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Beyond the Dragonhead by Kelly Nichols and Alyn Rockwood @MindToEducation #yalit #norse #bookboost

Title: Beyond the Dragonhead

Author: Kelly Nichols and Alyn Rockwood

Genre: YA Historical Fiction

Book Blurb:

Her life was largely idyllic. Then a tyrant came for her family…

Northern Europe, 1000 AD. Thyra Andersdotter has an insatiable thirst for knowledge. Spending countless hours in the forest learning archery and foraging for herbs, the fifteen-year-old healer is happiest in nature. But a routine walk with her father turns tragic when they return home to find their village burned and most everyone killed or taken.

Fleeing with their wounded kinsmen, Thyra despairs that her modest skill won’t be enough to save a handsome young warrior. And with her father the target of a wicked king’s vengeance, she fears nowhere they can go will be safe.

Can Thyra and her clan reach refuge before the barbaric ruler cuts them down?

Beyond the Dragonhead is the page-turning first book in the Viking Refugees YA historical fiction series. If you like valiant characters, epic adventures, and rich period detail, then you’ll love Kelly Nichols and Alyn Rockwood’s sweeping tale of Norse bravery.


Thyra finished stitching Bjorn’s neck. She reached into her satchel and found a wedge of crystallized honey. She warmed it on a nearby flame, stirred some raw herbs into it, and plastered the stitches with the mixture.

Anders found a broad plank and laid it next to Bjorn. “Bjorn,” he spoke. “We’re going to roll you onto your side and slide this plank under you.” He nodded. As they leaned Bjorn onto the rough wood, his head pulled to one side tugging on the new stitches. He grimaced and clutched the sides of his tunic.

“We need to drag him around the village, down to the shore line.” Anders said.

“But Father, it’s shorter through the village.” Thyra said.

“We’re going around!” Anders barked. Thyra realized he was sheltering her from the sight of her friends’ bloody corpses and charred homes. Harald had seen the carnage. He motioned for Thyra to follow him around the village.

“Can you hold onto the board, Bjorn?" Anders asked. “Or should we tie you on?”

“I can hold.”

Anders hoisted one end of the board. Facing forward he dragged Bjorn behind. Thyra picked up her satchel and looked at Harald.

“They left me alive,” Harald gazed toward the village, “because I couldn’t harm them. They knew it was far worse to make me watch.” Thyra linked her arm in his, and they followed Anders and Bjorn. As they neared the shore, Thyra could see a man lying on the dock with an arrow through his throat. Sword wounds covered a second man who lay prone on the shore; gentle waves lapped at his face. Thyra had known her Father’s reputation as a warrior, but she never valued it so much as now.

“Good comeuppance to ‘em,” Harald spat. “Filthy assassins, ...cowardly backstabbers.” The Vankivan longboats had been taken. A lone merchant skiff was still tied to the dock, laden with furs, bronze tools, weapons, trinkets, walrus skin ropes, cooking pots, and food. The now dead raiders had stayed behind to wait for Anders and Thyra and to scavenge, collecting enough spoils from the once thriving village to return home and pad their purses.

Anders dragged the board with Bjorn to the dock, and set it down. Everyone preferred the smells of rotting wood and moss over the smoke and stench of death behind them. “I need to get something; I’ll be back soon.” Anders announced to the group and strode away.

Thyra spied some onions among the food on the skiff. She took one, sliced it, and then crushed the slices into a cup of water. “Drink this.” She held it up to Bjorn’s lips.

He sputtered and spewed out the first gulp. “I’d rather die of my wounds than be poisoned!”

“Just drink it, Bjorn!”

He choked it down. Bjorn laid his head back on the board. He burped loudly. “Keep your distance,” he said. “That belch will be poisonous.”

“Do you want me to cauterize your wounds a second time?” Thyra replied. Bjorn grinned, despite his discomfort.

Anders returned carrying a large purse. “The village treasury,” Anders said. “These guys must’ve been looking for it. Why didn’t they torture you, Harald?”

“I managed to convince them a crazy old goat like me wouldn’t know anything so important,” Harald replied. “It wasn’t hard. In fact, it was too easy,” he sighed.

“Hey ya, hey ya!” A voice cried out from down the shoreline. The group turned their heads to see a woman and two youths walking toward them.

“It’s Runa!” Thyra exclaimed, “and Dagmar and Kelby!” Thyra took off running to meet them. Harald waved. Runa was the wife of Kirklan, a wealthy merchant who traveled to distant lands trading tin and other goods. Dagmar was fifteen, like Thyra, and already taller than her mother. Kelby had been born eight years later, an offense Dagmar refused to forgive.

“You lost Rouder!” Kelby shouted.

“Why do you care? He was my Falcon!” Dagmar answered.

“He was mine too!”

“No he wasn’t. Father gave him to me, Tadpole!”

“Stop calling me that”

Runa waved her arms at her children to quiet them. "What’s all the smoke? Was there a fire?" she asked.

“Worse,” Harald said. “Where’ve you been?”

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Author Biography:

Originally from Michigan, Kelly Nichols moved to Colorado with her husband in 1994 and started a private tutoring business the following year. Before homeschooling their five children, she earned bachelor’s degrees from Hope College in exercise science and educational psychology. When she isn’t tutoring math or science, she’s probably playing volleyball, reading, spending time with family and friends, attending a concert or bible study, cooking, gardening, skating, traveling, or learning something new. Her favorite places are libraries and tropical beaches.

Alyn Rockwood grew up on a bucolic farm in Utah, tending fruit and chucking hay. He has also worked in a hard rock uranium mine, taught school in Hamburg, Germany, and attended Cambridge University where he pestered a Fellow of the British Royal Society until they finally awarded him a PhD in applied mathematics. From there he alternated between industrial research and teaching college students. His mother instilled a love of literature, a fascination with history, and an interest in his Swedish ancestry, which all conspired in the creation of this book.

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1 Comment

N. N. Light
N. N. Light
May 18, 2021

Thank you, Kelly and Alyn, for sharing your book with us! It sounds so fascinating. I can't wait to read it.

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