End of IXe century, the kingdom of West Francia was plagued by Viking raids. The Carolingian power then in full decay forced the Frankish nobility to fight by their own means against these Danish hordes going up with their drakkars the rivers. In his historical novel, Joelle Delacroix focuses on telling us the most famous episodes of this relatively unknown period: the siege of Paris by the Vikings. But more than romanticizing a feat of arms, the author presents us with the meeting of two cultures which are a priori irreconcilable.
November 885, Eudes comte de Paris and Gauzlin, bishop of the said city, prepare to block the impressive Viking armada going up the Seine to go pillar and winter in Burgundy. Then began a terrible and bloody confrontation lasting more than a year. Nevertheless, beyond the fighting, the deaths and the hatred of the enemy, a fragile friendship is born between Eudes and a young Danish prisoner saved from death by the enigmatic and fascinating Gisele, healer and interpreter who does not leave the count indifferent. This stammering friendship then leads the young Scandinavian to question his future and to choose his camp between besiegers and besieged.
An original and documented framework
When we think of historical novels on the Middle Ages, Cathars, Templars, and other great kings of France appear as recurring themes of intrigue. As such, if this work is interested in another very frequently exposed theme, here the Vikings, it has the originality of situating it in a very little known period - that of the last Carolingians - of which quite logically, very few novels echo each other. And that is the whole point of this first volume: situating the action of the story in an unknown period in order to make it easier for us to discover. And beyond the discovery, it is indeed the sharing of a passion that Joëlle Delacroix seeks to transmit to us, an erudite passion one might even say. Indeed, more than a simple historical novel, it is an extremely well documented book, as evidenced by a bibliography based in particular on Régis Boyer, the specialist in Vikings or on Pierre Riché for the Carolingian world, but also on period texts such as the chronicles of Abbon, the main contemporary source of the events related. We can only praise the research work and its restitution in this novel which also presents us with the shock of the meeting between two worlds.
The bloody meeting of two cultures
As for the story itself, it is clear that the warlike and bloody aspect has not been forgotten. Joëlle Delacroix does not skimp on the clashes between Scandinavians and Franks, the descriptions of the battle around this long siege, all with always a meticulous attention to historical detail even if it means sometimes repeating itself somewhat. But in addition to the many feats of arms told, the author offers us through the main protagonists a reflection on the meeting of two cultures, their differences and the attractiveness that can result. It thus allows the reader to immerse himself in two very different worlds and to learn more about this too often forgotten period of the Middle Ages. Thus, we will have only one simple regret, that of not going deeper into the life and practices of the time. Because it seems obvious that the author masters the subject and could have gone into more details of the culture of the Franks and Vikings to learn more from his readership. But let's not forget that this is a novel and let's not sulk our pleasure. Moreover, this first opus on the siege of Paris by the Vikings leads us irremediably to want to know the outcome of the adventures of Count Frank Eudes, the young Dane Porgils and the courageous Gisèle through the last two volumes of this saga.
Joëlle Delacroix, The Siege of Paris by the Vikings, Volume 1: The Vikings on the Seine, The Siege of Paris by the Vikings, Volume 2: The Choice of Porgils. L'Harmattan editions, Paris, 2013.