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Swords of Good Men: The Valhalla Saga Book I Hardcover – 1 Aug 2013

3.9 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books (1 Aug. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1782063323
  • ISBN-13: 978-1782063322
  • Product Dimensions: 15.8 x 3.2 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 568,457 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'A blistering debut novel ... the mix of Viking lore, war and sorcery very appealing' Geek Planet Online. (Geek Planet Online)

'A fabulous debut and a gripping read ... I didn't want it to end' Fantastical Librarian. (Fantastical Librarian)

'A very interesting and exciting story that was hard to put down. 5 stars!' Night Owl Sci-Fi. (Night Owl Sci-Fi)

'An action-filled book with a heart stopping plot and adrenaline fuelled battle scenes. 10 stars' Fantasy Faction. (Fantasy Faction)

'An impressive debut and an engrossing tale that really shouldn't be missed' Speculative Book Review. (Speculative Book Review)

'It's something new both stylistically and subject-wise (fantasy-lite Vikings written by one of their descendants), and certainly if your fantasy reading is starting to feel a bit samey you should give this one a go' Mark Lawrence, author of Prince of Thorns. (Mark Lawrence)

Kristjansson's sprawling cast of colorful characters and eye for historical detail lend this story gratifying verisimilitude (Publishers Weekly on Swords of Good Men)

Book Description

Ancient traditions are about to meet the new order as the armies of the White Christ sweep all before them: blood will wash the land.

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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've given this first effort by Mr Kristjansson three stars because I'm just not sure; it is enjoyable and parts are well written, but there are still a few fairly annoying flaws. I must agree with much of what other reviewers have said so you won't find any mind blowing revelations here I'm afraid.

The story is a bit slow to get going but it's, really, just one story of a siege and the build up to it. The ending is contrived to provide a vehicle for the next book in this series, starring the two main characters and SK comprehensively clears the decks of any future complications through the expedient of killing off just about everyone else! There is a mystical element to the story and, although I don't much like that sort of thing in my 'Viking' books, it isn't too obtrusive here. There is a lot action flowing through and around the town of Stenvik and a plan of the town and its environs would have been useful.

The good stuff; Well, the evocation of Nordic lands a thousand years ago is quite compelling and I really felt as though I was there. The pace of the action, once you are more than half way through, picks up nicely and holds the attention well. Several of the characters are well drawn and interesting in their own right.

The more troubling stuff: By far my biggest grumble is with the style of having 'chapter' headings of place names and then having a new 'chapter' every time the story perspective changes from one character to another. This means that there are many 'chapters' that are less than half a page long. This constant and staccato switching between places and characters gets very confusing, made worse by the similarity in some of the Nordic character names.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I was lucky enough to win an ARC of this one via Twitter, and was so looking forward to reading it. It looks and smells exactly like my cup of tea. Maybe that was a bad thing, because it always seems that when I'm absolutely dying to get my paws on something there's a somehow inevitable sense of disappointment when I actually dig in.

Swords of Good Men is one of the most disjointed, interrupted novels I've ever read. Within each chapter the action jumps from place to place several times, and in some cases each of these sections is just a paragraph long. I actually really enjoyed the action and the characters that were described in each location, but found it hugely frustrating to have to keep switching between them so fast. I found myself losing track of names and threads in the process. You could, of course, argue that this is simply because I'm a bear of very little brain, but it just isn't a style that suits me well at all. Imagine trying to watching three really good films at once, channel hopping between them, that's what the majority of this novel felt like to me. The content is fantastic, but the style nearly killed me. Are attention spans really so short now? Or is this some new literary trait that I'm just completely unaware of? If this hadn't been a review copy, I would have been unlikely to have finished it, and that would have been a real shame because the absolute best of this one comes right at the end.

Style aside, Kristjansson's characterisation is outstanding. Many times through this one I was reminded of Gemmell, who will always be the master in my eyes when it comes to writing fantasy characters you can genuinely care about. If you like Gemmell, I suspect you'll also like Kristjansson.
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Format: Paperback
There is a 2009 film called Vahalla Rising by Nicholas Winding Refn that stars the uber-talented Mads Mikkelsen. It follows the journeys of a Viking and explores the stark, often brutal, time which he lived. Swords of Good Men, the latest publication from Jo Fletcher Books, covers similar thematic territory but goes that little bit further. Imagine a novel that offers insight into the nature of a proud warrior culture and how tribes managed on a day-to-day basis.

The remote settlement of Stenvik is a hard place to survive, in fact, it's positively Darwinian. The strong prosper and the weak suffer the consequences. Beset on all sides by forces that want to take control, the village chieftain also has to contend with internal power struggles. As events swiftly begin to spiral out of control, conflict is inevitable.

The writing on display has an evocative air. Be warned though, things get pretty damn graphic as the plot moves forward. There is a wonderfully savage chaos in the action scenes. Unsurprisingly, when violence does erupt, it is often swift and brutal. I know that war is a terrible thing, but I think the writing tapped directly into that primal bloodlust that resides somewhere in the dark recesses of my brain. There was part of me cheering when the Viking berserkers, The Twenty, arrived. When it comes to the battles, there is something wonderfully uncomplicated about it all. There is no thought required only action, the rules are staggeringly simple: kill or be killed.

As an effective counterpoint to all the mayhem of the battlefield, it was a nice surprise to discover that the novel also contains a plethora of more introspective moments. When characters are not engaged in trying to chop bits off of one another they ponder their existence.
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