free hit counter code Swords of Good Men - GoBooks - Download Free Book
Ads Banner
Hot Best Seller

Swords of Good Men

Availability: Ready to download

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-–bu 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.


Compare
Ads Banner

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-–bu 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.

30 review for Swords of Good Men

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mark Lawrence

    This is an unusual book - not because of the subject, though I can't remember reading any Viking fantasy of late (apart from the one I'm writing) or indeed ever. Sure fantasy abounds with 'Northman warriors', beards a-bristling, who crop up with sometimes annoying regularity in everything from George Martin's A Game of Thrones (& subsequent books) to the recent Grim Company by Luke Scull. But actually honest-to-Odin Vikings with names like Audun Arinbjarnarson and Ulfar Thormodsson ... that's un This is an unusual book - not because of the subject, though I can't remember reading any Viking fantasy of late (apart from the one I'm writing) or indeed ever. Sure fantasy abounds with 'Northman warriors', beards a-bristling, who crop up with sometimes annoying regularity in everything from George Martin's A Game of Thrones (& subsequent books) to the recent Grim Company by Luke Scull. But actually honest-to-Odin Vikings with names like Audun Arinbjarnarson and Ulfar Thormodsson ... that's unusual. However, it's not the subject that makes the book most unusual - it's the writing style. The prose is fairly standard, good, solid, does the job. The point of view though - the set of eyes through which you see the story - changes rapidly from one character to another, continuously, through the whole book. You often get two or three paragraphs from one character here, a page from another on a boat miles away, then a page from a third, and half a page from a fourth. This could be disastrous but Snorri Kristjansson made it work for me. The effect is to give a different experience of what is, when boiled down, a week-long attack on a smallish town. The price paid is that it's hard to connect emotionally with any single character and hard to become too interested in their schemes, but on the other hand you get a much more sweeping view of a grand conflict and if you're not connected so strongly to the characters you certainly connect and understand the events. In a way it feels like a different 'cinematic' treatment where we flash about rapidly watching the battle unfold. The battle is the thing here. A lot of axes divide a lot of flesh into smaller pieces than required for good health. Blood runs in the streets. Longships plow the waves. The old gods are invoked. The White Christ too. The ending was a surprise. It certainly left me mulling it over, wondering if I liked it or not and whether me liking it was really the point. [I should note that there are longer sections with single characters. I don't want to overstate the 'jumping', just acknowledge it.] This is, in my opinion, a good book. I'm glad I read it. It's far from perfect. A number of plot lines confused me. Things happened that I can't really explain the reason for. The focus felt misplaced sometimes and some characters rang less true than others. However, 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. And if none of that sways you, consider this: My mother liked it. Join my 3-emails-a-year newsletter #prizes ....

  2. 5 out of 5

    Stuart

    "Swords of good men who are rather, dull!" About a decade ago, there was a film released called The 13th Warrior which also, like this book, had a Viking/Fantasy theme. Based upon the writings of a real Caliph of Baghdad, Ahmad ib Fadlan - it was rather enjoyable. The tales of Beowulf weaved in, with the bowels of Hel being unleashed upon a small village in a relocation. Besieged on all sides to a unrelenting foe, it takes one man (a foreigner) to stem the tide. If you've read Eaters of the Dead "Swords of good men who are rather, dull!" About a decade ago, there was a film released called The 13th Warrior which also, like this book, had a Viking/Fantasy theme. Based upon the writings of a real Caliph of Baghdad, Ahmad ib Fadlan - it was rather enjoyable. The tales of Beowulf weaved in, with the bowels of Hel being unleashed upon a small village in a relocation. Besieged on all sides to a unrelenting foe, it takes one man (a foreigner) to stem the tide. If you've read Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton, then your know the jeist of the film. Herein lies the problem with Snorri Kristjansson's Swords Of Good Men, it's almost a exact replica, with name and location changes to the previously mentioned book and film. As you might have gathered, the novel is essentially a non-historically/fantasy themed book. I'm not sure the places mentioned in Snorri's novel actually existed - I'm only guessing, but I don't recognise any of the locations by name. Essentially the first 200 pages are really about setting the tone, for what I felt, was a fairly solid read. There isn't much going on, other than the author attempting to flesh out his characters (of which there are MANY). The main character here is Ulfir, a 'nobel' Swede, sent with his cousin Gerri (by the King of the Swedes) to familiarize himself with the Viking-way. During his time, Ulfir gets bogged down in a lustful romance and politicking within the town of Stenvik. While Ulfir is having his fun, religion is changing, there is the White Christ as well as the old ways (Thor, Freya, Odin, Valhalla, etc) battling for provenance over Norway. King Olav is attempting to bring the North of the country under his banner and belief of Christianity. While in the South, the old ways hold sway. So there is disagreement amongst the populace, surprise! I'm rather telling a 'story' here, but to cut out the guff, the town of Sternik finds itself besieged by true Vikings. With Ulfir locked in, along with the Chieftain Sven, Harold, a rather brutish chap and pig-farmers to boot, things get interesting - to a extent. The real problem with the novel is that for 340 pages, it really gets bogged down with too much talking and not enough doing! I'm interested to see, from the authors point of view, how a town during this time would interact with each other, but not for 220 pages. There's no action, there's no broads, there's no booze! This is a book about Vikings right? Hmm. Here is a small list of main/middle characters; Ulfir, Gerri, Sven, Harald, Sigurd, Egil, Audun (who is rather a awesome persona!), Skargrim, Thora, Valgard, pig-farmers, Lilla, Sigmar, Thorvald, Prince Jorn, King Olav, Runir, Harvar, The Twenty, Ragnar, Oraekja, Finn. There is more, I've just grown tired of listing them. It's was a real chore for me, to cut through the characters - at times I felt the narrative wasn't descriptive at all. Just literally putting a name down on the page doesn't work, you need to really flesh out a persona for the reader to 'imagine' - well in my opinion anyway. I moaned to someone that the characters seemed 'dead' and there was no real likeable one - well other than Audun towards the end, but I won't spoil that. The authors prose style is solid, no flares of brilliance sadly. For example, when the first attack on Stenvik takes place. Sven's rousing speech is rather amusing, it's meant to inspire seasoned warriors: "We will strike fear into them, we are the nightmares that frighten children..." Children? The protaganist (in this novel) isn't a anti-hero, he is meant to be a likeable rogue not the opposite. So why say something that doesn't fit the persona you are trying to build. For me it just didn't ring true. There were other lines that didn't sit right with me also. I should go back through the book and highlight them, but I just don't have the time, sorry about that. The mystical element to the book comes from Slude, a sort of wisp/witch/not sure-thing. She can command men by touch and sense alone, no not jumping in bed for a bit of rumpy-pumpy (what even is that?). I really felt this element to the book didn't need to be there. I feel fairly strongly that the story itself would have held up better without this. It kind of rubbished, for me, all those mighty warriors at her command. Mind you, they say Agamemnon had the mightiest host of warriors ever, and it didn't work out to well for him. Given that, he didn't have some harpy with magical powers! If I was sitting with the author right now, I'd say cut out the mystical element and come out with something more befitting the theme and tone of the era. Make sure your characteristics of your main character fits with the personality. I admire anyone who can piece together a novel, but for me, this was a fairly bad read and haphazard at best.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Ionson

