Helma (Tros Book II)
by Talbot Mundy
**Spoilers for the first book here**
The sequel to the epic historical fantasy TROS! OF! SAMOTHRACE! (Emphasis added, but, I think, implied.) is a good book: except it has completely the wrong title.
One nice thing is that this one picks up directly after the first one leaves off; like only minutes have gone by since last we left Tros, sailing back to England from Gaul, having managed to get his father away from Caesar’s legions. He arrives back near Lunden (Don’t judge me, that’s how they spell it) with his men ferociously mutinous because several of them were killed by Romans, and yet they came away with no plunder at all, and therefore no glory, which is the only reason they went on the voyage in the first place. Now they arrive back home, and find that Norsemen have come to raid England, and they see their opportunity to fight for glory and plunder. Tros has a hell of a time trying to fight them and keep them in line; he is only moderately successful, and finally his ship joins the combat against the Viking raiders. Tros, being Tros – or, pardon me, I mean TROS! OF! SAMOTHRACE! – wins his battle, and in the process, wins possession of a troop of Viking warriors when he defeats their leader in single combat. He also takes one of their longships as his own new vessel, the tub he sailed to Gaul having given up the ghost in the fight.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because, you see, the sister of that Viking war leader is – Helma. Over time, the Vikings come to serve Tros willingly, and he puts them in charge of building his new ship, his dream ship; Helma, he marries.
I feel I can spoil this because – there’s no point to it. At all. The romance is awkward and barely present at all in this story; Helma is a decent character, but really she’s a means to an end: the Northmen can’t speak Tros’s language, and Helma is the go-between for Tros and her brother. I suppose we are to see her as the perfect loyal woman, but there’s a much better example in this story: Fflur.
The main plot of this one has little to do with Caesar, though he is the snake in the grass behind most of the intrigue, the prime mover of the betrayals and infighting that fill this book. Caesar has sent agents to corrupt and break apart the British tribesmen, and they are, sadly, very effective; this book made me dislike several of the British tribesmen I got to like in the first book, as well as Conops, Tros’s main lackey, who disapproves of Tros’s marriage to the blonde Valkyrie. The worst casualty here is Caswallon, the king of the British tribe that Tros is allied with; he is a hero in the first book, and nearly Tros’s equal in importance and coolness, but in this book, he’s just a pain in the ass. His wife, Fflur, still rocks, and that’s why I don’t think Helma was necessary; she doesn’t add anything to the story that Fflur hadn’t already brought, other than she is married to Tros, instead of Caswallon.
Overall, the action in this one was still great, but the intrigues and the plot and the character development weren’t as interesting. I really want Tros to finish his ship and just sail the hell away from Caesar and all of this; I know Caesar is going to conquer Britain (Because that’s what happened, and Mundy was trying to stick to history with the Romans), and so I want Tros to try to circumnavigate the world, the goal he expresses in this book. I didn’t see the point of Helma, really didn’t see why Mundy named the book for her; this makes me both eager to read the third book, and also leery – as it is named for another new female character. Well, we’ll have to see, won’t we?