St. Paul’s Monastery in Jarrow, Northumbria is the setting of the opening scene of my novel, Annoure and the Dragon Ships. Jarrow is a town in northeast England on the River Tyne. Much of what we know about Jarrow is because it was the home of Bede, who was one of the greatest 8th century Anglo-Saxon scholars and is considered the father of English history.
The Viking Age in Britain began in 793 with a Viking attack on the monastic settlement of Lindisfarne, an island off the northeast coast of England in Northumbria. At the time, monasteries were often located in isolated communities (islands, river mouths, peninsulas) that were wealthy and unarmed, which made these settlements vulnerable to Vikings raids.
My story starts a year later when five dragon ships sailed up the River Tyne and attacked St. Paul’s Church at Jarrow. They burned the two monasteries Wearmouth–Jarrow, killing or kidnapping the priests and monks and fighting off the soldiers and villagers who tried to stop them.
The raid was unsuccessful for the Vikings in that their war leader was killed during the attack and a terrible storm raged when they left resulting in two of the dragon ships sinking. The warriors who swam to shore from these ships were killed by the villagers.
Historians disagree about where the Vikings who attacked Jarrow came from. For the purpose of my book, I had them originate in Norway.
While researching the book, I traveled to England and visited St. Paul’s Church. When I arrived I discovered the church was still in use after more than twelve hundred years. They were celebrating the flower festival during my visit and the old stone church was filled with flowers.
Beside the church are the remains of the two monasteries that were destroyed during the Viking raid. Nearby is a reconstructed medieval village complete with live animals. It was a writer’s delight to be able to actually see what a village would have looked like back then, with its thatched-roof houses and fences made of twisted branches.
Annoure, the main character of my novel, spots the Viking ships sailing on the River Tyne. She realizes they haven’t come in trade when one warrior fires an arrow, narrowly missing her. She rides to the monastery to warn of the upcoming attack. During the raid, she’s kidnapped by Vikings and taken to Norway.
In 794 A.D., Annoure, a young noblewoman, is abducted during the second Viking raid on England. During the rough voyage to Norway, Annoure sparks a feud between her captor Thorstein and another warrior. The adventure it incites calls on Annoure’s courage and Druid training as she struggles to survive strange lands, people and customs in her quest to return home. Thorstein’s skills as a warrior, navigator, and sailor are challenged in epic battles that strain lifelong friendships. He risks all in his search for Annoure, trying to help win back her freedom—and ultimately her love.