Our epic tale begins in the year 933. Two kings – Erik Blood-Axe and Haakon the Good, brothers who were separated at birth – are competing to be rightful leader of the great frozen nation of Norway. Throw in Freya, an 11-year-old peasant girl who can speak the language of falcons, Rolf, her nine-year-old giant brother, the invention of skiing, and some Norse mythology, and you have … well, a mildly entertaining novel from Toronto playwright and novelist Sean Dixon.
A mixture of Eragon and The Princess Bride, The Feathered Cloak (the first book in a planned trilogy) has a strange, contemplative narrator. He injects the occasional amusing comment, such as this explanation of the introduction of Christianity to Europe: “Christianity is a new religion from the south, and has spread through Europe like a forest on fire. It started in the Middle Eastern desert, where the sun is very hot, and er… I’m sure you can look it up.” But while the narrator’s comic relief lightens this otherwise dry tale, he often detracts from the story itself, since he is more interesting than the actual characters.
Freya is a headstrong heroine but a little dull when compared with other strong female leads, such as Lyra Belacqua in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. The Feathered Cloak is well suited to young readers who enjoyed Welwyn Wilton Katz’s Out of the Dark, but isn’t likely to appeal to teens. Dixon will need to develop some complexity in his trilogy if he wants to maintain the interest of his readers.