Set in thirteenth-century Norway, a land racked by political turmoil and bloody family vendettas, The Axe is the first volume in Sigrid Undset's epic tetralogy, The Master of Hestviken. In it we meet Olav Audunsson and Ingunn Steinfinnsdatter, who were betrothed as children and raised as brother and sister. Now, in the heedlessness of youth, they become lovers, unaware that their ardor will forge the first link in a chain of murder, exile, and disgrace.
Soaringly romantic and psychologically nuanced, Undset's novel is also a meticulous re-creation of a world split between pagan codes of retribution and the rigors of Christian piety--a world where law is a fragile new invention and manslaughter is so common that it's punishable by fine.
About the Author
Sigrid Undset is a major figure in early twentieth-century literature. A Norwegian born in Denmark in 1881, she worked with the Norwegian underground during the Second World War, fled to Sweden in 1940, and later came to the United States. She is the author of many works of fiction as well as several books for young readers and a number of nonfiction titles. Her novels encompass a variety of settings and time periods, ranging from medieval romances such as the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy—generally considered to be her masterwork—and The Master of Hestvikentetralogy to modern novels such as The Winding Road,Ida Elisabeth, and The Faithful Wife. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1928. Sigrid Undset died in 1949.