    I enjoyed and found the writing style of this book to be novel (pun intended), but I do sense that many readers would be turned off by it. Kristjansson adopts a blistering pace with his style. He jumps between settings and scenes more quickly-- FAR more quickly -- than any other writer I have read, often spending only 4-8 paragraphs on one scene before jumping to another. He also has a plethora of characters, so many that my attachment to the [intended?] protagonist is pretty thin. But I can se I enjoyed and found the writing style of this book to be novel (pun intended), but I do sense that many readers would be turned off by it. Kristjansson adopts a blistering pace with his style. He jumps between settings and scenes more quickly-- FAR more quickly -- than any other writer I have read, often spending only 4-8 paragraphs on one scene before jumping to another. He also has a plethora of characters, so many that my attachment to the [intended?] protagonist is pretty thin. But I can see what the author was going for here, and I respect it. I can simply guess that most readers will not enjoy it as much as I did. There are many elements to love in this book: The mixture of historical fiction and Dark Age Fantasy, the brutality of the fights, the blurred lines between men's imaginations and the activity of the gods. If Kristjansson's experimental style intrigues rather than repulses you, then give this a try.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Beatriz Cunha Tavares ☾

    4* Very conflicted about the rating I should give to this book. Until somewhere around the middle of it I was thinking of giving it 3 stars - I was having a bit of a hard time in understanding the story and connecting all of the characters. Also, the fantasy elements were almost absent from the story until this point. But the writing was pretty good and I still had interest in continuing reading the story. I'm glad I did, because the book turned out to be really good - I was finally able to put al 4* Very conflicted about the rating I should give to this book. Until somewhere around the middle of it I was thinking of giving it 3 stars - I was having a bit of a hard time in understanding the story and connecting all of the characters. Also, the fantasy elements were almost absent from the story until this point. But the writing was pretty good and I still had interest in continuing reading the story. I'm glad I did, because the book turned out to be really good - I was finally able to put all the characters into place and follow the plot, the fantasy elements started to appear more and in a very interesting and misterious way, and I found myself really intrigued about what was going to happen next, and I wasn't really anticipating that ending. It fully deserves 4 stars. Looking forward to read the rest of the series!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    http://draumrkopablog.wordpress.com/2... “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 e http://draumrkopablog.wordpress.com/2... “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. I’m already looking forward to meeting Ulfar, King Olav, Valgard and the others in the second book. You can read this review and others on my blog: http://draumrkopablog.wordpress.com/

  6. 5 out of 5

    Justin

    Wow, wow. Bloody. Vikings fighting vikings. Vikings everywhere. Once the action starts, it doesn't relent until the last page. Great characterization. I'll offer more thorough comments when my review for the Historical Novel Review goes live. Until then, I recommend this to all Viking fiction fans, if you don't mind fantasy being thrown in. But I found the fantasy added to the authenticity, made it more true to the Viking mindset. I'll definitely be watching for book two.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Patremagne

    http://abitterdraft.com/2013/08/sword... Jo Fletcher is a fairly new imprint for Quercus specializing in most of the speculative fiction genre. They started with a bang, and their list of authors includes some who’ve proven their mettle like Sarah Pinborough and Ian McDonald. They also have a slew of authors who have debuted within the last few years with success, like Aidan Harte, Mazarkis Williams, Tom Pollock, and David Hair. This year includes promising debut Snorri Kristjansson with Swords o http://abitterdraft.com/2013/08/sword... Jo Fletcher is a fairly new imprint for Quercus specializing in most of the speculative fiction genre. They started with a bang, and their list of authors includes some who’ve proven their mettle like Sarah Pinborough and Ian McDonald. They also have a slew of authors who have debuted within the last few years with success, like Aidan Harte, Mazarkis Williams, Tom Pollock, and David Hair. This year includes promising debut Snorri Kristjansson with Swords of Good Men, the first in the Valhalla Saga. After I’d found myself the victor of a giveaway for Aidan Harte’s Irenicon back in July, I decided to browse their catalog for authors of interest. After reading through all of the names, it was difficult to find one that didn’t catch my eye. I ended up requesting the one that stood out the most, and since I can’t resist a good Norse tale, they obliged and sent me Swords of Good Men. After reading the first few chapters, I began to see that Kristjansson’s writing was very similar to Nathan Hawke’s and David Gemmell’s – there is no fluff. He tells the story how it is, without flattery and overbearing detail. But, more like Hawke than Gemmell, Kristjansson writes the violence with gory detail, making the action very fun to read – the kind of stuff you’d see on History’s new show, Vikings. Taking place in Norway, Swords of Good Men is much more historical fiction than it is fantasy, with the aspect of magic not appearing until the very end for the most part and in a supernatural way. Swords begins with Ulfar Thormodsson and his cousin Geiri on their way to Stenvik, the last stop on a journey throughout the world before they can return home. Despite Kristjansson’s focus on the action rather than the world, he paints a very vivid picture of a Norse town in Stenvik. It feels real, down to the longhouse with barrel-chested men drinking mead and singing. A woman captures Ulfar’s heart with just a glance, and makes quite the enemy in the process. Ulfar and Geiri aren’t the only ones coming to Stenvik, though. The young King Olav Tryggvason, a Norse leader turned Christian, is moving west with his growing army in an attempt to bring the White Christ to the populace of Scandinavia. Skargrim has gathered a huge force of raiders and are advancing on Stenvik from the north with some kind of witch at the helm, and outlaws come out of the woodwork to harass the town as well. Therein lies the biggest flaw of Swords of Good Men. Too many forces seem to be converging on this one small town. The book is split into many points of view, possibly too many, in order to help us keep track of all of these forces. Throughout the story we jump around from character to character, force to force, leading up to the penultimate siege – and the transition isn’t particularly smooth. If two of the main characters are in the same place, occasionally one paragraph would be spoken from one of them and the following one from the other, which made the story somewhat hard to follow. Another problem with Swords was its length. It seems like a fairly standard story length for a debut at 352 pages, and it went smoothly until the last quarter. Shit hit the fan and had me turning page after page, the book glued to my hands. I buzzed through the last few pages and found the next page to be blank. The book was over. Too much had happened in the last 5 pages for me to wrap my head around immediately, and I think that the book, with the multiple point of view writing style, would have benefited from an extra 50 or so pages to smooth things out. Despite what it may seem like by reading this review, I actually did enjoy Swords of Good Men because it had some very real characters and great action, though there were some flaws and those should be expected from a debut author. The choppiness did smooth out as the story moved along, and it’s clear that Snorri is steadily improving and the sequel looks to answer a lot of questions and I look forward to more action.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Joel

