The Bewitched Viking
by Sandra Hill, historical (1999)
Lovespell, $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52311-6
Brave Viking Tykir Thorksson is summoned by his liege to find the witch that has put a curse on the latter's manly parts. While on a rape and plunder spree a while back, the liege was stopped by the witch from raping nuns when she waved what he believed to be the veil of Virgin Mary and cursed the man's private parts to malfunction. Now King Anlaf's thingie has taken a wrong right-turn, and it is up to Tykir to find the witch and cure him.
Actually, Lady Alinor is not a witch but a tradeswoman. The veil is actually one of her few quite normal veils that fell off in the struggle with the rapist oaf. Yet thrice-widowed Alinor is looking for a place to lay low. Her brothers is planning to marry her off to a fat and unpleasant man and she has enough of marriage. When Tykir and his men come for her, she isn't too reluctant to be dragged away from her current hiding place.
Soon they find themselves surrounded by a cast of totally hilarious characters. There's a bard with the most awful way with words, a lovesick wolf-dog, a herd of bleating sheep... and weird things keep happening that convince everyone, despite Alinor's protests to the contrary, that she's the witch alright.
For a comedy, The Bewitched Viking more than delivers, it surpasses all my expectations. It's very funny, and I laughed myself silly reading this book. Yet it isn't a keeper for two reasons. One, characterization could be better. Amidst chuckles, I can't help noticing that Alinor is a typical Sandra Hill heroine - shrill, whiny, and would have to have her mouth tarred to stop her from saying the wrong things at the wrong time. Despite being handsome, Tykir has little to recommend him as a romantic hero - he's oblivious, thick-headed, and lacks the charisma of a memorable hero.
Two, the book makes light of several elements that I find blood-chillingly creepy. Alinor is surrounded by men who can easily turn into murderers, rapists, and violent abusers - and Tykir easily throws her to their mercy. I can't find King Anlaf funny - he's a violent berserker, how on earth am I supposed to laugh at him after reading his attempted rapine of nuns, I don't know. If I'm Alinor, I'd be running out of there at first light in Flo-Jo record-breaking speed.
But hey, who reads Sandra Hill for anything but the funnies, right? I'd just sit back and enjoy the ride.
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