Hailstone Mountain (The Erling Skjalgsson Saga) by Lars Walker

Hailstone-coverI generally try to read anything by Lars Walker as I find him to be a skilled and interesting writer. This includes his historical fiction (a genre I am not a big fan of).

So when I saw he had released Hailstone Mountain for Kindle I picked it up.  Hailstone Mountain is the second third (see Phil’s comment below) book in this series (The Erling Skjalgsson Saga) that I have read (the first being West Oversea).

In the latest entry in the saga of Erling Skjalgsson, the 11th Century Norwegian chieftain is struck by a deadly curse, and must journey north along with his friends in order to crush it at its source. Meanwhile Freydis, niece of the smith Lemming, is kidnapped by the servants of a mysterious, ancient cannibalistic race who dwell in secret in the mountains of the north. Once again the Irish priest Father Ailill narrates a tale of struggle, faith, endurance, and supernatural peril.

It took me awhile to get into this one (partly because I have been in a reading funk lately and partly because I think it starts a bit slow) but it really picked up speed and turned into an interesting story

There is an interesting hook (the  mythological type beings known as the Children of the Mountain) spurts of both action and suspense as well as some philosophical musings on stories, relationships, faith and more. Lars creates some memorable characters and has a way with words as well. The way he crafts these stories he really places you into the world in which his characters live; IMO he gets the style, mindset and rhythms correct so that the characters and their environment match and seem authentic.

As is often the case with series, this an episodic feeling rather than a tightly wrapped narrative.  You can read this as a stand along but the characters and setting have a lot more depth if you have read the series.  Father Ailill in particular might be a little hard to read without the background from the other books.

If you like historical fiction I highly recommend these books but if, like me, you just enjoy good story telling you can enjoy them as well.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).


  1. This is actually the third book in his series (or the fourth). The first and second are combined into one volume called “The Year of the Warrior.” The first part was released on it’s own under the name “Erling’s Word,” but there’s no point seeking that one out when you can get it more readily in “The Year of the Warrior.” That makes “West Oversea” the second volume, and it has recently been released in ebook.

    It interesting you thought “Hailstone Mtn” was episodic. I thought “West Oversea” was squarely episodic and this one much more cohesive with a kind of building on disaster form. You get the adventure and threat pitched to you up front, then the heroes run into an unrelated problem, then things get really bad before they get back on track with the adventure, but then the problems compound on each other and when they manage to finally get out of it, all hell breaks loose. That’s how I read it.

  2. Thanks for the clarification on the series, Phil. A lot depends on my mood and focus. Perhaps it just felt episodic because I was distracted while reading … :-)

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