Your Preview Verdict: The Sorrow Stone by Kári Gíslason

Your Preview Verdict: The Sorrow Stone by Kári Gíslason

After committing an audacious act of revenge for her brother’s murder, Disa flees with her son through the fjords of Iceland. She has already endured the death of her loved ones. Now she must run to save her son, and her honour.

In a society where betrayals and revenge killings are rife, all Disa has is her pride and her courage. Will it be enough for her and her son to escape retribution?

Dramatic and urgent in its telling, The Sorrow Stone celebrates one woman’s quest, against the dramatic backdrop of the Icelandic countryside. In this gripping novel, the co-author of the bestselling Saga Land takes a sidelined figure from the Viking tales and finally puts her where she belongs – at the centre of the story.

Read some great reviews from our Preview readers here: 

When we first meet Disa, she and her twelve-year-old son are running from their home after Disa has grievously wounded her husband’s friend. During their flight, Disa tells her son of her history and the story shifts from the present to the past and back again. Kari Gislason introduced me to the Icelandic sagas in Sagaland, which he wrote with Richard Fidler. The sagas are ancient Viking family histories about the first families that settled in Iceland, mostly from Norway. The stories were told and retold, passed from generation to generation, until they were eventually written down. Disa’s story is part of a larger family history brought to life for us. Like most sagas, this is about a blood feud and revenge, where people are forced to kill those they love to satisfy ideals of family honour and community expectation. A savage story, The Sorrow Stone is also extremely sad, offering us a complicit yet suffering woman’s view of a social structure so different to our own. I found the pace, the forbidding and yet beautiful setting, as well as the sheer amount of feeling that Disa’s story demanded of me as a reader, enthralling and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Louise, VIC, 5 Stars

This novel transported me to a time and place I know little about. I loved the strong character of Disa, and that she seemed to challenge the expected role of a female of her time, and society. Whilst some of the events in the story were brutal, I was pleased that they were not described too graphically. I found it easy to imagine myself in the fjords and partaking in the events of her story. I also really enjoyed Kari’s explanation at the end of the novel to explain the Icelandic tale he drew his inspiration from and how much of his story was fictionalised. Chrissie, WA, 5 Stars

Kari Gislason’s The Sorrow Stone is a riveting and innovative retelling of a historic story, with a strong female lead character. A fascinating window into the harshness of life in tenth-century Iceland, and a journey through the stark and unforgiving landscapes of Iceland and Norway. Disa and Sindri are immediately engaging characters who draw the reader in effortlessly. A wildly different and thoroughly enjoyable read, I would highly recommend. Imogen, VIC, 5 Stars

This is a spellbinding tale of revenge, love, loss, courage and relationships. It is set mainly in Iceland but also in Norway during Viking times. Life is a challenge and there are threats everywhere including from relatives. There are social mores which define that revenge is inevitable in certain situations. The life journey for Disa and her son, Sindri, is difficult yet inspiring. The story switches between stages – the first when Disa is a young girl and meets her first husband and the second when Disa is fleeing with her son. Disa is strong even in grief. Her son depends on her for his survival. I fell in love with this tale. I highly recommend this book. Sandra, ACT, 5 Stars

Captivating from the first page. The Sorrow Stone takes you on a journey through some of the most beautiful landscapes. The story is told with such finesse, bouncing back and forwards in time with grace. I was intrigued right until the final page. Daneka, QLD, 5 Stars

Thanks to UQP for the ARC I didn’t simply read this book – I experienced it! Kári Gíslason has created an engrossing reimagining of a medieval saga and I was drawn into it from the first page. Even the title intrigued me – I won’t divulge the aha! moment when the context is revealed. I thought reading a saga would be intense but Gíslason’s writing and style, though rich in detail and evocative descriptions, is driven by strong character portrayals and the urgency that underpins their odyssey. I felt I was there with Dis and her 12 year old son Sindri on their fascinating though tortuous journey – both physically and emotionally – through the demanding landscape and harsh environment of 10th century Norway and Iceland. The world of honour, betrayal and revenge killings (not ‘murders’) is revealed, as the reasons for this journey become clear and lead to the emotionally and satisfying conclusion. This is the first book that I have read by this author but it won’t be the last. Jennie, VIC, 5 Stars

Disa and her young son Sindri are the main characters in this book, they are fleeing across the fjords in Iceland, Disa has lost all her loved ones either to revenge killings or betrayals, an incredible book describing the braveness and courage of Disa. Gavin, NSW, 5 Stars

