Sunday, July 4, 2010


Carla Nayland's Paths of Exile is special. Her novel has attracted high praise from none other than popular historical fiction authors Elizabeth Chadwick and Michelle Moran, and we're delighted to feature this extract to show you just how right Chadwick and Moran are.

The speaker is Eadwine, the central character in Paths of Exile. He is trying to comfort his young nephew, Hereric, whose beloved father has just been killed in battle, by describing the glorious afterlife awaiting a fallen warrior. At the end is a pathetically easy question (go on, leave a comment) but we just wanted you to read Carla's rich prose!

"Now the door swings wide. The flames flicker and out of the swirling smoke strides your father. His mail coat glitters. The grey blade of the spear in his hand glints. The red eyes of the boar upon his helmet glow as if alive, defying anyone to harm the man under its protection. On his shield the fire-drakes writhe, blue and red and green. The hilt of his sword, gold and jewelled, flashes in the firelight so that it hurts the eye to look upon it. At his shoulder the brooch on his cloak sparkles. Beside him the slave girl, though a strapping lass, can barely stagger under the weight of gold and silver plate in her arms.

"The skald ceases in his song. All along the mead-benches the warriors stop their talk, fall silent and turn to gaze. Woden's handmaids pause in their serving and stare, nudge one another and whisper. There are great names among the drinkers in that hall, men who were kings here on earth, yet none came there more richly provisioned, nor more noble in his bearing. All eyes follow him as he strides through the hall. Who is he, this tall and handsome man, bearing gifts of such splendour? Surely a king, king of the greatest kingdom on earth.

"He approaches the top table where the gods sit at meat, the three sons of Tiw Allfather who rule the world of the gods. Woden in the centre, an awesome figure more than man-high, his face shrouded, his one eye burning like a coal. Lord Frey on the left, the foster-son, his golden hair bright as the sun. Thunor on the right, his shoulders three times broader than a big man, his red beard flowing over his mighty chest. On the table before him lies his hammer, that forged the earth and has shattered many a giant's skull, and in his hand he holds the whetstone that makes the lightning flash in the skies. You and I, Hereric, would fall in fear before them, but your father has passed the dread gates of death and they hold no terror for him. He stands before Woden as a thane before his king, respectful, admiring, but not servile, a free man among his equals. At his gesture, the slave girl spreads her burden on the table before the gods. They are pleased with the gifts, for though they have many rare and beautiful things, they have nothing finer.

"Woden rises, cloaked in shadow. He is tall, taller than the tallest man, and his head brushes the rafters of that lofty hall. His voice is like the roar of flame in a forest, like the thunder of waves upon a shore. Woden speaks."

Is the setting:
(a) early Anglo-Saxon England
(b) Carolingian France
(c) Iron Age Gaul

Click 'comment' and tell us what you think...


Nan Hawthorne, Shield-wall Books said...
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Anonymous said...

Think I need to read both of Carla's books asap, judging from this.

Nan Hawthorne said...

Well, duh, only the best damned period in all of history.. Anglo Saxon England! This is one heck of a book.. and the author was wonderfully patient and helpful when I was writing my own.

Nan Hawthorne
Author, An Involuntary King: A Tale of Anglo Saxon Ebngland

lordteaspoon said...

Please God, give me more time to read books like this. Talk about whetting the appetite!

Nan Hawthorne, Shield-wall Books said...

About having time to read... you just gotta do it. I have been a rabid, not even just avid... reader since i was 5. Then in my twenties I learned I was losing my eyesight. I still read, but it is a very limited world of books for the clind out there. I always say, "Never tell a blind person you have no time to read." Not being snarky.. just a word to the wise.

Nan Hawthorne

Michael Badger-Ward said...

I think it is Iron Age Gaul.