3.5 stars, rounded to 4 stars
Brothers of the Wild North Sea (BWNS) was different from what I expected, but still pleasantly surprising. My only prior experience to Harper Fox was Scrap Metal, which I DNF (*ducks from the tomatoes*), but it's easy to recognize her lyrical prose - writing that is as elegant and colorful as a paintbrush on canvas. It was a treat in itself to ride on her words and experience the monastery, the dunes, the shore, the ocean and most importantly: the meeting of two different souls.
So why was BWNS different from my expectations? For a book that involves multiple Viking raidings and includes scenes of battle (with a lot more potential for violence), the book was actually tame. Sure, you have deaths and bloody wounds, but none of it really elicit much emotions one would associate with violence. Also, I was very surprised with how quick Fen and Caius were able to overcome their differences. It wasn't insta-love, by any means, but it wasn't slow-burn either (in my opinion). The sex was also dull and very brief, but were meaningful [I assumed that a book involving Vikings would have a lot more (explicit) sex, so sue me :) ].
The biggest flaw I felt was the pacing. Fen wasn't even introduced until about 12-15% into the book. This may not seem like a long wait, but BWNS is a very long novel. Furthermore, there are many pockets of "dead time" between significant events that made this wait time for Fen seem painfully long. It may be argued that this dead time was necessary for establishing certain secondary characters and to give life to the world of Fara, but to me, it seemed excessive. It wasn't until about the last 30% of the book in which the pacing was not an issue anymore.
So despite having some of my expectations crumpled into a tiny ball of paper and some pacing issues, this book was still captivating. There were Viking raidings, being caught out during a storm at sea, an island with a hermit, the paranormal (there are definite paranormal undertones in the forms of prophecies and certain characters, which play an important role
), religious fanatics, and of course: true love! Oh, how I love Caius and Fen - they were so sweet with each other.
Harper Fox is able to show how sacrifice and love is able to close the distance between two worlds separated by sea; a world where mismatched men can meet as enemies and and return as lovers to the song of rumbling ocean tides.