The Sorrow Stone is an atmospheric novel set in Iceland written by Kari Gislason. The story centres around the harsh lives of women and men during the tenth century. Thanks to Better Reading for my ARC. Sharah, QLD, 4 Stars

An interesting tale of life both in the past and present and how families can be the cruellest ones of all. Leanne, SA, 4 Stars

I really quite enjoyed this Icelandic saga, based on true historical figures. The author really evoked the time and place well – the cold, the harshness of their lives. I also got a real feeling of how women were often simply pawns or playthings of the men, subject to their violent or lusty whims. The back and forth of the storyline recounting past and current events was done well – just the right amount of time spent in each time. Although I couldn’t necessarily condone all of Disa’s actions, she was a great character and obviously a special woman. I could really picture all the characters, the descriptions were very well done. I would definitely recommend this book, particularly to those who enjoy well researched historical fiction and a story full of tragedy, treachery and bravery. Belinda, VIC, 4 Stars

The Sorrow Stone is set in the Icelandic fjords and countryside during mid-tenth century. The story of Disa and her son Sindri lodges your heart in your throat as they navigate family betrayal and revenge killings. Kári Gíslason has a knack for writing an engrossing female protagonist and doesn’t shy away from the brutal realities of this era. Her descriptions and detail provided for fantastic imagery and it truly feels as if the reader is submerged in the story alongside the characters. Definitely an enjoyable read and I would be keen to read further works by Kári Gíslason. Emily, WA, 4 Stars

I was so intrigued by this book and was not disappointed on reading it. While the landscape and characters may be unique, the story itself proves that emotions transcend time. Disa, a woman of strength and loyalty is fleeing with her son across Icelands harsh landscape. In a time when men were the focus of society, this story captures a woman’s perspective while viewing those male figures in her orbit with a unique lens. I’m now fascinated with learning more about Iceland and its history. Tess, TAS, 4 Stars

This is not a book I would normally pick up. I found it a bit slow to begin with but once beginning I thoroughly enjoyed it. Highly recommend. Claire, VIC, 4 Stars

A beautifully written retelling of the Icelandic sagas of Gisli and Eyrbyggja. I liked the focus on Disa, rather than brothers. Told in two storylines Dias’s and her son’s journey after fleeing from a revenge killing and the story of her life. The writing was vivid, I got a good feel for the scenery and day to day life of the time. I enjoyed the authors note at the end which put everything into historical context. Kirsten, ACT, 4 Stars

The author has taken a story from the Icelandic sagas and written his own version. It starts with a woman, Disa and her son fleeing her home after a stabbing. She wants to get to her brothers home across the fjords. One thread of the story is this journey, the other thread tells her life story, and her brothers, what made them leave Norway to travel to Iceland and their lives after settling in the Northwest of the island. It’s a tale of honour killings and revenge and it’s a wonder anyone ever lives to tell the story! It’s very readable and I found it hard to put down but it does end quickly and feels a bit anticlimactic. JG, NSW, 4 Stars

I really loved this book. An epic Icelandic saga of one of Iceland’s most famous women, retold with her voice and perspective. Jealousy, Murder, Revenge, this saga has it all. I was so intrigued by her story and challenges, that I have been looking up all I can find on the original saga. A heartbreakingly captivating story that has left me wanting more. Vivienne, VIC, 4 Stars

A harrowing description of families growing, breaking and relocating under the cloud of revenge-fuelled scheming with final consequences. Clever storytelling. Hard to put down. Kirralee, SA, 4 Stars

Queensland author Kari Gislason has cleverly used a woman from his birthplace, the fjords of Iceland, to weave a compelling tale of love and honour. He crafts his novel around Disa, a bit player in a Viking tale, and expands it to tell not only her story of loss and quest for revenge, but also to pay homage to the places that shaped the original saga. It’s a story that’s been told thousands, if not millions, of times before, but never this way. Gislason is a deft wordsmith who has the knack of quickly seizing a reader’s attention and holding it. Parts of the story are horrific, but the reader never loses empathy for Disa. Her courage is the overwhelming feature of the story and it’s what keeps the reader’s attention to the very end. A footnote: Gislason’s story also made me eager to discover more about the Grey Blade, a treasure of the past. Don, SA, 4 Stars

