A Bracelet of Bones
Kevin Crossley-Holland

It is 1036. Halfdan is a Viking mercenary who is determined to travel to Constantinople and become one of the Viking Guard serving Empress Zoe. He promises to take his daughter, but one morning Solveig wakes up to find him gone. Setting off in her own tiny boat, she is determined to make the journey from Norway to the breathtaking city. A glittering novel that explores friendship and betrayal, the father-daughter relationship, the clash of religions and the journey from childhood to adulthood.

"Historical novels for children don't get much better than this... an 11th-century world of clashing faiths that we don't often see depicted in fiction." The Financial Times
Anna, from The Henrietta Barnett School London


In the novel, we follow strongly independent and determined Solveig on a treacherous quest to find her father Halfdan in Miklagard. She puts everything, even her life, on the line to be reunited with her father. But will she even survive the journey?! This is the main plot of the book.


It took me a while to get into the story, but after that I found the book interesting, adventurous and I even learnt a lot about Viking life. The Vikings seem so entirely different to people from the modern day, but through this book, I realised they still had their struggles, emotions and adventures. I warmed towards Solveig and wanted to protect her throughout her journey and at times I found the book difficult to put down and read huge chunks at a time.


Throughout the book, I felt a sense of reality – especially on the ship; and the book seemed quite true to life – even though it is set far back in the past. It was also quite informative and much of it was dialogue. This helped to develop the reality of the novel and showed each character’s traits very well. I also learnt about the similarities and differences of religions and cultures, how they can clash or harmonise.


The only criticism I have is that I didn’t really feel a huge sense of adventure on the journey. There were some effective moments of tension but overall, the journey on the ship didn’t seem overly adventurous, difficult or testing.


I would recommend this book to someone around 12-14 years old, who is maybe interested in history or culture.  I think the heart-warming characters, twists and turns of the plot and thrilling scenes would appeal to most readers and make this a successful book.  I give it 7½/10.


Beverley, from Wren Academy Barnet

This book wasn’t my sort of style and the different names started to confuse me as the book went on. I found that at some points the author explained in the  book I had forgotten within a sentence or two and I soon lost track of what was happening. Though the strong connection between the girl and her father made me want to read on and the way she had so much courage that she didn’t want to give up. I think to enjoy it I would have to read the book again.

Binitha, from Wren Academy Barnet

A Bracelet of Bones is about an epic journey of a girl trying to find her father. It is a historical fiction that is about a girl called Solveig. It is quite a challenging book, and at times can be quite complicated. Along her journey, she meets new people, and it doesn’t have a lot of violence in it but it does have a lot of tension. There is a cliff-hanger at the end, and there is another sequel to it, so it does make you wonder what’s going to happen next. At times I did find it a bit boring and sometimes I just wanted to carry on reading.


I think that the author Kevin Crossely-Holland has done quite a lot of research, because there are a lot of facts to take in.


This book takes you to a whole other world, and I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to try something new, and wants to learn a new culture.

Delphi, from Queen Elizabeth's Girls' School, Barnet

I found A Bracelet of Bones a touching book, though not quite what I’d expected. I imagined it as a more mythological concept, and when I started to read it I was not quite sure what to expect. I rather enjoyed it though. It shone a light on the dark ages, changing the places they visited to reality, not just places on a map.


I thought Solveig’s resolve and love for her father was admirable, and all the other characters were interesting and very intricate, they all felt like real people.


I greatly enjoyed this book.

Emily Jane, from Copthall School, Barnet


This book is about a teenager called Solveig who is 14 years old. It is set back in the Viking era and the year is 1036. Solveig has a father called Halfden who wants to travel to Constantinople and become a Viking guard who serves Empress Zoe. He promises to take Solveig with him.

Before long Halfden is taken away, but goes without saying goodbye to Solveig, breaking his promise to take her with him. So one morning Solveig wakes up and finds her father gone. Solveig will not stand for it because she doesn’t want to be left behind again. She leaves her home, Norway, to go after her father.


She sets off in a little boat. The journey Solveig must take is across Sweden, Russia and the Black Sea. She faces many dangers along the way and meets some interesting people on the way, such as a slave girl and Viking traders. Solveig’s character shows that she’s brave for going after her father. She doesn’t know really if she’ll see her father again but she believes it’s worth the risk taking.