    This is a really hard book to review - not because it wasn't a good book, but it was a bit schizophrenic as far as tone and consistency went. I'll start by saying that I've spoken with Snorri on reddit and other formats, and he's a super cool fellow, very smart, very personable. I liked my dealings with him a lot, and marked this book as a "to buy" from the start, and have no problem with my purchase. Swords follows a number of Norse viking folks, all on the cusp of a large oncoming battle. The m This is a really hard book to review - not because it wasn't a good book, but it was a bit schizophrenic as far as tone and consistency went. I'll start by saying that I've spoken with Snorri on reddit and other formats, and he's a super cool fellow, very smart, very personable. I liked my dealings with him a lot, and marked this book as a "to buy" from the start, and have no problem with my purchase. Swords follows a number of Norse viking folks, all on the cusp of a large oncoming battle. The main characters are a group of Norsemen in the city of Stenvik, as well as an invading force lead by Skargrim (sp? Don't have book in front of me!), who are looking to invade and overtake the city, lead by a herald of sorts named Skald. The story also follows King Olav, who has converted to Christianity and is leading a crusade of sorts. All of these viewpoints and storylines end up intertwining very well for the most part, though some just kind of fizzle out pointlessly. More on that later. The book feels very, very much like a viking version of Legend. Obvious main characters, a big long leadup to an epic battle and siege. Lots of death on both sides, shenanigans, excellent battle planning and writing. However, there's so much leadup to the battle that a lot of the other lines are lost in the fray. For example, a TON of time is spent early on in King Olav's war camp, in his preaching of Christ, in his taming of his followers. Much ado is made about him coming to Stenvik, about him trying to take over, or him fighting Skargrim's army in aid of Stenvik. Then the battle arrives, and his entire storyline is almost forgotten. He isn't written about for chapters, no advancement other than "ermagerd he's coming!!!!", and then suddenly he's there to make a bang right at the end, and tries to take over Stenvik in literally the last chapter. It felt very hollow and unfulfilled. There was a lot I liked about Swords - the writing was pretty good, the dialogue was fun, free flowing and not awkward at all. A bit stiff at times, but very believable most of the time, and with some witty banter now and then that was very natural. The settings were interesting, a lot left to the imagination, and Snorri did a pretty good job of giving a viking "feel" without going overboard with horns and furs and such, which would have made it a bit cheesy. Many of the characters were unique, identifiable, relatable and enjoyable. However, the up and down nature of the story, the abrupt resolution, and the fizzling of some of the storylines lead to a bit of disappointment towards the end. I would certainly recommend the book to people who like this sort of thing, and will continue to follow Snorri and his writings in the future, as he has a ton of potential. However, Swords didn't quite hit on all cylinders for me.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    Mostly it’s a historical fiction tale of Norse vs Norse Vikings, one side for the Old gods & t’other backed by the White Christ & in between is the heavily fortified town of Stenvik & its collection of characters. However there is some witchcraft involved too via a Skuld & the tale does overlap into fantasy throughout but not too any great discourse..... well until the end scenarios & we have full on fantasy abound. The story is fast paced as it jumps around a lot between the three factions & wit Mostly it’s a historical fiction tale of Norse vs Norse Vikings, one side for the Old gods & t’other backed by the White Christ & in between is the heavily fortified town of Stenvik & its collection of characters. However there is some witchcraft involved too via a Skuld & the tale does overlap into fantasy throughout but not too any great discourse..... well until the end scenarios & we have full on fantasy abound. The story is fast paced as it jumps around a lot between the three factions & within those factions further splinter groups. The names can sometimes loose you a little in the beginning but stick with it & you’ll be rewarded with a tale of Vikings, battle lore, clash of gods, witchcraft...... love too & of course betrayal. A worthy 3.5 stars & I believe lovers of h/f & fantasy alike will enjoy this story.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Blodeuedd Finland

    At first I will admit it's not the historical for everyone. This is about war, fighting, a siege, death. You get the idea. Ulfar comes with his cousin to Stenvik. And he is not the only one. King Olav is coming there too, and others to plunder and kill. But before that Ulfar falls for a mystery woman (yes those things can never end well). And we gets to see the tension in the city. It was a brutal time after all. The raiders and King do not come at once. We get to see city life, the raiders planni At first I will admit it's not the historical for everyone. This is about war, fighting, a siege, death. You get the idea. Ulfar comes with his cousin to Stenvik. And he is not the only one. King Olav is coming there too, and others to plunder and kill. But before that Ulfar falls for a mystery woman (yes those things can never end well). And we gets to see the tension in the city. It was a brutal time after all. The raiders and King do not come at once. We get to see city life, the raiders planning and King Olav telling people his way or the highway. Yeah, I have never been a fan of those who say this religion is better, follow it or die. So I can't really be on his side then. Go back to your heathen ways Norway. Ulfar, he was interesting. Because he starts of, not naive, but in a way yes. He grows and see the bloody side of things. It's not like he is a stranger to fighting but things will get messy in this town. Vikings as they were. A time of Thor vs White Christ. Tensions in society and like always, people doing things they should not do. And the end, rather evil wasn't it? I will not tell you but it certainly made me wonder what Ulfar is up to next.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Greg (adds 2 TBR list daily) Hersom

    Swords of Good Men is a solid historical fantasy. Up until the last quarter of the books I was figuring on giving it 3 stars but the ending ramped things up. I plan to read the next book soon.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    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 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. How do they fit into the grand scheme of things? What is it that makes someone good or bad? Audun Arngrimsson, the blacksmith, is a good example of this duality. He is a hard-working, practical man. Initially, he appears content just to mind his own business, keep to himself and avoid any undue attention. When pushed to extremes however, the other side of his nature is revealed. The internal conflict that exists within Audun perfectly illustrates the internal conflict that exists within all warriors, longing for peace but relishing the unrestrained madness that comes only during war. The other character I really enjoyed was the Viking captain, Eigill Jotunn. Anyone who knows a little Norse mythology will not be shocked to discover he is described as a huge, mountain of a man. The vicious meeting between Audun and Egill was the chaotic highlight of the novel for me. The arrival of the White Christ, and Christianity, also plays an important part in the narrative. Many generations of tradition and the Old Gods have suddenly been set aside for a new religion. Entire communities have been forced to change their beliefs or face the consequences. When these differing theologies come crashing together like this, the results are as you would expect, bloody. The fantasy elements are handled very delicately. It’s only really in the final few chapters where these move to the fore. Kristjansson offers a suggestion of the fantastical at certain points throughout the narrative, but leaves these open to interpretation. I can imagine that this is going to prompt some vigorous reader debate. Some will undoubtedly relish the ambiguity in the writing, while others will probably loathe it. Personally, I rather enjoyed this subtle approach. I’ve been very lucky with my reading so far in 2013. Once again, I find myself in the situation where another debut novel has blown me away. The writing is so self-assured. I was gripped from beginning to end, it feels like Kristjansson has been producing books like this for years. I’m a little bit in awe, but rest assured I’ll be keeping an eye out for this author’s next novel. As an aside, I discovered that listening to the soundtrack for Game of Thrones season three while reading Swords of Good Men is a perfect accompaniment. It’s certainly stirring stuff, and fits with remarkably well with the novels themes. Swords of Good Men is published by Jo Fletcher Books and is available from 1st August 2013. This is the first book in The Valhalla Saga. I will most definitely be back for more. Highly recommended.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    King Olav to his general, Finn: "Conviction, Finn, is worth a thousand swords of good men." I enjoyed this novel well enough, though I thought it nothing extraordinary. It's basically three plots which eventually merge into one: one involving a small trading village, Stenvik, on the southern coast of Scandinavia; another, a band of outlaws that have come by sea and are led by a woman exhibiting strange powers, calling herself Skuld, after the Norn of the future; and the third, involving King Ol King Olav to his general, Finn: "Conviction, Finn, is worth a thousand swords of good men." I enjoyed this novel well enough, though I thought it nothing extraordinary. It's basically three plots which eventually merge into one: one involving a small trading village, Stenvik, on the southern coast of Scandinavia; another, a band of outlaws that have come by sea and are led by a woman exhibiting strange powers, calling herself Skuld, after the Norn of the future; and the third, involving King Olav, who wishes to Christianize Scandinavia. In Norse mythology Skuld is also a personification of Hel, the goddess of death, as this 'Skuld' shows towards the end of the novel. There are echoes of Egil's Saga, an Icelandic saga of 1200's and of Beowulf. Many of the names seem to be lifted from the first work, particularly variations on the name of Egill Skallagrimmson, an anti-hero. Into Stenvik arrive two cousins, Geiri and Ulfar. The latter had been involved in a brawl in his hometown, paid wergeld [money in reparation for a serious injury or death] to the family of the man whose arm he broke, and has been exiled for a period of time. He is protecting his cousin on their travels. Their story will now be tied up with that of the town. The story is pretty straightforward: setup and introduction of characters; planning of attack and defense against enemies; and the actual siege and aftermath. The ending was a bit melodramatic to me. It was easy reading. I thought it strange that only the people in the groups were given names. The people not in the groups were called by generic names only, e.g., pig farmer. Maybe this was a weak attempt on the author's part to differentiate? The Scandinavian names per se didn't confuse me, but the identities of the characters did, as well as who belonged with what group. And there were so many names thrown at me. I got the idea there were several different factions both inside and outside the town who would clash at some point. I made a rough chart of who was with whom, to keep people straight. I had made such a list of the individuals for myself in Roman Wall: A Novel and that was very helpful. There were only three major women characters in this novel and I liked none of them. I thought there was too much skulking around before the real action began, slower at first, then faster and faster. The siege and strategy used was exciting. I feel the love interest was just thrown into the mix, though it was a motive for some of the final action. Neither it nor the rest of the novel was badly written. I didn't like the way the story threw me quickly from one subplot to the other, some narrative lasting only a paragraph; it felt almost like the author was writing a screenplay. Some of the creative swear words made me laugh.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Martin Owton

