Tirgearr Publishing Logo

Released: April 2020
ISBN: 9780463806685
Kindle US, Kindle UK,
Kindle CA, Kindle AU
Apple, Kobo, Nook
Series: The Atheling Chronicles, #3
Author: Garth Pettersen
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Fiction
Price: $4.99

Amazon US - Amazon UK
Amazon CA - Amazon AU

The Coffee Pot Book Club
Historical Fiction
Early Medieval
Silver Medalist 2020


"The sons of Cnute are dead men." The dying words of his brother's assailant travel across the North Sea to the English Midlands.

Harald, the king's second son, receives the warning while rebuilding a hall where he hopes to farm and lead a peaceful life with Selia, his Frisian wife. But as the hall nears completion, they learn the family who lived there before them all perished in a single night of bloodshed. Could the grounds be cursed?

Now the threat of unknown enemies casts a long shadow. Should they distrust the brooding Saxon neighbor or the two weapon-bearers they hired for protection? Should they suspect either of the two women they have taken on with the other hirelings? Only their Jewish warrior friend, Ravya ben Naaman, seems to be the only one above suspicion.


Engla-lond 1019 C.E.

Sleep would not come to Kjeld Madsson. Rain pattered and ran without ceasing from the turf roof of his hall, a sound that always reminded him of a downpour in a forest. He lay on his back under a fur robe, trying to let the rhythm of the rain lull him. The layers of dried and bound grasses under him gave no discomfort, but even so, his eyes would not close. His wyf, Ditte, muttered in a dream and rolled over, pressing her backside against his warmth. The cooking fire had burned down to glowing yellow-red charcoal, giving just enough light to reveal the roof beams above and the gray smoke that lingered before escaping out the smoke hole. The snoring and heavy breathing of his children, brothers, a sister and her child, and a cluster of thralls, blended with the din on the roof.

Today he’d had words with that Saxon cur, Bordan. Enemies they had been until Cnute had become king of lands north and south of the River Tamesas, all which could be called the realm of Engla-lond now. Bordan had fought for Edmund Ironside, now dead, and his father, Æthelred the Ill-advised—both dying in the same year, 1016. Three years ago. Three years of relative peace. Cnute had dealt with those who would not bow to his will. “Heavy-handed” a few would say. “Brutal, heartless dog” only fools would speak aloud. Kjeld knew Cnute, had fought for him and for his father, Sweyn Forkbeard. For his service, the king had given him this choice piece of land, as good as any in Danmark.

But old grievances burn and ache like old wounds, and both plagued neighbor Bordan. Today they had exchanged words over the trees Bordan’s men felled for rendering tar—on Kjeld’s land. He had cursed and insulted Bordan before his kinsmen and thralls, had threatened to bring the matter before the Hundred when the families next met. But Bordan had taken his slights and given little back—and Bordan was not one to swallow an affront.

A pocket of pitch burst from the glowing fire. Kjeld started at the sound, throwing back the furs and sitting up. Amid the rain sounds, he heard a horse whinny. Another answered. He reached for his skeggox. Finding the battle æx, he stood, listening. In his own skittishness, had he imagined the horse calling? Careful not to step on the sleepers, the Dane made his way to the double doors that served as the hall’s entrance.

Stroking his long hair back from his ears, he bent and listened at the join of the two doors.

Falling rain. Nothing more.

He unhooked the latch of the small peek-hole cover and held two fingers up to the hole—better to lose a fingertip than an eye—before braving a look. All was blackness and storm.

Kjeld slipped out the stout pole that locked the doors in place. Still holding his skeggox, he grasped the handles and pushed the doors open. The cold, wet air swirled hair across his eyes. He tossed his head to see better. The clean, fresh smell of wet earth and green plants. The night alive with the sounds of wind in the dark shapes of trees and raindrops splashing in puddles of the rain’s own making. Was that a hushed whisper he heard? His ears strained to discern the patter of running feet spattering and slapping in mud.

Too late to bar the doors, Kjeld Madsson turned to raise the alarm, heart racing. The sudden awareness of another body close to him and then the jarring, cutting blow to his neck, the erupting shock of pain. Dazed, he fell back through the doorway, vaguely aware of his life’s blood pumping from the wound, of striking the rush-strewn floor, the shouting battle cries of warriors pounding and leaping over him, the screams of women, the answering roars from the men of his household.

From where he lay face down, one eye beheld the slaughter of all those he held dear; his nose, surprisingly sensitive, smelled the coppery tang of blood sprayed into the air—until his vision clouded and all his senses faltered, and the lifeblood of Kjeld Madsson and his kindred nourished the soil floor of his own hall.

Top Reviews
A joy to read
Garth Pettersen manages to bring medieval England to vivid life. I don’t know much about this period. I was surprised and delighted by some of the unexpected aspects of this fascinating novel: the openness about sexual matters; the relatively egalitarian relationship between men and women; the mostly unspoken but ever-present tension between Christianity and the old gods; the degree to which society was governed by explicit laws as well as implicit customs; the multi-cultural nature of the population, which included Danes, Saxons, Normans, Jews and probably many other groups. We don’t tend to think about the language our heroes speak. When Harald and Queen Emma travel to France to confront his treacherous step-brothers, Harald can barely understand them because of linguistic differences. I thought this was brilliantly realistic. One other aspect of the setting made a deep impression. The Cold Hearth shows us a sparsely populated world of natural abundance. Harald’s England is green and forested. Wild game is plentiful. The land is fertile and with hard work yields its bounties. Life was difficult in the early middle ages, but humans lived in harmony with the earth. This book clearly involved extensive research. The author’s introductory notes do an excellent job placing the characters in a historical context. The Old English and Old Danish terms scattered through the text provide a sense of authenticity without being confusing. They never felt gratuitous, especially since the author provides a glossary at the start of the book. Overall, I found reading this book a joy. I suspect that there will be a fourth book in the Atheling Chronicles, in which a reluctant Harald will briefly assume the throne. I’m putting myself on Mr. Pettersen’s mailing list so I don’t miss it. ~ Lisabet Sarai, Amazon

• • •

An Engaging Tale
The Cold Hearth is an engaging tale of an unsettled period in English history... Wonderfully crafted characters fill the pages of this multi-threaded story; plot lines with twists and turns that leave the reader gasping at the turn of events. I was drawn into the emotional turmoil and stress... ~ Paul Bennett, Amazon

• • •

get lost in a fabulous world
This was quite a story, of course action and adventure, violence and mayhem; but also tenderness and caring, duty and honor and living with integrity...The Cold Hearth is a great story to get lost in. The times, the people and the location will wholly draw the reader into a comfortable, magic (without magic) land you won't want to leave. Enjoy! ~ Mike, Amazon



• Copyright © Tirgearr Publishing - All Rights Reserved •