The Hammer and the Cross

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The Hammer and the Cross
First edition (UK)[1]
Author Harry Harrison and "John Holm" (Tom Shippey)
Illustrator Bill Sanderson
Cover artist Gino d'Achille
Country United States
Language English
Series The Hammer and the Cross
Genre Science Fiction/Fantasy novel
Publisher Legend Books (UK)
Publication date
June 1993
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback) & Audio book
Pages 430
ISBN 0-8125-2348-2
OCLC 31501238
Followed by One King's Way

The Hammer and the Cross is the first part in a trilogy written by Harry Harrison and John Holm, a pseudonym for the Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey. The book chronicles the rise of the protagonist Shef, bastard son of a Viking and an English lady. The book is set in the 9th century England where Viking raids are common and presents an alternate history to the one we know.

Within this tale, the authors explore what might have happened if the Vikings had waged more of a fight against the rather harsh, at that point in time, rule of the Catholic Church. Central to this story is the protagonist Shef. In the story an ambivalence concerning Shef's birth is introduced: Is Shef the son of the Norse god Ríg, or a Viking named Sigvarth? And are the gods real or just dreams? These ambiguities develop through the trilogy.

Plot summary[edit]

The story begins with Shef as little more than a thrall in his stepfather's service. When he's not busy doing mundane tasks, Shef finds himself helping the village blacksmith, where his talents and an urge for invention grows inside him. A Viking army invade, and Shef's stepsister Godive is taken during a raid on their village. Shef and his friend Hund proceed to the encampment of the Ragnarssons, leaders of the invading army. Rising swiftly in and beyond the Viking army, Shef's greatest task becomes to defeat a new invasion.

Northwest Europe at the end of the novel. Territories held by Shef and Alfred are denoted in red; territories held by the Ragnarssons and their allies are in green.