    'Swords of Good Men' straddles that line between historical fiction and fantasy, there's a bit of magic in the tale so I'm going to go with calling it fantasy. I assume the rest of the stuff is historically accurate; and I'm certainly not going to argue authenticity with an Icelander whose veins flow with the blood of the Vikings. Set in the ~10th century when Christianity is striving with the followers of the old religion for the minds of the people this is the tale of a siege of a trading town 'Swords of Good Men' straddles that line between historical fiction and fantasy, there's a bit of magic in the tale so I'm going to go with calling it fantasy. I assume the rest of the stuff is historically accurate; and I'm certainly not going to argue authenticity with an Icelander whose veins flow with the blood of the Vikings. Set in the ~10th century when Christianity is striving with the followers of the old religion for the minds of the people this is the tale of a siege of a trading town somewhere in southern Norway. If this sounds dull then think again. With multiple viewpoints (sometimes confusing in the early parts) it builds the tension then shows the battle from all angles. The writing style is straightforward and uncomplicated, the characters well delineated. A promising debut with a clear 'to be continued sign'.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dee

    This is basically the Viking version of 300, full of epic acts of manly cunning and violence and manliness. It's full of richly drawn characters set in opposition to each other, and nicely written (though I found the cinematic-style intercutting of sometimes very short scenes to be rather disruptive to a smooth reading experience). In that regard, it's probably a four-star book. However, there are only three female characters in the entire book: a woman in a man's job who's out-manning the men at This is basically the Viking version of 300, full of epic acts of manly cunning and violence and manliness. It's full of richly drawn characters set in opposition to each other, and nicely written (though I found the cinematic-style intercutting of sometimes very short scenes to be rather disruptive to a smooth reading experience). In that regard, it's probably a four-star book. However, there are only three female characters in the entire book: a woman in a man's job who's out-manning the men at it, a battered wife who is being rescued by a newly arrived warrior, and an evil enchantress. Out of curiosity, I looked up the history of King Olav who brought Norway forcibly to Christianity, and there was a note about a woman who refused to marry him if it meant giving up her own gods, was smacked for her temerity, and then proceeded to unify Olav's enemies against him. That is a story I'm interested in reading. Just saying.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mark Halse

    I read a lot of Viking books. A lot. Some are amazing adventures and still others are strange disappointments. This one started out a little strange. It was unconventionally written and wasn't your average Viking adventure. Once I got used to the rapid POV changes it proved to get stranger by the minute. But in a good way. Overall, it is a book about the old faith making one last stand against the white Christ's conquest of western society. King Olav and a strange fairy bitch are converging on a I read a lot of Viking books. A lot. Some are amazing adventures and still others are strange disappointments. This one started out a little strange. It was unconventionally written and wasn't your average Viking adventure. Once I got used to the rapid POV changes it proved to get stranger by the minute. But in a good way. Overall, it is a book about the old faith making one last stand against the white Christ's conquest of western society. King Olav and a strange fairy bitch are converging on a town called Stenvik; a place that doesn't truly hold the old gods or the white Christ. The two leaders are racing to Stenvik to claim it for their respective faiths. But the town's jarl had his own idea. And it gets very bloody. Very entertaining and interesting. I recommend for historical fiction and fantasy fans both. But if you're looking for raiding Vikings and adventure, read "Blood Eye" or "The Whale Road."

  17. 4 out of 5

    Simon

    Slow paced and detailed in world building actions and thoughts of the characters getting much faster as the story progresses. A good reminder that not all gods were benign and merciful.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jasper

    Swords of Good Men is written by the Icelandic, living in London author Snorri Kirstjansson. It’s the first in the Valhalla Saga and also features as Snorri Kristjansson’s debut. When I encountered the blurb of this book on the website of Jo Fletcher it was immediately a book that I wanted to read. I haven’t had the chance to read more into the Scandinavian inspired types of stories after I finished Runemarks and Runelight so I was really looking forward to emerge once again in this part Norse h Swords of Good Men is written by the Icelandic, living in London author Snorri Kirstjansson. It’s the first in the Valhalla Saga and also features as Snorri Kristjansson’s debut. When I encountered the blurb of this book on the website of Jo Fletcher it was immediately a book that I wanted to read. I haven’t had the chance to read more into the Scandinavian inspired types of stories after I finished Runemarks and Runelight so I was really looking forward to emerge once again in this part Norse history, part mythical experience. And an experience it proved to be! Swords of Good Men is a Viking inspired story that takes place in Norway 996 AD. From the prologue onwards this story really throws you right there in the middle the story. A great set of characters and an interesting world. You are readily introduced to a lot of characters that each play their own part in the storyline. For me the introduction to each of these character did seem a little fast, especially by some of the things that happened. Because certain actions that are made remain obscure until much later in the book. Having to just accept these facts might be hard for some readers as it can be quite off putting. However for me it worked quite well actually. And even more so were the chapters and the alternating paragraph, highlighting different characters each time, in them. As you get to follow each storyline, there is always an introduction to where those events were happening, like in Stenvik itself or on the North Sea etc. This especially produced a great sense when armies were on the march and you felt them nearing Stenvik. Furthermore Snorri Kristjansson produced a great pacing by alternating the storylines. He keeps the action pretty tight, gruesome and bloody. Within the story of Sword of Good Men you follow three initially separate storylines, one that takes place in Stenvik, one of a marauding fleet of Vikings and the last of King Olav Tryggvason, who is spreading the religion of the White Christ. Now within these three storyline you get introduced to a lot of different characters that each really have their own personality. Though some might have been more unique that others, they were al great to read about. In Stenvik, you follow the adventures of Ulfar, Harald, Audun and Sigurd mostly. In the prologue and earlier on in the story there is a lot of focus on Ulfar himself, but the reason for this remains to be guessed, since it didn’t feel that his character would be that important.. just yet. Luckily later you learn more about what Ulfar might be destined to do. Which produced a great tie-in with all the earlier events. Audun was a real cool character to read about, from the synopsis the parts of “leading a secret and solitary life” really got me curious, and what Audun does in the ending is pretty cool stuff, and though it might not be that original, I don’t really care frankly because it fitted well into the story itself. This blacksmith knows how to handle a hammer! The other two characters Harald and Sigurd mostly play a part in the town politics. Stenvik is ruled/coordinated by Sigurd, Harald has a lot of bottled up rage that he lets loose on villagers and his wife... The second storyline focuses on the Viking part. Now I reread several parts of the book to get to know whether there was any motiviation as to what they wanted out of Stenvik and couldn’t quite get the reason why they ventured to it in the first place. There is nice interlude at the end of the book that finally reveals their motivation, but a few hints thrown in their earlier on might have produced a better rounded story, it now like they just went without cause. That aside, this storyline was just chockfull of barbaric, brutal, gruesome, bloody and viscous Viking action. Snorri Kristjansson really puts these warrior in the spotlight by describing them, how they looked, war regalia and the like, but also their foul language and their bold actions. As you get to learn more about the force they are assembling with the different legendary chieftains like Egill Jotunn and his band of Berserkers really gave these vivid images in my imagination. Blood soaked warrior swinging double headed axes, rampaging! Well I can say that with the Vikings introduced this book isn’t lacking any action! The third storyline focuses on a crusade set into motion by King Olav Tryggvason who spreads the word of the White Christ. The Christian believe. Still in the age of the Nordic gods: Thor, Odin and Freya. He has a task set out for him and trying to convert village after village and he has set his goals to reach Stenvik and convert those heretics, or let them die by his army. King Olav is utterly convinced that his god is the sole one and shows this by a set of bold moves when trying to win villagers over to his cause, though there is nice emphasis on this part of the book. There is shift halfway as the story more focuses on the Vikings and the villagers Stenvik themselves. There isn’t really any action until the book nears it finish. But this part was crucial to the storyline as in the end you see all three collide with each other. In the final battle. In the end of the book is was great to see that a lot of the things in each storyline were connected. Swords of Good Men might have felt “chaotic” by jumping from place to place and storyline to storyline. Although I must say, no stress, that it felt goodly chaotic, once you are really into this story it just doesn’t seem to let you go. The ending feels pretty good and solid and Snorri Kristjansson neatly lets the major storylines connect with each other, finally seeing the bigger picture of it all. What also falls to notice is the bold writing of the plot, a lot of people die, even important characters die. It does come to show that Snorri Kristjansson isn’t afraid of surprising and shocking (in a good way) the reader. And even more so is the introduction of the Nordic gods that are influencing (speculating here) people to rise up for their own cause and fight the White Christ. I hope to see more of these influences in the second book. It really transformed the story from only Viking fighting to the more mythical side, especially once I learned to full plans of Skuld. Good stuff right there. Swords of Good Men is definite recommendation if your looking for a story hinted with Norse mythology and if your into bold, bloody and violent fighting it’s even more up your alley. But it is not only fighting that takes place, on the whole Swords of Good Men also shows great characterization and a interesting world. The beginning of the book might have take a bit getting used but once I was into Swords of Good Men this book read away in a few strokes. Snorri Kristjansson has pulled of a great feat with his writing, producing three great storylines that neatly collide into one in the end. This book has a lot of great brutal fighting scenes that all come to fruition in the final raid on Stenvik where you see how inventive people can get! But it’s not solely the fighting that makes this book great, in the town of Stenvik and among the Viking tribes there is also a lot of internal politics that show a nice diversity on the side. This book is just the right length and with the last sentence of the story (not epilogue) I’m already guessing how this story might be picked up, Snorri Kristjansson leaves this book open with a nice classic cliffhanger. Swords of Good Men is a well rounded story that shows a lot of promise to be explored later on. originally posted athttp://thebookplank.blogspot.com/2013/07/swords-of-good-men.html

