Assassin's Creed: Valhalla - Geirmund's Saga - Review & Summary
Written by Sorrosyss, November 10, 2020

Note: Non Spoiler Review, but a full Spoiler Summary and Analysis follows

Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Geirmund's Saga is a brand new novel written by Matthew J Kirby, that directly ties into the events of the video game. Fans will recognise Kirby from his previous works in the franchise, most specifically from The Last Descendants novel series which ran for three titles, plus a spin off comic.

On this occasion Kirby offers us the viking tale of Geirmund Hjörrsson, or Hel-hide as he was more commonly monikered. Born to a mother from Bjarmaland (north Russia), his darker complexion made him stand out from the traditonally paler Norse skin tone of his father and comrades. His journey begins in ninth century Norway, unsurprisngly as this is the same time era as the game itself. As a direct tie-in to the game, we are also treated to cameos including Eivor herself on several occasions. Geirmund finds himself seeking fortunes beyond Norway, as he becomes frustrated with the sedate environment that his family leaves him in, knowing that his elder brother Hámund will
ultimately inherit all of the wealth and glory. Thus he leaves for England to find his own destiny, with his travels encompassing much of that land from Jorvik (York) in the north, all the way down to the southern Dorset coastline.

The high quality of the writing is what you come to expect from Kirby, with very descriptive sequences allowing you to visualise situations and scenes easily, especially on combat scenes which are suitably brutal and visceral as the era would warrant. With plenty of betrayals and twists to the story, it keeps things interesting as we see Geirmund's character develop from a lowly second son, into a man that warriors would gladly follow into battle. Kirby also manages to get a few Isu related scenes into the proceedings which are very welcome.

Overall, it is a strong viking saga put to a short novel form, offering a true “hero's journey” and for anyone looking to further put themselves into that era it suitably hits the mark and feels appropriate. In that regard it comes recommended. If you are looking for lots of Assassin and Templar content though, that is perhaps one area where the book falls slightly short, as neither the Hidden Ones nor the Order of Ancients make much of an impact on the narrative proceedings – save for a brief appearance by Hytham.

Geirmund's Saga is available digitally from November 10th 2020, from all good digital stockists. The paperback is currently scheduled for March 2nd 2021.


Rogaland, south west Norway, 9th Century

Geirmund Hel-hide alongside his brother Hámund, set out on a hunting quest from their home village of Avaldsnes. Three days into their journey, they manage to down a deer by bow and arrow, but find their prize cut off by a pack of wolves. As the wolves attack, the two men
stand back to back, and despite a wound to Geirmund's arm, and to the shoulder and side of his brother, they still manage to slay six of the hungry wolves before the pack retreated. Skinning the wolves, the brothers then made a camp and fire for the night to clean their wounds.

Hámund rapidly falls ill, and Geirmund realised that he would need to cauterize his brother's wound, which he does with his heated axe from the fire. Fashioning a sled from wolf skins and small trees, he places his brother upon the contraption, and drags him into the night knowing that he urgently needs a healer. After several exhausting days pulling the sled and nearing collapse, Geirmund was finally found on the road by both his friends Steinólfur and Skjalgi, and a few other riders of their village. The two men took over the sled from the weakened Geirmund, and it was agreed that another rider, Egil, would take Hámund back home to the hall of King Hjörr atop his horse.

Steinólfur and Skjalgi tend to Geirmund's wound, with the former questioning him as to why he did not simply leave his brother to die. Geirmund is quick to defend his brother's honour, and they eventually set off home. Skjalgi talks of a Dane called Guthrum, whom he says he has heard is gathering men under the banner of the Dane-King Bersi. He believes the intent is to join up with the army of Halfdan Ragnarsson to conquer the Saxon lands. Geirmund expresses that he too would love a ship of his own some day.

