Skip to main content

Swords of Good Men by Snorri Kristjansson

Swords of Good Men - The Valhalla Saga 1

I love Vikings. Whether as raiders or peaceful traders the Viking society is a fascinating one. Once Norse religion and mythology is added in then I’m in a very happy place. The Vikings in Swords of Good Men are drawn into a battle between the old gods and the new, with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Caught in the middle is Ulfar, travelling companion and cousin of the heir to Svealand, Geiri. The pair is on the last leg of their tour meeting with other chieftains. The town of Stenvik doesn’t look to have all that much to recommend it at first sight, and the locals are not exactly welcoming. Unfortunately, things get much worse as it becomes the focus of two very different but equally ruthless and dangerous fighters.

Sailing towards Stenvik is Skargrim, led by Skuld, a woman representing the Norse gods. Their mission is to halt the progress of the White Christ, and wipe out its adherents from Viking soil. In practice this means going up against King Olaf Tryggvason and his pressganged troops. Both leaders use violence and intimidation, as well as channelling the power of their deities. Both are best avoided, but sadly this is not an option for Ulfar or for the people of Stenvik.

Ulfar has no choice but to stand with the town and fight, but choosing whom to trust within the town’s walls is not easy. Sigurd, the chief, and his right-hand man Sven are a formidable unit. Harald is a great brute of a man with no obvious redeeming qualities. Valgard is a healer, well skilled in his art, as is Audun the blacksmith. Both men have dark secrets they’d rather stayed well hidden. But, desperate times force the true nature of men out from the darkness.

The story moves perspective between the town and the invading forces, and I admit that occasionally I had trouble keeping track of who was where doing what. The scenes in the town always captured my attention though, and there are several interesting storylines about loyalty, allegiance and truth there that echo the much larger tensions outside this one community. Ulfar is an appealing young man, with his charm, looks and wit. He is made of heroic stuff; a sense of personal morality that’s aligned with the times and yet just a little bit more noble than your average chap. Harald acts as a great foil for Ulfar. He’s an excellent raider, every bit the Viking warrior, but doesn’t know when or how to leave his brutishness at the door.

There are some bloody and gruesome fight scenes that I enjoyed enormously! I liked the inventive defence tactics very much. I also liked the subterfuge and the twists that revealed themselves. Swords of Good Men is the first part of the Valhalla Saga, and there is a suitably exciting ending. Well, two endings really, one to make your eyes widen and the other to make you shake your head as you discover just how slippery some folk can be. I’m not going to call it a cliffhanger ending because one story has ended; it’s just that another one is about to begin. I’m signing myself up right now to part two because I think Ulfar has a long way still to go before he can return home.

Thank you Jo Fletcher for sending me a proof copy of Swords of Good Men. The book is available now in paperback.


Popular posts from this blog

Interview With The Vampire: Claudia's Story by Anne Rice and Ashley Marie Witter

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

Lizzie Borden and the Borden Murders See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

The story of Lizzie Borden has a whiff of folklore about it, it feels hazy to me, apocryphal perhaps, something half known and uncertain like Washington and the cherry tree or the ride of Paul Revere. Shamefully, I had to Google both the latter two examples to double check they were the events I thought I was referring to. I choose them deliberately though - is it my Englishness that makes these events fuzzy to me? Do these stories live in the American psyche the way Magna Carta, Henry VIII and his six wives, and Jack the Ripper (to select three almost at random) live in mine? 
I remember a book we stocked when I was a very young bookseller at Waterstones in Watford that looked at the psychology of children who murder their parents. The copy on the back of the book talked of Lizzie Borden. I remember half wondering about the case, then shelving the book away and moving onto the next armful. But it stuck in my m…

Super Special Summer Picnic Book Chase

My nieces and nephews and I have a monthly book club, called Book Chase (although it sometimes gains an extra 's' to become Book Chasse). The rules are simple: we all bring something we've read during the last month, talk about it to each other, and eat snacks. We live tweet each meeting with the hashtag BookChase. Sometimes, when we remember, we Storify all the tweets too. This month, we remembered!