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kareem

    I haven’t dished out a 5 star review in what feels like a while. And longer still for a debut. In my earlier days I was a little too eager to dole a 5 out to any book I enjoyed, but one rainy British day I decided that 3 stars was a good book, 4 stars was a really good book, and 5 stars blew me away in one manner or another. Swords of Good Men earned the 5 because it essentially ticked all my ‘Awesome’ buttons. I will now elaborate on a few of those buttons: Pace: The book isn’t a long distance r I haven’t dished out a 5 star review in what feels like a while. And longer still for a debut. In my earlier days I was a little too eager to dole a 5 out to any book I enjoyed, but one rainy British day I decided that 3 stars was a good book, 4 stars was a really good book, and 5 stars blew me away in one manner or another. Swords of Good Men earned the 5 because it essentially ticked all my ‘Awesome’ buttons. I will now elaborate on a few of those buttons: Pace: The book isn’t a long distance runner, it’s a sprint, pretty much right from the off. The pace is breakneck, and from what I can gather that has been one of the reasons people were a little put off by it. Not me! Nope — because it was done in such a way that kept the story fast but not confusing. When all is said and done this is a book about a big battle (more accurately, a siege) over a relatively short period of time. For how much is going on there is a moderately small cast given all that is going on and we get to see the battle from every side of the fight. Yes, chapters (or rather, sections within chapters) are short, some as small as a single paragraph, but for me that recreated the urgency and panic one would expect in those circumstances, it made it real, and that got a big thumbs up from the literature student in me. Characterisation: The majority of the story takes place in the Viking town of Stevnik. Therefore it would be quite easy to paint the characters in similar colours. But Snorri has a wonderfully wide-ranging cast, and though there is no shortage of ‘tough as leather’ Vikings, there are too some welcome surprises. Snorri, through his characters, manages to recreate a siege mood quite Gemmellesque in nature (as in I have only come across the like in books like Legend and Waylander – high praise from me). So as well as guts and glory we get some strong emotion. Action: Fuck loads of it! But what I found most often bringing a smile to my face was not the more traditional one on one of two seemingly indestructible characters, but the clever manoeuvres and tricks that are involved in siege craft. I smiled a LOT. Snorri would be a bitch to beat in a poker game I’d warrant. The ending: Well . . . in the interest of keeping this spoiler free I won’t say much. What I will say is that I have two favourite genres: Fantasy and Historical fiction. Swords of Good men, for the most part, feels like the latter. But the subtleties of the former aren’t fully brought to bear until the end. And what a bloody (literally) end it is! If Snorri should ever read this please know that the end of the book got a standing ovation from me. So! If you want to read a Viking fantasy written by a Viking fantasy author, look no further! Great book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Speesh