Travelling into the night, they eventually reach Avaldsnes. Inside the village, they are met by a seer called Yrsa. She informs that Hámund will live, and that the two brothers have years of successes together in her visions. Steinólfur and Geirmund enter the hall of King Hjörr. After being welcomed by well wishers, Geirmund finds Hámund being tended to in the living quarters, though he lays in a deep fever. His father Hjörr admonishes Geirmund for being reckless with his brother's life, as Hámund will one day be king. Geirmund's mother Ljufvina is delighted to see him though, and embraces him. Hjörr is informed that the jarl Styrbjorn of Stavenger waits to meet with him outside, therefore Geirmund is requested to go and retrieve him from the hall. Having directed Styrbjorn to the private room to meet his father, Geirmund introduces himself to his daughter, a striking looking viking known as Eivor. She reveals that Styrbjorn is not in fact her real father, who was killed by Kjötve - king of the Egðir – 11 years ago. She further explains that she and her father are there due to the rumours of a coming war to be waged by King Harald of Sogn to the north, and King Eirik of the Hordaland. Geirmund then talks a little about himself, and the fact that he has no ship nor does he raid. Eivor tells him that he should therefore consider his future elsewhere, before heading to bed to sleep. Steinólfur and Skjalgi come to the table of Geirmund, to which he tells them both he now desires men to crew a ship.

Months pass. Without a means to obtain a ship, Geirmund sees his only chance lies with his own brother, whom he invites on a fishing trip. With the knowledge that Guthrum would soon visit their father seeking men and ships for the raiding of England, Geirmund tries to convince Hámund that wealth and glory awaits them at sea. When Guthrum ultimately arrives, he speaks of victories in England, and how the King Æthelred there remains the only force to stop them taking the entire land. King Hjörr tells the Dane that the Rogaland my be about to be plunged into civil war, and denies support for the English assault. After Guthrum leaves the hall, Geirmund attempts to call upon his brother's support to convince his father to provide him a ship to help, but Hámund sides with their father in desiring to protect their lands. Geirmund cries betrayal at his family, and states that he will go to England on his own terms instead.

The next morning before dawn, he sets out for his grandfather's burial mound, having agreed to meet with the skald Bragi Boddason the evening before. Steinólfur and Skjalgi join him on the journey. When Geirmund reaches the mound, he comes across Bragi tending a fire, with a tafl board game set up. He invites Geirmund to choose a side and play against him. Though Geirmund starts to lose, Braga passes him a common knife, and warns him that he needs to pay attention to his surroundings in the new lands. Returning to Avaldsnes, Geirmund pays a visit to the house of Ágáða, leaving his horse and savings to the woman he once called a mother. Running back to the village wharf, he meets up with Steinólfur and Skjalgi, Steinólfur giving Geirmund his brother's sword which was secretly gifted out of guilt by Hámund. Together they seek to join Guthrum, as he prepares his ship to depart. The Dane agrees on condition that they are happy to row, to which they agree.

As the vessel travelled south for three days, it eventually beached in lower shores of the Jutland to give the crew some time to rest. Just in land lay the encampment of Dane-King Bersi, with Guthrum introducing Geirmund to him directly within the leader's own tent. As discussion falls to jarls only, Geirmund returns to the crew tents, and after a minor squabble with a shipmate called Rek, settles down for the night. For the next few days he and Steinólfur train Skjalgi in swordplay, and obtain shields for the three of them. The order to make way for England is then given to all by Guthrum.

Through days of storms, the Wave Lover, the ship that they were upon, sailed across the North Sea towards England. As things took a turn for the worse, the crew looked to the gods being angry, and all eyes turned to Geirmund as the Hel-hide taint causing them ill fortune. Realising that standing ground would mean death at the hands of the crew, he chose instead to leap out into the icy waters. Falling deep beneath the waves, a bright light meets his eyes and he eventually passes out.

Some time later, he opens his eyes, and is surprised to be staring up at the ceiling of a hall. Ornate metals and polished stone surround him, and he assumes that he has reached the afterlife. Walking down a hallway, he looks up to see the ocean above him and realises that he is actually underwater. A faint glow comes from another room, where a golden arm band sits upon an altar. Entering the room, a voice calls out from a tall man dressed in armour and robes who towers over him, and identifies himself as Völund. Geirmund recognises the name as a smith-god, but is disturbed to notice that he can see through the god to the wall behind him. Völund appears as a hologram, but explains that he is a “memory”. Geirmund questions why he was saved when no-one else appears to be present, to which Völund replies that the arm ring Hnituðr is responsible. He further explained that whilst choice is in everyone's blood, the ring was ultimately his birthright as it was named and used by his forebears. Geirmund reaches out to touch the ring, but a blinding light hits him and he passes out.

