The Sorrow Stone

In March 2022, I published my fourth book, The Sorrow Stone, a novel that re-imagines a medieval Icelandic work called The Saga of Gísli.

The Sorrow Stone tells the story of Disa and her son Sindri as they flee from an audacious act of revenge. Disa has stabbed a man in the leg to avenge the murder of her brother. Now, she and her son must survive the bitter cold outside, and the hardships of the Icelandic fjords, to reach safety and shelter. 

As they travel, Disa begins to recall the saga of how she has come to be in such peril. A second story, her tale of an intense and destructive relationship with her brothers, forms alongside her escape, and connects her situation now with all that has happened before.


‘A masterly retelling of one of Iceland's most famous sagas, whetting a new edge on the historic tale of vengeance and divided loyalties with tremendous effect. I found it utterly captivating.’ - Hannah Kent

‘This epic tale transported me to another time and place completely.’ - Favel Parret


'Subtle, well-paced, and compelling, the narrative switches between the urgency of Disa and Sindri’s flight and Disa’s pluperfect telling of her own saga before the plotlines knit together. Gíslason’s expansive knowledge of Icelandic history and culture lends authenticity to his characters’ actions and musings. [...] Gíslason wisely places the larger geopolitics of this era in the background and teases out the strands of human yearning that lie hidden between the succinct accounts of families, conflicts, and scandals in the Sagas. The perspectives of women are largely missing in these foundational texts, and Gíslason imbues his protagonist Disa with desire and a vulnerability that allows readers to feel the leaden impact of her losses and to view the male characters in her orbit through a more critical lens. [...] Few authors have such an intimate and academic understanding of Iceland’s harsh and beautiful landscape, the essence of its people, and the importance of weaving stories to form a personal and national identity as Kári Gíslason. As we stand back and regard his tapestry, a perspicacious study of love in various forms – potent, forbidden, furtive, unrequited – reveals itself.' - Dilan Gunawardana, Australian Book Review

'Taken from the Icelandic sagas, this is an astounding retelling of the Gisli and Eyrbyggja story. [Kári] brings medieval Iceland to vivid life, as he reimagines the fate of a woman caught up in one of Iceland's most famous sagas.' - Cheryl Akle, The Australian

'In lifting Disa from the densely populated weave of the Icelandic sagas and teasing out her story from their tangle of kinships and events, Gíslason has given her a rich emotional life [...] she has a complex inner life, capable of deep, abiding love and implacable anger. Like a shard of pottery dug out of the earth and brought into the light to reveal its true shape and colour, Disa’s story is given its true emotional weight and human consequence. Gíslason’s prose is wonderfully controlled; it can be as stark and harsh as some of the landscapes he so beautifully describes, and at other times is imbued with a quiet but deeply felt lyricism. Disa ponders how swiftly news travels from house to house, community to community, how stories spread across the country “like the wind into a hall when two doors open at once”. Gíslason unlocks and opens the doors to Disa’s story, and it might just blow you away.' - Daniel Keene, The Saturday Paper

'Allowing us readers nowadays to find out a little bit more about what's motivated [Disa] and how this world works, I think is brilliant. It made it so much clearer, even for someone like me, who's read Gísla saga a number of times. I went back and re-read it after reading Kári's book...and it's given me a lot of food for thought.' Lisa Bennett, 'The Bookshelf' (radio review)

'Gíslason has created an observant, courageous and determined woman, and the complicated relationships she shares with her brothers, her son and her husband are central to the revelation of her story. [...] The other central character is of course, the setting. Iceland in the 10th century is a fascinating, surprising and sometimes shocking place where the realities of surviving in a ruthless environment depend on family ties and a strict, hierarchical framework of leadership. Gíslason’s litany of detail: traders and mink furs, meals of fish and sour milk, gifts of gold plate and rich tapestries combine to establish a sense of place that is wholly believable and intriguing to read. [...] There is no other book like this.' Susan Francis, ArtsHub

‘A fresh retelling of a tale deeply embedded in Icelandic culture and spotlights how deeply integral these women and their lives are to these stories, yet how infrequently they are given a voice. [...] The Sorrow Stone is an entirely enthralling, rich and bloody saga filled with revenge, betrayal, passion and murder.’ - Georgia Brough, Books and Publishing

