Attitude: Unobjectionable → Fairly Positive
In Brief: Uninspired spooky story redeemed somewhat by the friendship between two different youngsters.
Published in: 2001
Age Range: Young Teens
Timid 14-year-old Finn is recently orphaned and is staying with the elderly Meg & Bill. He meets forthright Tara whose family owns the big house in the area and together they explore the area, coming across a Viking skull which Finn takes home. From that point his house is besieged by rats and the ghost of the skull's owner, Baldur, explains that these rats are sent by his old enemy Lua, who was his rival for the love of Aine. To free Baldur, they must send his skull and the bones of his hand across the lake on a burning pyre.
As a story of a confused youngster whose mother has just died and who forms a tentative friendship with the confident daughter of the local landowner, this story has a certain quality. As a spooky story of a dead Viking's curse, it's frankly boring. The ghost speaks in modern English with a mild touch of godwottery, altho' the author attempts to explain this away in the children's words, and after a while you don't really care whether they manage to get the skull or the bones or not.
“...The most frightening sound was the screaming. I can hear them still, the screams of battle - anger mixed with the screams of pain. Try to imagine the face of someone running towards you wielding an axe with a hatred born of battle. And you know either you or he will die, so you become twisted with hatred too. You scream and he screams...”
Tuesday 1st January 2002