He awakens face down on a muddy beach. Once he gains his bearings, he realises he is on the other side of the sea, and standing on the beach of England, most likely in East Anglia. As he begins to wonder if the underwater hall had been a dream, he realises he clutches the glowing Hnituðr still in his hands. Electing to keep it hidden within his clothing, he makes his way south, knowing the Danes were heading towards the River Thames. Crossing the marshy fenlands, he eventually comes across countless dead bodies, and realises he has stumbled across a raid. A Dane called Fasti comes across him, recognises that he is not a Saxon, and leads him to the rest of his company. Carrying a basket of oysters, he is introduced to Odmar, their leader. They share the campfire together, and consume the oysters. Geirmund learns that the Danes have a Saxon priest trapped inside a small tomb, and once everyone has fallen to sleep he risks a few words with the priest after providing him with water. He reveals his name to be Torthred, and he suggests that the Danes should not be trusted and would likely kill him in his sleep. Agreeing to move on, Geirmund heads to nearby tethered boats upon a river, but is interrupted by Fasti, whom he is forced to kill with a knife to his throat. Gathering all the oars to one boat to prevent the Danes giving chase, he makes his way down river to a village known by the locals as Medeshamstede, arriving there by sunrise. Seeking to trade for food and supplies, he meets an icy reception from the priests stationed there, due to them having already been raided by the Danes.

Surrendering any hope of striking a deal, he returns to his boat but is gifted a portion of bread by a single priest who secretly wishes him well. Geirmund explains that he needs to reach Readingum, the location where the danish army is due to congregate to. The priest states that his name is John, and that he knows the way down to Wessex, and in turn offers to guide him as he intends to head that way too. As they travel, they discuss their beliefs and plans, with John offering that he fully intends to leave for his home in Saxony.
He removes a small sword from his satchel and offers it to Geirmund, stating that he likely will need it far more. The two men eventually arrive at the town of Durobrivæ, and park the boat against the river side. Eating the tough bread, the two of them reach an old Roman road. John mentions that it winds its way all the way north to Jorvik, but the two of them take it south bound instead.

Walking past endless fenlands, the two men eventually arrived at a town called Salters Stream which was evidently abandoned. Deciding to spend the night, Geirmund catches and cooks a chicken for food, and they rest inside the main hall. He remarks to John that he would like to settle and defend such a town in England. The next morning, they continue further south past further similarly abandoned villages, yet in the distance countless smoke trails from campsites could be seen – those of Danes. A nearby Saxon warrior greets them on the road, informing them that they are in Mercia, and that its King Burgred had reached a peace with the Dane-King Halfdan, allowing the Danes free travel across the lands. Sure enough, they eventually reach a Dane checkpoint, and are detained and taken to the local leader. Geirmund explains his journey and how he hopes to travel to Readingum to rejoin Guthrum and his forces, and that John is his thrall for Saxon translation purposes. The leader, Jarl Sidroc, informs him that he too is heading to Readingum, and that they can travel together to meet Guthrum to confirm the story he has been told.

The following morning, Geirmund and John walk alongside the Danes, travelling south for two days straight. A messenger brings word of a skirmish near Readingum, where the Wessex leader King Æthelred had been driven back by the Danes. Sidroc states that they should now march for Ashdown, and that the priest can remain behind with the parked wagons. As Geirmund walked south, Sidroc's forces eventually came across a standoff between the combined Dane army, and that of Wessex. Sidroc's band of around 300 swords drew out a number of Saxons towards them, and the two factions collided with Geirmund amidst the melee. As the front lines collided, he was further back, and helped the wounded to the back as well as holding the blade for one warrior as he passed to Valhalla. Eventually the Dane line broke, and Saxons poured through. Geirmund managed to take down a few before he realised that the Danes were now in full retreat and he elected to run from battle with them in order to regroup. A small group of Saxons hold them at a bridge, before a bludgeon knocks Geirmund out and into the river below.

