New Harbors New Hopes is a novel by Celia Lund and the follow-on to the enjoyable Square Sails and Dragons, which has also been reviewed on IceNews.
New Harbors New Hopes carries on where its predecessor book ends; following Leif Ericsson from his Greenland home on his most famous voyage, west to Vínland; or mainland North America as we might now call it.
The book brings the famous story of Leif’s discovery of the American continent to life in a way history books, and even the Sagas themselves, cannot. Its blending of fiction and non-fiction allows the author to embellish details and give the characters a believable level of depth which helps the reader to appreciate their motives and develop feelings for them that go deeper than simple name recognition.
The book follows three different trips to Vínland, each with very different outcomes and only the first featuring Leif himself.
New Harbors New Hopes is also very much about life back home in Greenland and events happening there. This gives the story a welcome duality, but also means it contains more characters than the reader can reasonably be expected to remember. The book contained so many births, deaths and marriages that I was often left struggling to remember who the people were.
Just how much of the story is fiction and how much fact, I do not know; but if the seemingly-excessive number of funerals and births in the book relate to real historical figures from the time, then it is clearly quite acceptable. If most of them are fictional characters then I would argue it is a bit of overkill (pun clearly intended).
I got the slight impression that keeping hold of all the characters began to strain the author by the end as well and that bringing all their stories to a satisfactory conclusion was difficult. The resultant feeling was unfortunately that the end of the story was rushed and that too many separate events were described in too-little detail. That was sad, because over the course of the two books I had come to care about several of the characters and wanted to know more about their fates.
At this point I would like to point out that I am deliberately being hyper-critical. Despite the book’s perceived weaknesses I still enjoyed it and would recommend both novels to Viking fans and general readers alike. I would also recommend that Celia Lund might like to consider writing a third book…maybe one about the end of the Norse settlement in Greenland? That is a story shrouded in mystery and nobody really knows what happened to the Vikings who had lived in Greenland for some 500 years. A touch of fictional flair could make for a very interesting, if sad, novel.
New Harbors New Hopes, like its predecessor novel, is about people; their emotions, their lives and their relationships. The story takes place in some impressive places and on some incredible journeys; but they play a supporting rôle to the characters themselves. That, more than anything else, is what makes the book so different from the Sagas and what gives it its real value and inspires empathy.
Celia Lund’s New Harbors New Hopes (Trafford Publishing, first released 2011, ISBN 978-1426948008)
Reviewed by Alëx Elliott, IceNews editor
This page picture: front cover of New Harbors New Hopes
Main page photo: Alëx Elliott // IceNews