Stormriders: Viking Magic Book 3
by Anna Ciddor
Published by Allen & Unwin
192 pages, 2004
Buy it online
Oddo and Thora's Irish Adventure
Reviewed by Sue Bursztynski
When Anna Ciddor burst on to the trade publishing scene after years in educational publishing, her first book was a history of the toilet. It was typical of this writer's zany style and a sign of things to come.
Many children's writers write historical fiction and some even do historical fantasy. Humorous historical children's fantasy is less common. It says something about Anna Ciddor's success in this area that she receives fan mail and that the first novel in this series, Runestone, was shortlisted in the YABBAs (Young Australian Best Book Awards) for which the children vote themselves.
The premise of the Viking Magic series: Oddo and Thora were exchanged at birth by the midwife, to save Thora's life. Her farmer father had threatened infanticide if his new child was female, while the large cheerful family of spellworkers down the road don't care what gender their new child is. The result is a farmer's son who simply can't do farm work, but who has magical abilities and a spellworker's daughter who can't do magic, but is a wonderful housekeeper, which is just as well, since her lovable spellworker parents and siblings are hopeless at cooking and cleaning. In the course of Oddo and Thora's two previous adventures, Oddo has earned his father's respect by using his magic to help in growing the crops and Thora has become close with Oddo's mother (her own, though she doesn't know it).
In this third adventure, the children join forces to help an Irish boy, captured on the last Viking raid and enslaved by the meanest man in the district, to return home. Oddo is a little jealous of Thora's friendship with Dúngal, but comes along on the trip anyway. The two boys come to respect each other, in an adventure that is exciting, entertaining -- and, yes -- funny. It is Dungal who notices that Oddo looks a lot more like Thora's brothers than she does, and sets the other two wondering. Will they pursue the matter or leave things as they are?
Anna Ciddor's educational writing experience has given her strong research skills. Her small Viking community is believable: their life is well-described without any exposition, compared and contrasted with the life in Dúngal's home, Ireland. Everything, from tanning leather to cooking breakfast, is simply there, part of the background. The reader learns without knowing it.
And these are ordinary people. The children aren't aristocrats or long-lost princes and princesses and they don't save the world or even slay dragons. Oddo can shapechange, but this brings its own problems, as does his ability to control the weather.
Each of the novels has a Viking runic alphabet at the back, with a few words written in runes at the end of every chapter, forming a single message. No doubt there are young readers out there having fun passing runic notes in class.
The series is delightful, the characters likable. Although each novel tells a story that is more or less stand-alone, you really should read the first two before attempting this one. The story begins with the characters remembering things that had happened earlier, but you have to know who they are and why they're living as they are to make sense of it. The ending leaves room for a sequel, but it's not necessary. | June 2004
Sue Bursztynski is a children's and fantasy writer and librarian based in Australia.