Book Reviews

“Kept me guessing to the end and I couldn't put it down. Fascinating, full of adventure and well written. A clear presentation of the Biblical kinsman redeemer.”

— Earl Osborn | Amazon Reviewer

“The story held my interest, and I found myself caring about the characters, anxious to see how it all turns out for them. I was impressed at how seamlessly the author wove into this adventure story the biblical meaning of a kinsman redeemer. The Christian faith of some in the book came across as natural and plausible, and the Vikings' beliefs were well contrasted. All around, a very good book and one I would recommend to anyone. I'm giving this book five stars because although I very much dislike first person narratives as a general rule, this book actually overcame that bias and was thoroughly enjoyable.”

— Amazon Reviewer

“Really loved this book. I like history a lot so it was fun to imagine the story in the midst of the real story.”

— Loralie Ann Underwood | Amazon Reviewer

Ruth Anderson Lawler


Ruth Anderson Lawler was born and raised in New England, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, and taught fourth grade in that state for two years.

Seeking wide, open spaces with mountains, she migrated west to Wyoming and married a rancher named Jim. They moved to Anchorage, Alaska, where she also taught school.

Soon after their three children, now grown, were born, the Lawlers moved to their present home on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula.

Blog Post

Greek Fire: The Flame That Reigned the Sea

06/24/2016 | General Fiction

greek-fireThe sun set for Antiquity, and twilight loomed over the Roman Empire. Its western half has fallen to the nomadic hordes—the Vandals having sacked the city of Rome itself on 455 AD. The center of the civilized world shifted to the east, where the Greek-speaking Romans (Byzantines) continued to rule the empire in their capital of Constantinople (now modern-day Istanbul). The city stood stalwart between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean—between Asia and Europe. Yet despite their steadfastness, they were still surrounded by enemies, especially the emerging Islamic Caliphates from Arabia. It seemed like it was inevitable for the empire’s demise. And truly so, because when the Roman-Byzantine Empire became weak due to its continuous conflicts with the Persian-Sassanid Empire, the Arabs waged war on both of them, annihilating the latter in 651 AD and turning around to finish the former. In 672 AD, they dispatched three great fleets to besiege Constantinople, raiding the coasts en route and harrying the imperial capital itself. The nights seemed dark for the empire. Possibly by providence and during a pivotal moment of the war in that same year, a Byzantine architect and refugee, Kallinikos, invented a weapon for the empire. It was a weapon that spewed fire—a fire that burned on water. It was Greek fire. Wielding this weapon, the Byzantine navy launched a counteroffensive and repelled the Arabs in 680 AD, ending their seven-year campaign. Three decades later, the Arabs, under a new Caliph, took a gamble and tried again to take Constantinople, bearing the full force of their military strength. This second siege was more dangerous than the first, but the Romans still prevailed after using Greek fire; the Arabs defeated, never again attacking. The sun shone once more on the empire for seven further centuries. Greek fire fueled its glory. greek-fire2

Understanding Greek Fire and Its Enigma

Used extensively by the Byzantine navy, Greek fire burned on water and, according to some interpretations, was ignited by water. In addition, as numerous writers testify, it could be extinguished only by a few substances: sand (which deprived it of oxygen), strong vinegar, or old urine, presumably by some sort of chemical reaction. It was a liquid substance, and not some sort of projectile, as verified both by descriptions and the very name liquid fire. The liquid was ejected from a siphon, sending a continuous stream to the screams of sailors. Earthenware pots filled with it were also used and thrown by hand—possibly the first known use of handheld grenades. Although labelled as Greek fire by historians, original Byzantine sources called the substance a variety of names: sea fire (pŷr thalássion), Roman fire (pŷr rhōmaïkón), war fire (polemikòn pŷr), liquid fire (hygròn pŷr), sticky fire (pŷr kollētikón), or manufactured fire (pŷr skeuastón). Regardless of what they called it, the Byzantines kept the formula a state secret—one which was never discovered. Enemies who managed to capture the weapon were unable to replicate the exact formula; instead, their results yielded low-quality, ineffective imitations. During World War II, almost thirteen centuries from the development of Greek fire, American scientists invented napalm—the closest a nation has ever come to in recreating the ancient terror weapon. Even with that achievement, the exact formula of Greek fire remains lost to time—a secret of Antiquity extinguished.   Resources  