Some time later, he regains consciousness upon the river side seemingly caught up in a tree branch, the sounds of battle nearby. Figuring he is too wounded to be found, he kicks himself free and lets the stream take him away. Fading in and out of being awake, the rest of the day passes to night, until he is fished out of the stream by Danes. Taken to their camp, with his head wound bound, he finally falls into a deep sleep. The next morning he awakes to find Guthrum standing over him, amazed to find him still alive. Struggling to explain his story, Geirmund showed his acquired arm-ring, and accidentally implied it as a gift of which Guthrum was happy to take from him. Again passing to sleep, Geirmund re-awoke to find the familiar faces of Steinólfur and Skjalgi looking down upon him. They reveal that he is now in Readingum, and had been there for four days now. Apparently the battle had gone awry for the Danes, with King Bersi and the Jarl Sidroc both slain in the chaos.

A week passed, and Geirmund's strength returned slowly. Eventually he found the balance to visit Guthrum in his tent, and relayed his story since jumping from the ship weeks before. He asks where his brother's sword is, to which he finds the ship captain Rek took ownership of it since his perceived death. Storming to meet him in the camp, an honour challenge is made, with the winner keeping the blade from first blood drawn in a duel. Despite his weakened state, Geirmund puts up a valiant fight, until Rek eventually bests him, slicing his cheek and thus ending the battle. Geirmund returned to the tents, collapsing in exhaustion and shame.

Days of recovery passed once more, as the Danes ventured out for several skirmishes. Geirmund meets Birna, a shield maiden who promised to train him further in combat. As the two duelled, he realised she was easily his better even if he were not injured. As they discussed the war so far, it dawned on Geirmund that their position was horribly exposed to attack by ship, and demanded help to place defences into the surrounding rivers by building deep stake barriers to prevent passage. After completing the barriers, the camp celebrated together for a short time, before the alarms suddenly rang out. Sure enough, a Saxon ship had run into the stakes and was trapped. The Danes took to wielding bows, and rained arrows down upon the Saxons forcing their retreat. Geirmund was promptly called a hero by most of the camp.

A few days later, Halfdan returned from a successful battle, and heard of Geirmund's valiant defence plan. The success merited reward, and Halfdan declared that he would be given a small detachment of men to lead, and that he would be given orders soon enough. Geirmund left the tent delighted, and as he shared the news with Birna, she revealed that she too would be fighting for him. Over the coming days, he met several of the men who had pledged to fight for him, and learned their strengths and weaknesses. Impressed by the oaths and solidarity, Halfdan finally gave the order they had been waiting for. They were to attack Wælingford, to wrest control of the River Thames from Wessex.

With only 23 men to his party, Geirmund knew that taking the stronghold was likely impossible. Therefore he chose to use deception instead. Placing a Saxon corpse atop three crosses on boats, he lit them alight, and played upon their pagan fears. At night, his party then blew horns pretending that a wide and vast army lay in wait. Shouting to the hold, he told them they had until daylight to leave or to face his wrath. Sure enough, by next morning the Saxons had left, and Geirmund's party claimed an easy victory. A short time later, a bemused Guthrum and Halfdan arrived to survey the prize fortress that had been claimed. Guthrum reinforced it with his own forces, whilst Halfdan returned to the south. The focus was now to push on south to Bedwyn to find the leaders of Wessex.

The next day, they pushed on towards the area surrounding Bedwyn. Halfdan wanted the forces divided, leaving Guthrum's company having to take an uphill route from the North side to the Saxon forces, and would no doubt lead to heavy losses there. This tactic forced the Saxons to also divide their forces, as Halfdan circled round to the eastern side. As the two armies collided, the shield walls were closely packed, and finding a breaking point within the enemy - Guthrum rushed through slaying many Saxons in the process. Suddenly the enemy commander was sighted – none other than Æthelred himself. Guthrum managed to hurl a spear, and struck the Wessex king deep in the side. With the Saxons in disarray as their leader fell wounded, they eventually sounded a retreat giving the Danes another resounding victory.

As the Danes honoured their dead, many were amazed at how Guthrum had survived alone in the midst of battle. Many also abandoned Halfdan, and named Guthrum their new king. Geirmund questioned if he still wore the ring of Völund, and Guthrum revealed that he did. Whilst Geirmund wondered what powers it offered, he was then informed if victories continued, he would soon become a jarl.

