The Fire Born series – why the greatest warriors are forged in the flames

Someone asked me the other day why my new-ish Viking series is called “Fire Born”. They obviously hadn’t read any of the books because, if they had, the answer would be clear. But I thought I should just take this opportunity – as publication of the third book in the series The Loki Sword looms (August 11) – to explain to the curious why my particular concept of 8th-century berserker warriors are Fire Born.

The idea behind the series is that the elite warriors of this brutal Dark Age society are berserkers, people who can summon the spirit of a wild animal into their hearts, which gives them the strength and ferocity in battle or bears, wolves or wild boars. This means that there is a religious element to the ethos of these rare warriors (a little bit like the Knights Templar) not just brute strength and/or superior battle-skills.

Ulfhethnar – wolf-berserkers – may have acted as an army’s scouts or light infantry

Being selected as a berserker – which happens in my novels at a spiritual training school in north Saxony, the site of the holy World Tree of the pagan north, the Irminsul – is a great honour. And candidates for that honour must undergo various gruelling tests and ordeals in order to qualify. One of those is running through a burning ship, naked, and surviving. After this ordeal – the last of several – the candidate is said to have been reborn as a berserker and is henceforth known as one of the Fire Born. This happens to my hero Bjarki Bloodhand in the first novel of the Fire Born series The Last Berserker (see below).

But becoming Fire Born is not just about enduring hardship and surviving ordeals, the animal spirit – the gandr – has to choose the candidate, appearing in dreams, and communicating silently with the warrior. Many candidates do not manage to become Fire Born. And, furthermore, some Fire Born do not enjoy the process of “possession” by the gandr. It can transform them in to blood-crazed, indiscriminate killers.

In The Loki Sword, Bjarki is trying to rid himself of his gandr, a difficult and perhaps impossible process that involves even more pain and hardship than acquiring one in the first place. Will he succeed? You will have to find out by reading the book – which will be out on August 11, 2022. You can pre-order it here.

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