'I was wholly and immediately immersed. [...] Like the epic Icelandic sagas that inspired this sparse, gritty, captivating novel, I have no doubt The Sorrow Stone will be read by generations to come.' - Tye Cattanach, Readings Monthly

'A gripping retelling of an ancient Icelandic saga, it’s a marvellous feat of character and story-telling, all wrapped in a bundle of less than 250 pages. [...] With so much packed into the story, it’s tempting to go into The Sorrow Stone expecting it to lean to melodrama. But that’s not how you tell a saga. Gíslason’s writing is straightforward and compelling, and wonderfully suited to the oral traditions of the sagas that inspired him. It’s elegant without being flowery; simple without being staid; dramatic rather than melodramatic.' - Jodie Sloan, AU Review

'A taut and suspenseful narrative told in understated elegant prose. Disa may, per her own assessment, be remembered as “the worst woman who ever lived in Iceland”, but in this telling she emerges as an emotionally complex figure grappling with a society that allows her little agency to determine her own future.' Gemma Nisbet, The West Australian

‘This saga of revenge, love and destiny set in the haunting landscapes of Norway and Iceland held me captivated [...] If you enjoy historical fiction, you will enjoy The Sorrow Stone.’ - Nicola Skinstad, Good Reading Magazine

'In telling her story Disa makes this saga simple and compelling. She shows, too, how in a society where revenge killing was legitimate, and almost a moral imperative, she and other women lived with the deaths of their loved ones and the constant knowledge and fear of reprisals. It is this that underlies the urgency and tension running throughout the book. [...] The Sorrow Stone is a gripping and exciting novel.' Ann Skea, Newtown Review of Books

'Very, very atmospheric and visual. You can feel the cold; you can feel the fear. It's really quite gripping. [...] I really enjoyed this and I felt as though I was really immersed in a completely new experience and I felt like he [Kári Gíslason] did a good job of humanising history.' Virginia Seymour, Diving In Podcast

'On one hand, The Sorrow Stone is a rare view of a distant past and a unique exploration of Icelandic culture. On the other, it’s a fresh and pacy thriller that follows the tale of an unforgettable female protagonist.' - Happy Mag

Ford, Catherine. 'Love thaws cold Icelanders,' Sydney Morning Herald (Spectrum), 23 April 2022, 11.

'Your Preview Verdict: The Sorrow Stone,' (25 reader reviews) Better Reading, 24 March 2022.

Interviews & features

In conversation with Richard Fidler, ABC Radio National ('Nightlife'), 13 May 2022.

In conversation with Steven Lang, Outspoken Maleny, 4 May 2022.

Nichols, Claire, 'Kári Gíslason gives new life to an old Icelandic saga.' 'The Book Show,' ABC Radio National, 4 April 2022, 00:05-24:00.

Edwards, Astrid, 'Kári Gíslason on Retelling Stories from the Past,' The Garrett: Writers on Writing, 14 April 2022.

'Show Your Working: Kári Gíslason,' Kill Your Darlings, 24 March 2022.

Evans, Kate, Cassie McCullagh, and Lisa Bennett, 'The Bookshelf,' ABC Radio National, 19 March 2022, 24:10-40:00.

Levingston, Rebecca, 'ABC Mornings (Brisbane),' 3 February 2022, 2:13:03-2:24:15.

Hunter, Ben, 'Connecting Cultures,' Booktopian: Tell Me What To Read, 23 March 2022.

Mellet, Rob, 'Dark Tale From Viking Heartland,' My Village News, February 2022, p.17.

Odds bobs

'The Bookshelf,' ABC Radio National, 18 June 2022.

'The best holiday reads (and the holiday to pack them for),' RACV, 31 March 2022.

'Eight Australian Fiction Titles To Pick Up This Month,' Readings blog, March 2022.

Riverbend Books 'book of the week,' 7 March 2022.

'From family fun to twisty thrillers: Here are 10 new books to read in March,' The New Daily, 5 March 2022.