A month passed, and word reached the Danes that Æthelred had succumbed to his injuries, and that his brother King Ælfred had taken the Wessex throne. The Danes pressed on into Wessex, eventually settling at an old Roman fortification known as Searesbyrig. To their surprise, instead of hiding at his residence, Ælfred himself laid in wait at a hill overlooking them, the Saxon army aside him. Guthrum suggests the longer they wait, the larger the Saxon force will become. Halfdan agrees, and the Danes decide to press on in attack. Splitting their forces again, the Danes have to survive several volleys of arrows, before the Saxons suddenly retreat. Guthrum promptly appears next to Geirmund informing him that he had agreed a very costly peace for Ælfred.

Geirmund feels confused by the actions of Guthrum, as he thought the intent was to take Wessex by force. Guthrum argued that taking Wessex was one thing, but holding it was quite another, and they needed resources and silver – which the bartered peace offered them. As they settled in camp, Ælfred sent a messenger to discuss terms, whom Geirmund recognised as John, the priest that he had travelled with. Offered a chance to catch up, John reveals that Saxons had captured him from the Danes, and he had been in the king's service for some time. With a peace finally brokered, the suddenly wealthy Dane-Kings agreed to leave Wessex inside the year. Geirmund remains disappointed at the failure to take Wessex, but vows to one day return.

Travelling back east by boat, Geirmund finds himself in Lunden. With winter setting in, the Danes begin preparing the bare housing for the colder months, and many start a period of rest. This is not the case for Geirmund, whom ends up fending off an assassination attempt by a jarl of Halfdan known as Krok. It emerges that the Dane Fasti he had slain in East Anglia was related to Halfdan, and a blood feud was now simmering. At Guthrum's suggestion, Geirmund leaves for the safety of the north, to where fellow norsemen now reside. Those most closest to him, elect to travel with him, including Steinólfur, Skjalgi and Birna.

Heading north west from Lunden, they cross Mercia. Reaching a small village, a Saxon man reveals that there are Danes lying in wait, one being Krok – the same man that had tried to assassinate Geirmund in Lunden. Utilising the blacksmith shop as a distraction, they manage to escape out on to the flatlands, and travel on for several days but food and water is scarce. They finally come across a small temple, that appears to be a monastery. Knowing that they would not trust Danes, Geirmund was surprised to recognise the priest he had previously offered water to – Torthred. Going in alone to win their trust, the two men were pleased to see one another. Geirmund is offered refuge for him and his travellers, if they agree to help with the defences of the temple, to which he agrees. Over time, Geirmund even allows Torthred to teach him how to read Saxon texts.

Word eventually reached the temple that Torthred's sister – Tova - had been kidnapped by Krok and his party, and that the Dane intended to use her against the monks. It also transpired that the peace in Mercia had expired with the local Saxon leader being overrun by the Danes. Torthred and his monks feared for their lives, and elected that they would ultimately have to venture deep into Wessex for safety. Offering silver in exchange for Tova to Krok's men, Geirmund manages to rescue her and eliminate four of Krok's men in the process.
Torthred and Geirmund part ways on their separate journeys, with the latter trying to lead Krok's men to a suitable ambush point. Whilst running across the nearby river, they happen across a boat moored there, and Geirmund recognises a shield maiden stood there – it is Eivor. She is both shocked and delighted to see him, until Kork and his men arrive, causing a tense standoff between the two groups. Eivor of Ravensthorpe declares herself jarl of the area, and tells Krok and Geirmund that they must end their feud by duel – to which the two men decide to make it to the death. After a tough battle, Geirmund struggles to match Krok, but once more uses his cunning and begins to taunt him into anger. Sure enough Krok becomes reckless with his swings, and Geirmund is able to deliver the fatal attack. As Krok lay dying, his men take the opportunity to charge, but Eivor and her crew kill them in a matter of seconds. Wanting to return the hospitality shown to her in Norway, she invites Geirmund and his crew aboard her boat, and they travel to her settlement known as Ravensthorpe.

As they travel by boat, Geirmund informs Eivor of all that has happened to him. She in turns relays the fact Harald of Sogn had taken the North in Norway, and that his parents had fled to England, to Jorvik. She too had been forced to flee for the same reason. Arriving at her village, the group walks to her hall. Geirmund is introduced to Hytham, a Syrland man, who appears to have heard much of the Hel-hide name. He claims to be a seeker of knowledge, and is interested in Guthrum's apparent new found invincibility that he had heard of.

