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Haakon Olesson was a young Viking warrior with small crew and a rash of bad luck until one day a rival longship attacked his under the banner of peace. His leadership in defeating the dishonorable captain of the rival vessel and his honest and noble dealing with its crew after his victory brought him the favor of the gods. Apparently Thor and others of his ilk had need a strong, intelligent, noble warrior and were willing to guide him and aid him. The first of token of this aid was the Golden ax mentioned in book's title. The second token of aid was information that a certain english lord's estate was lightly guarded and his brothed daughter and her dowry were waiting in the castle, ripe for plunder. And so with strength, cunning and wisdom, Haakon was given fame, fortune, a woman worthy of a warrior. But there were other matters to deal with - such as vengeance upon the dog who stole his father's lands and killed his brother and sisters. Taking Rosamund from the english castle was the first facet of his revenge. The rest would come later. Reading this one after reading Poul Anderson's "A Midsummer Tempest" is like eating Kraft macaroni and cheese after having spent a summer eating curries. It's familiar and goes down easy, but it feels less than satisfying. Neilson's writing style is very straightforward with little color, panache or even humor. To me, this book felt more like reading a biography than a work of fiction. The characters (except Rosamund) are wooden and stilted. And, somehow, every Viking mentioned is bigger than the last - all of the head-and-shoulders taller than everyone else. On the plus side, the good guys are honest, noble and honorable. The bad guys are treacherous, lecherous and more than willing to kick a dog out of sheer spite. I've got a couple of more books in this series. We'll see if they get better or worse...