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Set in 13th-century Norway, The Axe is the first volume in Undset's epic tetralogy, The Master of Hestviken. In it, we meet Olav Audunsson and Ingunn Steinfinnsdatter, who were betrothed as children and raised as brother and sister. In the heedlessness of youth, they become lovers, unaware that their ardor will forge the first link in a chain of murder, exile, and disgrace. Undset's novel is also a meticulous re-creation of a world split between pagan codes of retribution and the rigors of Christian piety--a world where law is a fragile new invention and manslaughter is so common that it's punishable by a fine."Undset reproduces medieval Norway in all the rich pageantry of color and form...she can transport us eight centuries and several thousand miles more effectively than most writers can take us into the house next door."--The Nation