Geirmund heads to the village seer's hut, as he seeks answers on his fate. She welcomes him in, but only offers her foresight in exchange for the Saxon common sword he carries, tossing it into the fire. She reveals that betrayal still lays ahead for him, an event he thought he had already lived through. He returned to Eivor and the others, and together they dined and drank into the night. He spoke to Eivor of how his mother had left him and his brother to another mother for four years when they were born, whilst she found the courage to inform their father. Eventually she helped his drunk body to his bed, and he fell into a deep sleep.

The next morning, he took a boat north alone. Riding up the River Ouse, he headed towards Jorvik. Asking around for directions, he quickly found the house where his parents were living. He was relieved to see their earlier argument was forgotten, and they all embraced in happiness. Apparently Hámund had elected for a life at sea instead, and sought out new alliances across them. After a time of talking, Geirmund's father left to attend the local council, where he served the local Saxon King Ricsige. After talking with his mother awhile, Geirmund went after his father, only to find him looking out upon the countryside. Hjörr explained that surrendering their home helped avoid bloodshed, and that he simply wanted a life of peace now.

Several days passed, and the time came for Geirmund to return to his party who were gathering with Guthrum at a place called Grantabridge to the south. Before he left his parents, they gifted him a horse called Enbarr, and this speeded him on his way. When he eventually arrived at Grantabridge days later, he was well received by his party of Hel-hides. Meeting up with Guthrum, they discuss strategy on how to approach the taking of Wessex once more. To catch Ælfred unawares, they needed to distract his force. Thus it was decided that Geirmund and his party would raid the villages along the River Thames, to try and draw out the Saxon king's forces. A hefty sum was offered for all warriors who joined this crusade, most likely as Guthrum did not expect many to return, if any.

As the Hel-hides arrived at the villages, Geirmund decided to once more use local beliefs against the enemy. Directing his party to cut bark off trees, they were to create masks, giving the impression that they were invading trolls. They then used torches to sack a town, and warned a young defender that a Dane army was coming that way, and he in turn fled to inform other towns as desired. Geirmund's party then crossed the river into Wessex. After alighting a few more villages, they found a small abandoned fort, to which they used to spend the night.

The next morning came, and the line of a Saxon army appeared on the horizon – Ælfred himself seemingly arrived to behold the trolls with his own eyes. Knowing that fleeing would reveal their numbers, Geirmund shouted that they had to prepare to defend the keep instead. Sure enough, a Saxon battering ram for the fort gates appeared shortly afterwards, forcing the Hel-Hides into acting defensively and pouring hot water and wax on any Saxons whom got close enough. It was to little avail though, as Ælfred seemingly decided to withdraw, perhaps realising the greater deception that was at play. Giving a slow pursuit, the Hel-hides realised that a Dane army had been slain by Ælfred, judging by the numbers of dead around them. Coming across corpse thiefs, Giermund learned of the legend of a smithy called Wayland up on a local mound. Sure enough, Giermund went to investigate and found another hologram of Völund – though this one evidently did not share memories with the last. The hologram expressed shock that Giermund would surrender one of his rings, given the power that they wield. Suddenly Giermund realised what he needed to do – but that could wait until Wessex was secured.

Five days travel later, they arrived in Defenascire. News reached them that most of the Dane fleet had been lost at sea in a storm, at a loss of around 3,000 warriors. The mood turned sombre, and many wondered if the gods had now abandoned them. A messenger then informed them that Guthrum had taken Wareham, and brokered a peace deal with Ælfred. Giermund was astonished to hear that Wessex had again slipped from their grasp. However, Guthrum planned to break that peace in exchange for an attack in four days upon Ælfred in Cippanhamm. He therefore called upon every Dane able to join the battle. Knowing that included his parents and Eivor, Giermund declared that they too would march there.

As they travelled, one of the Hel-hides known as Rafn fell from his horse, a wound now besetting him a fever. Geirmund declares that he would leave no-one behind, and vows to stay with him. Birna is offered the opportunity to lead the party, and the rest march on with her. Rafn's wound had turned for the worse, and amputation of his arm seemed the only choice to save his life. After tying him down, the grim task of cutting the arm fell to Steinólfur. Rafn's brother, Vetr, elected to stay with him whilst he healed, but insisted Geirmund travel onwards to the battle.