Danegeld: England’s Ransom to the Vikings

06/24/2016 | General Fiction

danegeld-englands-ransom-to-the-vikings England’s history is rife with conflict, especially during the Viking Age. In that era, hairy and scary foreign men raided and raped. Bearded berserkers, while wielding axes to cleave and spears to thrust, ransacked towns then rowed away on their loot-filled longboats before the local lords could mount a defense. Indeed, any army they dispatched arrived too late. It’s no wonder that the English nobles chose to pay off the Vikings instead—a tribute called Danegeld. Danegeld (Danish tax, or Dane tribute) was a levy gathered from the kingdom and offered to the Vikings to dissuade them from attacking. The Vikings at that time came from Denmark, hence the term. England initially paid this tribute in 991 with the amount of £10,000. For a time, the Vikings stopped their raiding. But when they realized that this was an easy way of getting gold, they came back to wreak havoc and slaughter Englishmen until they were again appeased with Danegeld. This cycle repeated for years with the tribute increasing in amount each time. The Vikings’ bullying buried seeds of hate in the Englishmen’s hearts, leading them to massacre the Danes on St. Brice’s Day.

Danegeld in Contemporary Culture

Nowadays, the term Danegeld has become a warning to people who try to buy off a problem instead of trying to solve it. It’s even possible that England’s medieval misery is an influence to the Western world’s stance of non-negotiation with terrorists. Danegeld is often referred to in literature. In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the Danish king, Claudius, orders the titular Hamlet to collect Danegeld from England. Taken verbatim, Claudius declares, “He shall with speed to England / For the demand of our neglected tribute” (“The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark,” act 3, scene 1, Rudyard Kipling’s poem “Dane-Geld” colorfully summarizes the tribute. The Englishmen’s lesson was conveyed in the last two stanzas:

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,

For fear they should succumb and go astray;

So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,

You will find it better policy to say,

“We never pay any-one Dane-geld,

No matter how trifling the cost;

For the end of that game is oppression and shame,

And the nation that pays it is lost!” (“Dane-Geld,”

  References Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.” Act 3, scene 1. Accessed October 7, 2016. Poetry Lovers’ Page. “Dane-Geld.” Accessed October 7, 2016.

Viking Raids on Britain in the Early Eleventh Century

06/24/2016 | General Fiction


A saga of brutality and treachery

Life was hard in Britain during the Middle Ages. Terrible weather, terrible neighbors, terrible times. The status quo was that of frequent chaos: Vikings raided yearly, and Englishmen died in winter and war. The latter succumbed to the persistent assaults, and the former took the north and east quarters of England, where they settled and established the Danelaw. The English raised taxes and used the gathered tribute to pay off the Vikings. Yet even with this tenuous peace, the raiders still harassed the English whenever the tribute ran out. This frustrated the English. This led to the massacre on St. Brice’s Day. On November 13, 1002, the ill-advised Æthelred, king of England, ordered the extermination of all Danes living on Britain. Sweyn Forkbeard, king of Denmark and overlord of Norway and Sweden, mourned for his sister Gunhilde, who was murdered, together with her husband and son, in the atrocity. Æthelred’s decree further increased Viking animosity toward England, and in 1003, Sweyn launched a punitive campaign against England to avenge the Danish dead. The Viking raids intensified, razing became widespread, and looting and plundering became more savage. The reaving paused in 1005 as a dire famine struck England, forcing Sweyn to return to Denmark. It seemed the famine was a blessing to the English.

