I must admit that I had never heard of Saint Magnus, until I read Saint Magnus: The Last Viking, by Susan Peek. With this action-packed novel, set around 1,000 A.D., we find a dual hierarchy established on the deathbed of the monarch Thorfinn. Rather than leaving his throne to his eldest son, he creates a dual hierarchy, where both of his sons, Erland and Paal, are to rule over the Orkney homeland together. Tensions rise as the brother’s descendants seethe in animosity for each other. Hakon, the son of Paal is a troublemaker; whereas Aerling, the son of Erland, is hot-tempered. Hakon and Aerling are competitive, and do not wish to rule jointly, as their fathers successfully did. However, before that can happen, circumstances come to pass that make Hakon vow revenge.
From this point, early within the book, the story becomes mesmerizing. What will Hakon do to get revenge? How will Aerling respond? And what role will Magnus play, given that Magnus becomes the protagonist of this novel?
Saint Magnus – Filled with Virtue
In this story, so beautifully crafted by Susan Peek, we see Magnus’ character excel in piety, forgiveness and self-giving love; three virtues that you would want your own child to possess. In this young adult novel, Magnus displays his piety by applying St Augustine’s Just War doctrine, without Peek ever making specific reference to it. As the Orkneys are invaded by a Scandinavian king, Magnus justifies engaging in battle, as being morally upright, by determining that the fighting is 1) a last resort, 2) done in self-defense, 3) with a probability of success, and 4) with minimal harm to non-combatants. These four points align with Saint Augustine’s Just War doctrine.
Saint Magnus – Facing Conflict
Later in the story, Magnus, once again, faces battle. However, in this instance, he refuses to fight, because the battle is unjustified and deemed murderous. As the battle rages, he kneels in prayer instead. By all accounts, he should have died, there and then; but not a hair on his head was touched.
Throughout the story, Magnus is provided with numerous opportunities to forgive others for injuries against him. He demonstrates that forgiveness valiantly, and also encourages others to forgive as well; where all instances require forgiveness for heinous activities.
Magnus epitomizes the self-giving love of Christ, when he is willing to die for the preservation of his brother’s soul. Later, he again is willing to risk his earthly life in reparation for the soul of his cousin.
Saint Magnus – Role Model
If you have a teen in your life, especially a son, grandson or nephew, and you are looking for quality books where your young adult can find a protagonist that serves as an excellent role model, then look no further than Saint Magnus: The Last Viking. This book is filled with action, virtue, and compelling characters. Saint Magnus is a saint you should want to know more about. I’m glad I became acquainted with such a great role model for piety, forgiveness and self-giving love. Should you read this book, you too will be glad to meet Saint Magnus!
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