The Exile by Erik Kriek

This bleak graphic novel follows the Viking-Age return of Hallstein Thordson to his Icelandic home. Seven years earlier, the Althing exiled him for his crimes. Now he’s come back looking, if not for redemption, then at least for rest at his father’s homestead.

Alas, he returns to find his father dead and his stepmother wary of his claim on her and her son’s inheritance. It isn’t that Solveig begrudges him a third of the land. She’s a generous if stubborn soul, but knows that Hallstein’s legal claim is tenuous, given the circumstances of his birth. She’s happy enough to feed and house him and the two other soldiers he brought back with him from his travels tho. Someone has been cutting down her trees, and on an island where wood is more valuable than silver, this is a crime she cannot let stand. Hallstein, Bjarki and Ukko are welcome under her roof so long as they assist in safeguarding the living treasure that she, accompanied only by her nine year-old son and elderly thrall, has trouble protecting on her own.

But Hallstein’s return is far from welcome news to others on the island. His arrival brings the tensions simmering just under the island’s placid surface to a boil. Despite the interventions of cooler, more peaceable heads, war is coming to Iceland once more, a battle that threatens to tear the small society apart. What will the people of this island do in the heat of conflict and, perhaps just as importantly, in its aftermath?

Translated from the original Dutch in a collaboration between Erik Kriek himself and Sean Michael Robinson, this depressingly realistic — if mystically-tinged — tale of life in old Iceland is told as much in its words as in its distinctly European line work. The colors are almost entirely grayscale except for in Hallstein’s visions, where the color red is splashed as liberally as the blood that soaks his dreams.

The Exile powerfully asks the age-old question of how much repentance is enough. What, one can extrapolate, is the value of rights if they’re not universally applied? And perhaps most importantly, what is the point of punishment without restitution? These are only some of the thought-provoking questions raised by a book that, while entirely fictional, is rooted very much in fact. It’s a great window into life in Viking Age Iceland, and honestly a great reminder of how far civilization has (mostly) come since then.

The Exile by Erik Kriek was published February 28 2023 by Living The Line and is available from all good booksellers, including

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