A New Wave of Raids

But in 1009, Thorkell the Tall led the Jomsvikings, a semilegendary mercenary group, to England, where they raided for four years, further devastating the land. Historical sources conflict on whether they were commissioned by Sweyn or were independent. Regardless, the English nobility’s failure to repel the raiders disheartened the realm. When Æthelred managed to accumulate enough wealth to buy the mercenaries’ loyalty in 1012, it proved futile as King Sweyn returned to England in 1013, bringing to bear the entire strength of his forces, intent on a full-scale invasion. The saga was reaching its climax. Success came swift. Sweyn was a formidable general and a man driven with England’s conquest. All of England was weary from decades of misery, and after seeing the Vikings crush their meager resistance, surrendered to Sweyn. Æthelred went into exile in Normandy, while Sweyn took the throne of England. The invasion took less than a year. Yet it was not over, for Sweyn passed away after only five weeks in rule. His holdings in Scandinavia went to his elder son Harald, while his younger son Cnut—who would later be given the epithet “the Great”—got elected by the Vikings as king of England. The English, belittling Cnut, reinstated Æthelred as their king. Cnut withdrew to Denmark, where he assembled an army to retake England. In 1016, Cnut sailed to reconquer England. By this time, Æthelred fell ill and died. His son Edmund took leadership of England and clashed with Cnut on the battle of Assandun. Though Edmund was a valiant warrior—his moniker was “Ironside”—in contrast to his father, Cnut proved greater and defeated the English. Edmund suffered mortal wounds and died later that year, leaving Cnut the undisputed ruler of England.

The North Sea Empire

With the death of Harald in 1018, Cnut inherited the kingships of Denmark and Norway and, together with England, unified them into the North Sea Empire. And so it ends—a saga sung by swords.   Related Reading

The Biblical Kinsman Redeemer

06/24/2016 | General Fiction

As Described from the Book of Ruth

In my book, the main character is an impoverished orphan who dreams of becoming a knight. He learns the tale of the biblical Ruth’s kinsman redeemer during mass and wishes he had one to pay for his knightly training. But what is a kinsman redeemer? The book of Ruth is a small but important part of the Bible—small as it has four chapters; important because it illustrates the virtuous lineage of David, one that traces down to Jesus. In addition, one of its themes is valuable in understanding ancient inheritance customs and its influence to modern law. The theme of the kinsman redeemer. The term kinsman redeemer (goel in Hebrew; guardian-redeemer in other sources) refers to a person charged with the duty of restoring their nearest relative’s rights. Their obligations include redeeming the relative from slavery, repurchasing a relative’s property if it was sold due to poverty, receiving the restitution of an injured relative who died, avenging a murdered relative, and marrying a relative’s widow in order to have and raise a son, in case they could not gain any son to pass on their name. The book of Ruth expands on that last one from the perspective of the widow.

Naomi Meets Ruth the Moabite

The story starts with a famine in Bethlehem, and to escape it, an Israelite family emigrates to the neighboring country of Moab. After arriving, the father passed away, leaving behind his two sons and his wife, Naomi. So that their family line can continue, the sons married two Moabite women—one of which was Ruth; thus, she became a part of their family. Ten years later, tragedy struck again as both sons died, widowing the women, just like their mother-in-law, Naomi. When Naomi heard that the famine in Bethlehem had ended, she decided to return, bidding her daughters-in-law to go back to their own mothers and remarry. But Ruth, in a display of devotion, vowed to be with Naomi wherever she will go. And so both women went together to Bethlehem.

Ruth Meets Her Family’s Kinsman Redeemer

As a fortunate happenstance, Naomi’s deceased husband had a relative of good standing, wealth, and land. His name was Boaz. Ruth sought work in order to support Naomi and herself. Impressed by the young woman’s loyalty to her mother-in-law, Boaz favored Ruth and allowed her to glean his fields, and he placed her under his protection as well. Naomi rejoiced at this, for she knew that Boaz was a kinsman redeemer of their family. She instructed Ruth to appeal to Boaz about him being their kinsman redeemer and to have him take Ruth as his wife. Ruth did as she was told, but although Boaz was attracted to the woman’s noble character, he knew of another kinsman redeemer who had a greater claim than his. Boaz met the other claimant and discussed his duties with him. Upon knowing that he would have to marry Ruth, which was in conflict with his estate and interests, the man deferred to Boaz. With no other legal obstacles in the way, Boaz married Ruth. Soon after, Ruth gave birth to a son, thereby ensuring the line of their family will go on—their kin redeemed. Their descendants would include David and Solomon, the great kings of Israel—and Jesus Christ, redeemer of the world.