    I live in Denmark, I have done the last ten years. I have learned Danish and I speak and understand it all day every day. I've read books in Danish. English-written translated into Danish and books written by Danish authors. And there's a difference. You can see, read and tell there's a difference. There's a different way of thinking and formulating a sentence or a paragraph. A different way of putting an idea over. I'm not going to say their world view is different from ours, but having been he I live in Denmark, I have done the last ten years. I have learned Danish and I speak and understand it all day every day. I've read books in Danish. English-written translated into Danish and books written by Danish authors. And there's a difference. You can see, read and tell there's a difference. There's a different way of thinking and formulating a sentence or a paragraph. A different way of putting an idea over. I'm not going to say their world view is different from ours, but having been here for ten years now, I can safely say they often have a different view of what is - and perhaps more interestingly - what isn't important. What IS worth worrying about and what isn't, what can be left to sort itself out. When I was only a little way into 'Swords of Good Men', I said to the wife (you ask her), that even if the name didn’t give the game away, I’d put a whole load of her money on Snorri Kristjansson being a Scandinavian. Well, he’s from Iceland and f you’re worrying over my definition of ’Scandinavia’; (Wikipedia) *Sometimes the term Scandinavia is also taken to include Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Finland, on account of their historical association with the Scandinavian countries."). It's in that historical background, the assumptions made of the reader, the way of telling the story...and it's written all over this absolutely superb book. 'Swords of Good Men’ is different. No doubt about it. Firstly, because the action stays in Scandinavia. Snorri’s saga doesn’t follow the otherwise well-trodden (if can ships can be said to tread) path, the 'Whale Road’, from Norway, Denmark etc, to Britain. Which is what, for most people I imagine, pretty much would actually characterise as being ‘Viking'. Here, neatly turning the 9th Century tables, it is Christianity which is the threat coming to the Vikings, from Vikings, in THEIR backyard. Their way of life is under threat from warriors emerging suddenly out of the mists. And they mean to defend it to the death. Get your head round that one for a start. However, I don’t wish to get all 10th Century medieval on your asses here, with maybe making out like this is some sort of detailed allegorical study of paganism in retreat versus the onrush of Christianity (bringing the word of God ‘at the point of a sword and edge of axe’) that led to the end of the Viking era. It isn’t (really) and luckily for us readers, at least half of Snorri's characters don't know it’s the end and are ready to fight to the death. That’s what in essence is happening here. Odin and Thor and all the other Æsir don't intend giving up without a fight. They are cornered, gathering their forces and ready to strike back using any means they can, over-, or underhand. And the little town of Stenvik is going to get caught in the middle, whether the people of Stenvik like it or not. The book starts slowly and builds its story - maybe like a film that opens with a long shot, far away, that comes in, slowly getting closer and closer, bringing the events, characters and story to focus. It also stays away from what I usually think of as the 'normal' way of opening, with a huge battle or suchlike. It assumes you're already with the story of the Vikings. That you know the world in which story is set. Yes, people know about Vikings, but the book is comfortable in assuming you’re NOT now thinking Tony Curtis, Kirk Douglas and Ernest Borgnine. It mentions for example, without further explanation other than the name, Hedeby and Trelleborg, both important centres in Viking-age Denmark, but, I think, I've only ever seen mentioned once before in Viking fiction. Two travellers arrive in the town, Ulfar and his cousin Geiri who are traders on their way home. They find the anticipation and foreboding is building amongst the people. What will happen and who will survive when the - unstoppable - storm breaks over them? And then, when the tension becomes nearly unbearable and the storm does break, the book really delivers on its built up promise. With a final battle the like of which I don’t think I’ve read before. A battle so vivid, that it not so much places you directly in the centre, rather that whilst reading, it has you looking over your shoulder and checking for where the next death-dealing, blood-dripping, breast-cleaving, axe-wielding, seven-foot tall marauding berserker Viking warrior is coming from! If it doesn't leave you breathless, get someone to hold a mirror in front of your mouth - you may be dead. So, there are plenty excellently realised and memorable characters here. There are warriors and witches and where there are warriors and witches, there will be warfare. There are axes, broadswords and narrow escapes (you see what I did there?). There are characters to care about, to be worried about, to trust, to mistrust, to be afraid of, to be intrigued by. And characters you hope you're going to meet again. Soon. 'Swords of Good Men' is just about everything you could possibly want and then some, from a novel about the Vikings. I didn’t want to compare and contrast with other Vikings books I’ve read, or will be reading in the very near future, but this IS different. It’s powerful, wonderfully imagined and presented and I’ve got to admit; it feels like the real thing. If it isn’t in my top three best reads of the year come December, I’ll be more surprised than…well, it ain’t gonna not happen. And, as I’ve said before, as one of the Vikings in 13th Warrior says: “It’s alright little brother - there are more..” The second in Snorri’s Valhalla Saga, ‘Blood Will Follow’, comes out in *casts runes* June.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sachin Dev

    Originally reviewed here on my blog: http://bit.ly/1H7WZWT Swords of Good Men is Snorri Kristjansson's debut and an accomplished piece of writing that firmly catapults him to the A-list of Fantasy writers. Set in the land of the fierce Vikings - Scandinava is brought to life adeptly by Snorri in the Valhalla Saga # 1 - featuring one too many bloodthirsty warriors caught in the middle of a huge melee. Huge burly bearded fellows swinging a mean double bladed axe, longships plowing through crashing Originally reviewed here on my blog: http://bit.ly/1H7WZWT Swords of Good Men is Snorri Kristjansson's debut and an accomplished piece of writing that firmly catapults him to the A-list of Fantasy writers. Set in the land of the fierce Vikings - Scandinava is brought to life adeptly by Snorri in the Valhalla Saga # 1 - featuring one too many bloodthirsty warriors caught in the middle of a huge melee. Huge burly bearded fellows swinging a mean double bladed axe, longships plowing through crashing waves, unbreachable tall garrison walls, blonde-haired goddesses. You name it, the book's nailed it dead right in terms bringing Viking folklore alive. Swords of Good Men is ultimately a big long drawn out bloody battle between three different groups of Vikings seeking the gates of Valhalla. The whole book is just a build-up towards that final battle - that lasts good one-fourth of a book and delivers every bit on the pulse-pounding gory action craving. The story really doesn't pause anywhere from the moment Ulfar Thormodssen, a young man finishing off a long weary world journey and is on his way home, sets foot on the tiny island of Stenvik - the last stop on this journey. However, Stenvik is the focal point of a war brewing between two different marauding parties ( Vikings each - but both with different religious sentiments - Skargrim under the influence of a mysterious lady Skuld who is pulling the strings to get the warring parties to converge and take over Stenvik - the agenda isn't clear until the end chapters. Young King Olav, a recent complete convert to the cause of the White Christ and earnestly wanting to spread the message into Stenvik, rushing in with a huge war-party to the cause) Caught in the middle of these warring parties are the Villagers - battle-hardened veterans one and all, led from the front by a cunning, able chieftain in Sigurd. Ulfar and his cousin, Geiri get unwittingly drawn into the violent proceedings. and to make things worse, Ulfar falls hopelessly in love with a beautiful young woman named Lillia in the village - already married to an abusive war-chieftain Harald. The love-story though doesn't really blossom out with the focus shifting back to the rising clouds of war over this tiny village. Because soon things turn bloody. rivers of blood, spilled entrails, axes singing, arrows flying and the swords hacking. So Snorri can write a rousing story - and get your nerves jangled up with all the tension spilling from the pages as the action ramps up several notches. You'd be right down breathless from the scorching pace that he sets out - never taking the foot off the pedal. Though with this approach, he probably has sacrificed a bit on the characterization parts. You never get to spend too long with one character before you're whipped around to another. The events tumble past you - switching perspectives at the drop of a hat. While it is not so much of a complaint personally as I think it worked for me - the only complaint that I had - was with the unveiling of secrets/plots. There are several going on - at the same time. Chiefly three major wheels of action: Ulfar on the Island of Stenvik, getting dragged into the politics of war, making friends with Audun - the big burly blacksmith with a devastating secret of his own and Sven, the grizzled old war-veteran and right-hand man of the Village chieftain. He is 'pitched' to be the 'hero' of the series and undergoes the maximum character evolution. Then there is Skargrim - charging across foaming seas with his warships and galleys towards Stenvik, a puppet in the hands of the mysterious lady Skuld and all his war-chiefs behind him. Thora, his lieutenant makes for some colorful entries on the pages and was someone you would love. The third force is King Olav and his unshakable faith in the White Christ - at the head of a huge army on the way to annex the tiny village of Stenvik to the Christian domination. While these stories collide - and that collision makes up for better than last quarter of the whole book [ and hell, it's downright entertaining. large scale massive efforts to scale the fort walls, one-on-one scuffles - it's all there!] I was trying hard to understand what's the motive for Skargrim's desperate attempt on warring with Stenvik. Especially with tidbits thrown in about his past connection with both Sven and Sigurd. And another big complaint was the abrupt end to the proceedings. Yes there is a massive twist/shocker at the end but I still felt short-changed as the pages stopped flipping. [ yeah. I was flipping like there was no tomorrow!] It's ultimately more historical fiction - the authentic portrayal of a Viking village and life-ways adeptly done. But the final few chapters hold a nice surprise - making this a low fantasy at the end of the day. So if you're looking for a great Viking story - full of rousing action, a story on blistering jet-fuel and some heart-warming heroes to cheer for - then look no further than this one. Swords of Good Men makes for a splendid debut for Snorri Kristjansson and I for one will be watching his works. Blood will follow and so it should. Here I come!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mieneke