Kevin Crossley-Holland has based this book on friendship, a father and daughter’s love, and historical fiction all wrapped up in one. I think it’s definitely a book worth reading.


Guy, from De Shalit Aleph School

An enjoyable story about a young girl called Solveig. Her father left her and his family and went to a war without telling her, so she went all the way to her father and left her family behind. I recommend this book for people who like to read adventure books or thriller books because this book is really interesting and really connected to reality. In her way to her father she meets some traders who offer her a ride on their friend's boat ... she carves them things while they sail and in this way she pays them for her ride; this was just the beginning. My rating for this story is 4 because relative to the other books it was the best book. 

Helena, from St James Catholic High School

When I read the blurb for this book I thought that it would be fantastic, however once I started reading the book it  turned out not to be the style of book I would want to read. I didn’t finish the book because it was also quite complicated.

Helena, from St James Catholic High School

A Bracelet of Bones is an interesting book, but it wasn’t my type of book. I prefer futuristic stories. However, I did find that story amazing. I thought that the details of the journey were very fascinating. I also like historic stories which was why I think that I did enjoy the book.

Ivan, from University College School London

A Bracelet of Bones is a book about a 14-year-old girl called Sloveig. She lives with her father Halfdan, her stepmother Asta, and her two stepbrothers Kalf and Blubba. One day when she wakes up she finds that her father was gone. He had followed a great leader of war, named Harald, whom he once saved on the battlefield, who was at Miklagard.


Sloveig at once prepared for a journey across thousands of miles of sea and land, and found herself on an adventure that nearly cost her her life. She paid by doing carvings, and travelled with traders who had horses through land, and with a person called Red Ottar and with his crew out at sea. She made many friends on her trip, including Red Ottar’s slave–woman, Edith, and the rest of the crew. Although not many of the people she meets thought that she would reach Miklagard, she believed that she would.


Will she complete her journey safely and reach Miklagard?


I would recommend this book to older children (10–14). 9/10

Jack, from Wren Academy Barnet

Kevin Crossley-Holland has created a scary and shivering tale. It is about the running away of the girl with the bracelet of bones and the terrifying Vikings who scare the whole of the land. The book has created a world so real that you could almost run your eyes over the first three pages and you would know the past and the present of the world the Vikings lived in. Crossley-Holland has created a beautiful masterpiece it is a tale of a journey, a journey into a different time - told so that you can taste and see it on every page.

The gripping tale creates tension to convince us and get us hooked into the story which moves and grips you and makes you never want to put the book down. My rating 4 ½ stars out of 5.

Jenny, from St James Catholic High School

When I read the blurb I thought, yes this is going to be an interesting read but, not wishing to sound offensive, I found it boring. I don’t think I would recommend it to others of my age. To sum up I found it eerie and gloomy and overall it scores a 3 out of 5 from me.


Jessica, from St James Catholic High School

A Bracelet of Bones was a great read - I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a beautiful tale of a young girl who sets out on a fascinating journey after her father. Throughout, she meets slave girls and ghost ships, and almost becomes a slave herself! This book was cleverly written, and I think it was one of the best books I’ve read that doesn’t have a sequel/prequel. My only criticism is that the characters are hard to keep up with. They have quite long, complicated names, but the name list helped. All in all, I think this book was nicely written and had a great plot.


Johnny, from St James Catholic High School

This book was an amazing view of what life would have been like 1000 years ago, for a child left to fend for herself. It combines realistic drama with fantastic myth. Every moment was detailed and descriptive. A brilliant masterpiece.


CRITICISM: too many characters. It was confusing. Also, it got quite repetitive. Overall it was a very good read.

Lilly-Anne, from Wren Academy Barnet

I found Bracelet of Bones extremely engaging. Once I started to read it, it was hard to stop. It was very interesting, as it was based on Solveig’s life and her point of view. Another reason why I thought this book was particularly good was because it was historically based on Viking life. Personally I thought that the ending was quite predictable. However, I fully enjoyed the book as it made me laugh and made me cry! The main theme of the book was interesting and original, as you don’t often find a book based in Viking life. My favourite character was Edith because she was calm and kind although her life was very difficult.