I was interested to read The Sorrow Stone as I’d enjoyed travelling in Iceland and Norway and reading Saga Land, but I had no real expectations about the story. Thankfully I found I was invested in the characters from the start, which made it tough to witness their heartbreaks, betrayals and disgrace, but exhilarating to journey with them. What an interesting story and what a tough culture to be a woman in, with menfolk seemingly continually feuding and murdering each other and you trying to survive the consequences! I especially like chatty and plucky young Sindri. I learnt from the afterword that he went on to become one of the most influential figures in Icelandic History, I’m sure because he learnt a lot from his resilient and resourceful mother! Em, NSW, 4 Stars

After travelling to Iceland in 2018 I was very excited to receive this novel from Better Reading and to provide a review. And to find out it was based on real characters and events made this even better. It did take me a while to get into the plot and at times I struggled with the different time lines of the characters. But, I just loved Disa, the strong main female and her sweet son, Sindri. I loved the images of Vikings constantly in my head and enjoyed the rough lives lived with barbaric revenge often sought. I felt there could have been more ‘build up’ towards the ending though. Nicola, QLD, 3 Stars

I was excited to receive an advance copy of “The Sorrow stone”, having enjoyed the author’s co-written “Sagaland” a few years ago. If you like Viking or Norse myths and historical fiction then you will enjoy this book. Set in the beautiful (but also bleak fjords) of Iceland, it is easy to feel empathy for the main character Disa and her son as they go on the run to escape an act of revenge, an escape made even more challenging by the harsh environment. There is plenty of action to hold the reader’s interest – stabbings, fights, family feuds etc – showcasing the often-harsh treatment of women as marriable objects who are expected to look up to and obey the men in their lives – especially fathers and brothers. Disa is a brave and determined woman, not one for complaining about her lot in life just fiercely loyal to her son and desperate to protect him. It’s a nice treat to read a book set in a different country rather than the standard US or UK city and I loved the references to the Icelandic myths/legends etc. I would gladly read more of this author’s work. Trina, QLD, 3 Stars

Love, heartache and revenge. This book had it all. Sibling love for each other, turned to hatred and revenge, and back to love saw many deaths and injuries. It took a bit for the storyline to develop, but it eventually became clear. A more detailed map at the beginning of the novel would have been helpful to track the journeys for those unfamiliar with Icelandic and Norwegian geography. Overall, a good book. Lauren, QLD, 3 Stars

Wow… this is a story unlike any I’ve read before. It’s loosely based of a true Icelandic story of love, loss and revenge. We first meet Disa as a young girl growing up and bounce between the past and the present and finally pair up at the ending. It is such a unique insight into another world in another time. A truly captivating and interesting read! Mercury, NSW, 3 Stars

“The Sorrow Stone” by Kari Gislason took me many attempts to complete. I struggled to keep both the characters and the time shifts straight. This was probably due to my unfamiliarity with Nordic names, places and folklore. I finally completed it, and it was more relief than the enjoyment of this retelling of a Nordic story. Thank you to BetterReading and University of Queensland Press for a free advance copy in exchange for an unbiased review. Tracy, VIC, 2 Stars

I really wanted to like this book set in a part of the world that I’ve longed to visit, but unfortunately it didn’t engage me as I’d hoped. I found the writing style cold and factual and there were very few characters that I found relatable or personable. I expected more vivid descriptions of the landscapes and the people, and often found myself confused about who was who and what was happening. This book would perhaps appeal to someone with more background knowledge of its historical setting than me. Ruth, NSW, 2 Stars

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              Publisher details

              The Sorrow Stone
              Author
              Kári Gíslason
              Publisher
              UQP
              Genre
              Fiction
              Released
              01 March, 2022
              ISBN
              9780702265525

              Synopsis

              After committing an audacious act of revenge for her brother’s murder, Disa flees with her son through the fjords of Iceland. She has already endured the death of her loved ones. Now she must run to save her son, and her honour.

              In a society where betrayals and revenge killings are rife, all Disa has is her pride and her courage. Will it be enough for her and her son to escape retribution?

              Dramatic and urgent in its telling, The Sorrow Stone celebrates one woman’s quest, against the dramatic backdrop of the Icelandic countryside. In this gripping novel, the co-author of the bestselling Saga Land takes a sidelined figure from the Viking tales and finally puts her where she belongs – at the centre of the story.

              Kári Gíslason
              About the author

              Kári Gíslason

              Kári Gíslason is a memoirist, travel writer and creative writing teacher who lectures in creative writing and literary studies at QUT. He is the author of The Promise of Iceland and The Ash Burner.

              Books by Kári Gíslason

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