Catla and the Vikings

Catla and the Vikings - Mary Elizabeth Nelson Taking place in 1066, this slim mid-grade novel involves a young girl needing to save her village after it is invaded by Vikings. Catla happens to be in the hills above her village when the ships sail in and she sets off on foot to the next village over (where she had never been) to seek help, not knowing whether they will be willing to provide it, but knowing it's her peoples only chance. A sub-plot of the novel involves Catla finding her place among her people and deciding whether to accept the marriage proposal of Olav, a peddler known to the village, as her father wishes her too. While a young girl being promised to an older man is historically accurate, I did find the author overdid the unattractiveness of Olav. He is not only older, but ugly, peevish, and demanding -- he even smells bad. I would have been more impressed if he had been a mix of good and bad in him, rather than leaving the wish to please her father as Catla's only reason to consider accepting. Even a few hints that Catla's vision of Olav is not strictly accurate would improve the sub-plot immensely.Nelson exhibits an awareness of language that indicates such a change would not be outside of her skills. Nelson carefully tailors her language around how the women and young girls would be treated by the invaders, indicating to older readers what the reality would be while remaining subtle enough that younger readers would not pick up on the issue. While I was pleased to see that Nelson pays attention to language, avoiding obviously modern words, some of the language in the novel becomes awkward in an attempt to sound archaic. For example, the phrase "short shadow meal" instead of the simpler "mid-day". While she has produced an enjoyable story, the author employs her skills intermittently, leaving me with the dissatisfying knowledge that this book could have easily been even better.