes her pant, turns her inside out. Lights flash; a sequence of sparks that mark the places where the earth’s crust is tearing apart, that feel like the start of a megrim.
Her death throes ripple out over the land, under the sea and sky, making ruin the ... ruin the ...
A scream tears her head wide.
Bones crack. Her hips yawn wide as the Skraken’s jaw. The echoes are making the mountains ring, quickening in her body that is the earth. Far beneath her, fire rages, cracking the ice cap on the tallest and blowing a cloud of ash up, up towards the pitiless stars. Now liquid fire swarms downwards, coiling like a serpent; white-hot metal. A terrible beauty …
‘Like a blacksmith pouring …’
‘Shush, sweetheart, here’s the head! Gently now.’
Bera pushes out in a long, gaping wail. She is all mouth, like Hel herself. Lightning flickers, light, dark; death, life. Liquid fire, travelling fast. Past or future? Bad now but -
‘Worse is to come.’ Poison. Blackness. ‘I must protect them.’
Gently does it. Her skern is swaddling her tight as a shroud. His lips are fire.
The earth thrashes, whipping the floor like a serpent’s tail. It sends the woman - is it Sigrid? - staggering, swearing. That’s real enough. Then a flaming gush, a rush, and the world dissolves in a choking billow of ash, with flying sparks and blazing blocks of red-hot stone, spewing up into the air before raining blackly down. The red sun is hidden and a curtain of fire spans the whole horizon and up beyond sight, making the dark weave of time crackle with terrible knowledge.
This is their future.
‘We will all die.’
Her skern is cleaving to her, dying, as they had been in the womb: twin souls floating in space and time before the agony of birthing. Ash is falling, swirling like squid ink in buttermilk, coating grass and leaves. Everything turning black and sticky, withering, and starving cattle will become dry bones, for the wind to whistle into oblivion.
‘Are we dead already?’
No, dear one. Look!
In the corner of her eye she can see a baby’s skern, beyond her own.
Sleep now. Your baby is here, safe and sound.
Yesterday, at one of my favourite places. January can be a cruel month: even though the days are lengthening, the mornings seem darker than ever. The sun made everyone smile and this is where I come when I want to think about plot structure. The dogs are happy and the calmness of blonde grass and sand beneath a deep blue sky seems to produce clarity of thought. A problem that seemed intractable…
I used to be ashamed of reading escapist literature or watching films that weren't 'relevant to our present crisis' (whichever the latest was). I used to criticise my mother for refusing to wallow in the misery of current affairs just before bedtime. She said it was better in the War when newspapers kept morale high. Now I'm turning into her and that's a good thing. I think we need heroes. I'm queasy…
Photo by John-Mark Kuznietsov on Unsplash
The Pagan celebration of Winter Solstice - or Yule - is probably as old as mankind. Bad weather could mean death, especially in winter, which is why I gave Bera the gift of predicting it. When the sun seemed to vanish, in Winternights, the Norsemen lit bonfires, told stories and drank ale to forget their fear. They pictured the sun as a wheel that changed…
I've been away in Winchester for the weekend for the annual Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (British Isles) Conference. If you think we look Seriously Funny, it's because that was the theme this year. Here's the photo taken of all authors published this year. I manage to squeak in because my debut novel, The Book of Bera, is for readers YA upwards. (Typically, I'm the one…
Researching The Book of Bera, I stayed at the wonderful Hotel Ranga on the South coast, purely by chance. It turned out to be exactly opposite a place where I 'sensed' Bera to have made her first settlement, which begins Obsidian. This is a video I made at the time. Although I hope you find it as hilarious as I do, it shows how images impress themselves even in lighthearted moments.
These people are helping to fund The Book of Bera: Obsidian.