Swords of Good Men – Valhalla Saga #1 – Snorri Kristjansson
To Ulfar Thormodsson, the Viking town of Stenvik is the penultimate stop on a long journey in this riveting adventure of clashing Viking powers. Tasked with looking after his cousin after disgracing his father, he has traveled the world and now only wants to go home.
Stenvik is different: it contains the beautiful and tragic Lilja, who immediately captures Ulfar’s heart-–but Stenvik is also home to some very deadly men, who could break Ulfar in an instant.
King Olav is marching on Stenvik from the East, determined to bring the White Christ to the masses at the point of his sword, and a host of bloodthirsty raiders led by a mysterious woman are sailing from the north.
But Ulfar is about to learn that his enemies are not all outside the walls.
“Swords of Good Men” is Snorri Kristjansson’s debut and in my opinion a great start to the Valhalla Saga series. It sets a scorching pace, is packed with breathtaking action scenes, throws some unexpected twists in there and ends with a spectacular battle and an ending I didn’t see coming. In other words: this book hits the mark just right. It’s everything I expected it to be and more.
“Swords of Good Men” is the first Scandinavian/Viking themed book I’ve ever read and I’m pleased with how much I liked it. I had an inkling I would really like this book, but with new themes you never know. I’m a bit of a history and mythology freak, so anything involving ancient cultures and Gods is right up my alley. I’m also a big fan of a good battle in the books I read and let me tell you this: if there’s one thing Snorri Kristjansson is extremely good at, it’s describing a battle. The last 100 or so pages of the book are filled with blood, swords, axes, entrails flying around and skulls being smashed. I loved it! It was one of the most exhilarating battles I’ve read in a while. Kristjansson doesn’t fear a little gore and he’s certainly not shy to leave a pile of corpses littering the pages.
This mixed with the scattered hints at something ‘more’, something supernatural makes this a book you won’t be able to put down easily. Although his use of the godlike powers isn’t overwhelming it keeps you in its grip throughout the story. I still have a lot of questions about how the Gods are involved in all this and who is on who’s side.
The story is told in a distorted kind of way, changing perspective extremely fast, giving us an account from all possible POV’s about the events. It’s the first time I’ve read a book that’s written this way and it takes some getting used to. It’s a bit uncomfortable in the beginning, but as the story unfolded I began to appreciate this manner of storytelling. It fits perfectly with this kind of book and it brings the story alive in ways a usual approach wouldn’t have been able to.
There are quite a lot of POV’s which can be a bit confusing in the beginning, because at that point we’re just getting to know all the characters and their positions in the story. All I can say about this is: keep reading. The characters fall into place a lot easier once you’re past the first 100 pages and from there on it’s easy to keep track, even though there’s a lot going on.
The vast cast of characters are the cherry on top of this blood red cake. Although there are many, the author does a great job to give them all their own distinct personality and their own roles to play in the story. Some are evil, some are too good and some leave you wondering where they fit in in the whole.
The end caught me by surprise and it’s always great when a book can achieve this, I love it when I can’t anticipate an ending and it leaves me wondering about the next book. That’s a job well done, that’s how a suspenseful book should make me feel.
Snorri Kristjansson is definitely a powerful new voice in the Fantasy scene, with a strong debut that will please fans of Vikings, mythology, strategy and action.