    I love a good Viking tale, though I've read far fewer than I would like, so when I saw the announcement of Jo Fletcher's signing of Snorri Kristjansson for a Viking novel, the first in a trilogy, called Swords of Good Men, I was immediately on board. And the book had everything you might expect from a Viking novel. Vikings! Battle! Blood! Berserkers! But it had more, it also had political machinations, a love story, and the struggle of a world torn between the old gods and the new.     Settling i I love a good Viking tale, though I've read far fewer than I would like, so when I saw the announcement of Jo Fletcher's signing of Snorri Kristjansson for a Viking novel, the first in a trilogy, called Swords of Good Men, I was immediately on board. And the book had everything you might expect from a Viking novel. Vikings! Battle! Blood! Berserkers! But it had more, it also had political machinations, a love story, and the struggle of a world torn between the old gods and the new.     Settling into the narration was a little harder than usual as Kristjansson switches point of view quite quickly within his chapters and while the number of viewpoints are limited, it made for a bit of a choppy rhythm that I had to get used to. What I absolutely adored is that Kristjansson uses the rhythm of Old English – and I'd assume Old Scandinavian – poetry, such as the Beowulf, in his writing, sometimes in the form of traditional poems and songs, sometimes just incorporated in the running text. I really got a kick out of it and it also fit with the fast viewpoint switches. Once I got used to the lightning fast switches in the story, they actually served to enhance the pacing of the story and Kristjansson ensures the reader is never lost as every new passage has a heading stating its location. The story is divided into three factions: the Northern raiders, the approaching army of the Christian King Olav, and the people of Stenvik, all of whom have several viewpoint characters. Each faction has heroes and villains and while the people of Stenvik are clearly the home team the reader is supposed to root for, Kristjansson leaves it rather up in the air which of the approaching invaders is the lesser of the two evils. To be sure, personally, I rather liked the Northern raiders, especially Skargrim and Thora, his second-in-command, but the ultimate power behind their actions is obscured and seems somewhat sinister in nature, seeing as its representative to the Northern tribes, Skuld, is a witch with some really evil magic. The motives driving King Olav and his soldiers are far clearer, but at the same time they are far less sympathetic as Olav is clearly a religious fanatic not just surrounded by people who sincerely share his faith, but also by those trying to profit from his conquering ways, even if they still believe in the old gods. The main characters in the book are Ulfar and Audun. Ulfar's development over the course of the book is profound. He gains some much needed life experience and is revealed to be a cunning, clever, and creative strategist and warrior in battle. At the same time he learns what it is to fear for the lives of people you love and to actually lose them. Audun is rather mysterious and while some of his history and nature is revealed during the siege on Stenvik, there are many questions still unanswered. As mentioned previously, I really liked Skargrim and Thora, mainly because they have a delightful dynamic and their banter often made me chuckle out loud. The comfortable back and forth between long-time companions is something that Kristjansson shows to good effect not just in their exchanges, but in those of Ulfar and his cousin Geiri and Stenvik's chieftain Sigurd and his councillor Sven as well. While there aren't many important female characters, only four named ones that I can think of, they stand out and Kristjansson's portrayal of Lillia and her attempts to break out of her abusive marriage and return to herself emotionally were beautifully done. One character that has to be mentioned is Valgard. He's a fascinating character and the reader is kept on her toes in his depiction; his was the character I despaired most of, as I couldn't pin him down. He's a healer – generally characters that are portrayed as good, even if not always as kind – but he's so conflicted and broken, that I kept going back and forth in my sympathies for him until he finally clinched my judgement in the last part of the book. One thing Kristjansson succeeded very well at with Swords of Good Men is eliciting strong reactions. The appearance of the berserkers had me go oooooohhh, like one of those little Martians from Toy Story. He also had me exclaiming in protest at some of the twists in the book and there were tears, I won't deny it. At one point I even took to Twitter to tell Kristjansson that he was an evil, evil man (he's not, really.) Swords of Good Men is a fabulous debut and a gripping read, which I enjoyed so much I found myself putting off reading the final pages because I didn't want it to end. More please! This book was provided for review by the publisher.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Shaheen

    The things I know about Viking can be summed by Marvel comics and the two Thor movies. Basically, nothing. Swords of Good Men caught my eye because, at the time, I hadn't heard of any other honest-to-goodness Viking-esque books around. It's a brilliant, fast-paced début that I can see a lot of readers liking, and although there is definite room for improvement, I think Snorri Kristjansson brings something amazing to the tapestry of modern fantasy fiction. Ulfar Thormodsson has been in exile for tw The things I know about Viking can be summed by Marvel comics and the two Thor movies. Basically, nothing. Swords of Good Men caught my eye because, at the time, I hadn't heard of any other honest-to-goodness Viking-esque books around. It's a brilliant, fast-paced début that I can see a lot of readers liking, and although there is definite room for improvement, I think Snorri Kristjansson brings something amazing to the tapestry of modern fantasy fiction. Ulfar Thormodsson has been in exile for two years, and he's one town away from being able to return home. Get into Stenvik, make a speech, get the chieftain to like him and he's home in heartbeat. Easy, right? But Stenvik hides dangerous secrets and Ulfar's future looks less certain from the moment he enters its gates. Under usual circumstances I'd say there are too many points of view throughout this book, but the author makes it work. Every character allows us to view other facets of the dangers about to descend onto Stenvik. The length of time readers spend with the characters varies from a few pages to a only a few paragraphs. The book is paced superbly because of this, but it does get frustrating because sometimes readers will be utterly engrossed with what's happening with one character only to be wrenched away. I think it's an exceptionally clever way to tell a story, but it has the affect of distancing readers from the characters, especially the minor ones. I feel like I know some of them well, such as Ulfar; Audun the blacksmith of Stenvik, and King Olav's squire Finn, but there are plenty of other characters for whom I have very little understanding and even less sympathy. In particular, Geiri and Oraekja seemed particularly ill-drawn only seemed useful because of their impact on other characters. The world that Kristjansson has created is vivid and rich, and although I cannot comment on how well he has captured Norse mythology, I enjoyed every moment that the story hinted at the customs, beliefs and rituals of the Vikings. The gods and goddess described in the book are elemental and largely unknowable. The author's Loki, Freya and Thor bare little resemblance to their comic book counterparts, expect in the broadest of ways, and I liked this a lot. I was afraid I'd be imagining them as the comic/movie characters, but Kristjansson does a great job at realising them without associating them with their representations in modern media. Swords of Good Men is ultimately about how the people of Stenvik defend themselves against the dangers that beset them. Everything leads up to the epic 100+ page battle at the end of the book, which is gory and bloody and violent but at the same time somewhat poetic and darkly beautiful. It's vividly told and I could imagine every step clearly, from the surprise of the attackers when Stenvik's people had a few tricks up their sleeves, to the defender's utter desperation at the end of the long siege. There's a fondness to the way Kristjansson describes the process of building and defending the fortress at Stenvik, the sword-making techniques that Audun uses, and the fighting techniques of the Northern raiders. I think these little details are what make the book exceptional - a broad, sweeping fantasy is fine but it's the underlying humanity of the story that will capture hearts and imaginations. You know those books where you get home from work, and are insanely excited to sit down and start reading again? Those books that haunt you while you're not reading them? Swords of Good Men is one of those books - the events, characters and world will stay with you whenever you're not reading. A perfect book to pick up if all your fantasy fiction reads have started to feel like variations of the same book. A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review. You can read more of my reviews at Speculating on SpecFic .