As they travelled on, a small group of Saxons could be seen riding away in the distance – amongst them was Ælfred, seemingly fleeing. Curious to his destination, they followed him back in the direction they had come, only to find him arriving at a Saxon hold, deep in the marshes and surrounded by water. No Dane army could reach it. Frustrated, Geirmund and the others decided to go back to Cippanhamm, and picked up Rafn and Vetr on the way. When they arrived, they found the Saxons defeated, and Danes reinforcing the area. Geirmund was pleased to find Birna still alive, and went in search of his parents. Finding his mother, he was saddened to find that his father had fallen amidst the battle, and was gifted his sword. Walking around the area, he then encountered Eivor, who was pleased to see him and invited him to return to Ravensthorpe in the future. Eventually he came to a temple, finding Guthrum inside. Revealing Ælfred's location to him, Geirmund was shocked to find Guthrum again suggesting to press for peace, and would not be dissuaded.

Days passed, and one evening Geirmund noticed two robed figures leaving the temple late at night. Curious, he intercepted one, finding it to be John the priest, who had been delivering messages directly from Ælfred. Warning him away on fear of death for this betrayal, he let John depart with his life one last time. Reading the messages he had taken, it became clear that Ælfred and Guthrum were working together, and had been coordinating victories and defeats, with Ælfred to retain Wessex in exchange for the eastern lands and Guthrum becoming Christian.

With no choice left open to him, Geirmund elects to confront Guthrum with the truth. Demanding the ring Hnituðr back, he promises in exchange to leave the goal of Wessex and Guthrum to his planned peace. The latter refuses, and they resort to battle. The power of Hnituðr means that any sword swings that Geirmund makes are slowed or stopped, and the attacks of Guthrum slam into him like the strength of two men. After several failed attempts to land a strike and losing his weapon, Geirmund reaches inside his clothes and pulls out the common knife provided to him by Bragi before he left Norway. Using his body to leap as leverage, he manages to land a strike with the knife in Guthrum's leg, staggering him backwards to the altar. Realising that he is now vulnerable to a basic knife, Guthrum pleads for his life, and surrenders the Hnituðr arm ring to Geirmund, who gladly places it on his arm. Geirmund remarks that kingdoms will come and pass, but that Guthrum will never forget the name Hel-hide.

From that day, Geirmund then went onto further glories, especially at sea. Tales spoke of a man that no weapon could touch, and his fame and victories amassed. Many agreed he was a king far beyond his special ring, and when he ultimately was lowered to his grave, the Hnituðr was nowhere to be seen, passing into legend alongside the viking.

Final Thoughts – Analysis

The story of Geirmund was a vast journey, and really showed his growth in character as he developed in both strength and social status. He certainly fit the mould of a compelling protagonist, forthright and honorable, I was pleased to see him receive some payoff for his resolve by the end of his story. It genuinely felt like his adventure has been told sufficiently, and I don't anticipate us seeing a sequel nor a need for one.

It was nice to see several characters from the game itself present though, and it will be interesting to perhaps see some of these events from the book actually cross over and play out within the game space as well - so you could certainly argue that it will enhance your gaming experience in that regard. We certainly got some nice insights into Eivor, to how she thinks and operates, as this is probably one of the major attractions to the book for most fans.

Though the book was strongly focused on telling a viking saga, it was comforting to see some more traditional Assassin's Creed elements like the Isu still present. We gained a new member to the First Civilization in Völund, who revealed himself to be a weapon smith, similar in a fashion to Hephaestus. The Hnituðr is a pretty intriguing Isu Piece of Eden in itself, and appears to generate force fields in a similar fashion to the Shard obtained by Connor in Assassin's Creed III – which too was effectively a ring.

In terms of direct Assassin ties, we had vague mentions of the Hidden Ones, but did not see that play out much here. Obviously a lot of what Hytham is upto will be revealed in the game, but he clearly has strong connections in terms of intelligence and information gathering. He also has a keen interest in the Hnituðr, therefore it would be a safe assumption he has knowledge of the Isu and their relics as well.

It is a shame that there are no Modern Day elements to the book, though I can certainly understand with the direct connection to Layla Hassan's story, that Ubisoft would want to avoid going into that territory here.
Overall though, the novel is a success and for the hardcore fans this serves as a nice teaser of what awaits us there in the game.

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