Mark, from University College School London

Kevin Crossley-Holland was an unknown author to me until now but he demonstrates a huge flow of emotion unlike any author I have ever seen. He really puts a lot of effort into his books making them as realistic as physically possible, describing the storms or the terror of the characters as a great adventure to the mighty city, Miklagard! Solveig, a Viking girl, sets out after her father on the great adventure full of joy, happiness, rage and grief.


Solveig is a Norse girl. She lives with her father and her stepmother and step brothers. She loves being told of the tale of how her father rescued her half-brother (Harald Sigurdsson) and how her half-brother fled with the Viking king to the great city Miklagard (Constantinople). Her father promised to Solveig’s half brother that should Solveig’s father be needed he would come. One day the girl’s father leaves at night to go with his promise and when Solveig finds out, she is determined to follow her father even to Miklagard, which was a huge distance. Will she reach Miklagard, who will help her and will her father be at the city… or not?


I rate this book 9/10, I have really enjoyed this book to its full extent and it is wonderfully written!


The only minus of the book is that the author could have described Solveig’s journey more instead of describing her step-mother and step-brothers who play a very minor role in the book. All in all I think that Kevin made a huge effort to write this book and I am very exited to read the sequel, when he writes it.

Noah, from Wren Academy Barnet

A Bracelet of Bones is a story which starts with the Viking mercenary, Halfdan, who wants to become a guard to Empress Zoe. He travels to Constantinople, but leaves his daughter Solveig behind. She is determined to find her father and goes after him. This is a beautiful novel which really gives us an understanding of mythical Viking sagas. A book that I couldn’t put down. I did not what to read this book because the title sounded corny, but what was hidden inside really made me explore new types of books that I don’t really read that often.

Orli, from Jewish Community Secondary School

There are three types of book – books everyone will love, books that some will love and some will hate, and books that everyone will hate. I vote that A Bracelet of Bones was probably an acquired taste – personally, I didn’t enjoy the book, and pretty much skim-read it towards the end – but I can imagine people liking it.


Personally, the amount of characters and complicated names constantly confused me, as well as the plot being too detailed and rushed for me. I thought that the general idea of the Viking era was very clever – you get books about Victorians and Tudors, but we never really find out about the Vikings – personally, I never found the Vikings a particularly interesting topic, part of the reason, perhaps, that I didn’t enjoy the book to the extent I would have liked to. I think I would have been more gripped if Solveig had stood out as a character – for me, I couldn’t relate to her. Historical Fiction writers have a tricky  job – it’s always going to be harder for their readers to connect with their characters, since they’re so different, but I do feel like I wasn’t engaged and I got bored quite easily with Solveig – her personality wasn’t built up enough to get to know her, and it all felt quite formal. Perhaps if the book had been written in the first person, it would have been more effective – a diary format would have been really interesting and involving for the reader to understand the emotions and situations that Solveig is going through.


But, truth to be told, I can’t fault the writing quality – the author, Kevin Crossley-Holland, is quite blatantly a brilliant writer. I’ve read one of his other books, and I completely loved it – I’m not sure what it was – I just think that the blurb was better than the book, which I hate to say.


I do think that it was quite a challenge for Kevin Crossley-Holland though. We don’t know very much about the Vikings at all, and writing in the voice of the opposite sex is always going to be difficult. I think it was effective having a female narrator since women and girls were obviously not as respected at that time, making it a little more interesting, but overall, this is not a book that I would visit again, unfortunately. 

Yumna, from Wren Academy Barnet

A Bracelet of Bones is a deep and adventurous book set in the time of the Vikings. The story evolves around Solveig, the daughter of HalfDan, a Viking mercenary. The book is written with so much power and passion that it is so simple to lose yourself in the book’s pages. The characters are so real and the landscapes described are so vivid that I ended up dreaming about them! However, it is hard to keep up with the events of the book but even so I couldn’t help myself but feel sad when Solveig felt sad, or feel happy when she did. The book is a bit long and at places I found it a bit boring; nevertheless, I never wanted to put the book down and when I did put it down, it was all I could think about. I recommend this book to all those who love stories about adventure, self-reliance, courage and love.