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Young Dane the Defiant is sent on a mission to save his village from the terrors of Thidrek, the self-proclaimed prince. Wind, wisdom and thunder are on the warrior's wish list as decreed by the soothsayer Lut the Bent, who sees the future by tossing rune stones on a dirt floor and reading the proclamations.

Dane and Lut garner a Viking longboat and are joined by a host of rowdy, randy and raucous teenage Vikings bent on saving their families and bringing back the fairest maiden of their land, Astrid, who is every bit as tough as the boys due in part to her affinity for playing with axes and sharp knives. No one can sling an ax as true as Astrid, Mistress of the Blade, who has been kidnapped by Prince Thidrek and the Berserkers. The evil monarch intends to make her his princess. Dane has other plans for Astrid and his own kingdom, but first he must return her to the village and take his place as leader of the Norseman clan.

Several obstacles conspire to make Dane's quest a tricky affair, as fire, pillaging, murder, frost giants, blind trolls and a prince with a twisted passion for watching people die get between him, his girl and his destiny. Norse folk believe strongly in the messages foretold by the casting of rune stones, and Dane has no choice but to obey the rocks with the runic alphabet letters carved into them. He must bring Astrid home and restore peace to the village…at least for a while.

The pros and cons of RUNEWARRIORS are good examples of the challenges every writer faces when producing a work of fiction. A first novel is daunting enough, but the added difficulties of two writers versus one, an obscure time period and a hard-to-visualize setting create a host of problems that need to be overcome in the writing. James Jennewein and Tom S. Parker are comedy script writers who have already shared projects for several years. When two authors undertake a novel together, they normally divide the work by point of view, so characterization remains reliable throughout. These authors were so confident in their past work habits that they divided the chapters between them, and a few things suffered as a result. Two different writers taking on the same character's point of view is problematic because, no matter how familiar, authors have different ways of seeing the same character.

The most consistent component of the book is the high-caliber vocabulary. Marked as a title aimed at the pre-teen market (ages 8-12), the liberal use of upper level words throughout the story will send the most discerning eight-year-old to the dictionary on several occasions. Besides the daring Dane, Jennewein and Parker seek adventure and take a risk as they tell the story using words sure to stretch almost every reader's linguistic knowledge. RUNEWARRIORS is an enterprising endeavor as the scope and premise are beyond the typical boundaries found in pre-teen literature. While this is admirable, it's very noticeable that the Hollywood script writers wrote a book with so much dialogue in it that when the time comes, writing the screenplay will be a piece of cake.

Readers on the youngest edge of the audience will be unmoved by the romantic teen notions, which don't occupy a large part of the book, but will probably be amused by the multiple episodes of flatulence. Eight-year-olds are built to laugh on those kinds of jokes. I'm not sure everyone else is.

Reviewed by Joy Held on December 29, 2009

by Jim Jennewein and Tom S. Parker

  • Publication Date: December 29, 2009
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • ISBN-10: 0061449385
  • ISBN-13: 9780061449383