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    This book has the cover and the blurb that would lead anyone to think it's a piece of gorgeous looking viking age historical fiction. I'm going to spoil it all for you now by saying it is not - but then again, parts of it are. It deals with one definite true viking historical figure, that of Olav Tryggvason, King of Norwary and a fierce converter of his people to the Christian faith. Once you start reading you will learn how the word 'fierce' is perhaps an understatement. But he's one third of th This book has the cover and the blurb that would lead anyone to think it's a piece of gorgeous looking viking age historical fiction. I'm going to spoil it all for you now by saying it is not - but then again, parts of it are. It deals with one definite true viking historical figure, that of Olav Tryggvason, King of Norwary and a fierce converter of his people to the Christian faith. Once you start reading you will learn how the word 'fierce' is perhaps an understatement. But he's one third of the story. The second third belongs to fictional viking noblemen, both sons of prominent Jarls elsewhere, and both travel together to a fictional trading town of Stenvik, somewhere on the scandinavian coast line. I admitt now the storytelling and mental building in the imagination of Stenvik makes it almost as real as Hedeby would have been in it's hay day during the viking period BUT Stenvik is not real. And therefore neither are the characters who inhabit it - with the many secrets, hidden agendas, complicated relationships etc. But to be honest once you start relating with, connecting to and generally wanting more through curiousity and interest about these characters - like all good storytelling they become real enough to matter. The final third of this epic story involves 6, I may have miscounted, but yes 6 apparently renowned and feared Viking raiders and their crew that amazingly make up an army of around the 1000 mark (give or take a few for counting from memory) oh yes and the amazing star that really stole the show for me is a mysterious woman/girl who does what Joan of Arc did with the French - lead the Viking pagan raiders into battle. It is her character in particular that adds the fantasy element to this otherwise fictional historical fiction tale due to her powers of prophecy etc. And these 3 sections of key characters with all their goals and struggles descend upon the fictional town of Stenvik to create one hell of a bloody, gorey, death filled, never ending battle effectively boiling down to Norse Gods vs Christ. I know one thing, if I was left to manage the town after the all-you-can-eat feast for the ravens I would just say BURN IT because the amount of blood spileld would stain the earth for decades. However given this unusual norse fantasy tale in disguise as historical fiction complexity, it is a very good read. Plenty of drama, tension, the reader gets given a lot of secrets which in some cases you have to hold your tongue to prevent yourself shouting at the pages 'no don't go in the dark room...' or even 'OMG' for when there is a twist within the plot. Which brings me to the genuine surprise which is the ending. It is not what any reader I think will see coming and will leave you wondering a lot about what you have just experienced within those last chapters. To put it in a nutshell - it is a dramatic telling of what the Norwegians experiences when their King Olav was travelling around saying 'abandon Odin and join Christ or else' with a few hundred warriors at his back. Nowadays it's West vs East, Christians vs Muslims, Christ vs Allah. That conflict of people and faith happened to the Vikings on epic scale under King Olav and for a lot people giving up the Gods or not meant an end to the world they had all lived in for centuries. And it is almost in their honour for the many who died when fighting against such a tide of conversion that Snorri writes this tale. So if you like historical fiction and don't mind a bit of 'stretching the truth' and if you LOVE your battles and blood then yeh, give this book a go. May the ending surprise you as much as it did me.

  25. 4 out of 5

    JJE

    Absolutely brilliant; the book started off slow in a strange writing style which seemed to jump continuously between characters which at first was hard to follow but grew and grew into a fascinating tale. I ended up liking the style the author used which actually was easy to follow once you grasped the characters names. Really recommend this one a very exciting book with surprises until the end.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Laura Hughes

    I’ve had my eye on this book for a while, and finally decided to buy it whilst I was in York (or ‘Jorvik’!) for the weekend. After visiting the castles and dungeons and museums (and, of course, the Viking Centre) I was very much in the mood for reading something along these lines. Swords of Good Men, book one of Snorri Kristjansson’s Valhalla saga, is a fairly fun bit of reading, once you become accustomed to the unusual format. The plot is quite nicely self-contained and focused: it takes place I’ve had my eye on this book for a while, and finally decided to buy it whilst I was in York (or ‘Jorvik’!) for the weekend. After visiting the castles and dungeons and museums (and, of course, the Viking Centre) I was very much in the mood for reading something along these lines. Swords of Good Men, book one of Snorri Kristjansson’s Valhalla saga, is a fairly fun bit of reading, once you become accustomed to the unusual format. The plot is quite nicely self-contained and focused: it takes place over the course of a few days, and depicts an attack on the Scandinavian village of Stenvik. We witness the battles, and the events leading up to them, from the point of view of various characters on different sides of the attack. The style and manner of the story are generally effective, but they also have quite a few drawbacks. Each chapter is split into short POV segments, and continually flits about between various characters. You can read a couple of pages focusing on one character, then three paragraphs on another, followed by another page from the point of view of a completely different one. This works great for the most part as it makes for a really fast-paced read, and gives a good sense of chaos during the battle segments. A very large portion of the book is focused on fighting, and the style paints a holistic view of the conflict and helps us understand all aspects of the battle, giving it an almost cinematic feel. However, this structure also makes the non-action segments feel a little disjointed, and doesn’t really allow much opportunity to explore any of the characters in much detail. As a result, it’s difficult to really get on-side with any of the characters, since we don’t know them well enough to empathise. The author’s prose is solid but not spectacular – which, to be fair, contributes well to the gritty atmosphere of the entire novel – and unfortunately many of the characters lack depth as a result of minimal page time and regularly shifting POVs. Criticism aside, Swords of Good Men is a decent, bloody, action-filled fictional Viking story. It has plenty of interesting story elements: Old Gods and superstition, the White Christ and black magic, berserkers and assassins, raiders and outlaws, healers and poisoners, blood and longships . . . you get the picture. And while I won’t be rushing out to buy the second in the Valhalla saga, Blood Will Follow, I’ll probably check it out at some point in the future, if only to see what happens in the aftermath of the somewhat shocking ending.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Most of my favorite books have a clear main (or at least central) character. Whether they be historical figures like Genghis Khan or Attila the Hun, legendary names like Robin Hood or King Arthur, fictional character types like Uhtred or Tancred, or purely fantastic like Bilbo Baggins; at least I knew about whom the book was written. This book was written much differently. Centering more around the town of Stenvik than anything else, the author introduced us to many, many characters. I found it d Most of my favorite books have a clear main (or at least central) character. Whether they be historical figures like Genghis Khan or Attila the Hun, legendary names like Robin Hood or King Arthur, fictional character types like Uhtred or Tancred, or purely fantastic like Bilbo Baggins; at least I knew about whom the book was written. This book was written much differently. Centering more around the town of Stenvik than anything else, the author introduced us to many, many characters. I found it difficult to keep up (and I'm no dummy, really!). I remember a certain episode of Seinfeld back-in-the-day in which they were talking during a movie. "Why did they kill him? I thought he was with them? Ohhh, he wasn't really with them!" That's how I felt here. I found myself flipping back several times to remind myself who somebody was or whom he was with. I didn't care for that. I liked the Viking feel and the Scandinavian setting. The author did a great job of setting the scene, both environmentally and philosophically. I could put myself in the time and the place rather easily. The writing style was quite challenging. Early in the book I commented that it felt more like a screenplay than a novel. The author bounces around between characters and venues often -- too often and too quickly; and frequently without warning. Once you get used to it, it's manageable; but it's tough to get used to. As for the story itself, not bad. About 80% through, I was starting to care about the characters, I saw the story weaving together, and was beginning to think I might just pick up the next book in the trilogy. Then the ending kind of smacked me in the face with some very surprising events. While I generally appreciate the unexpected, the choices made by the author at the end of this book have left me indifferent to the rest of the story. So I don't know. Decent book, not great. Unusual writing style; odd choices; too many characters with too little development; bizarre ending. If I do continue with the trilogy, it'll be a while.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    Writing: 2 Story: 2 Satisfaction: 1 I was committed to finishing this book for bookclub and was sorry that I did so. There has been enough scathing word play on the title so I'll skip that bit as tempting as it may be. Overall, this book falls flat in all ways. The prose is not engaging, the characters lack dimension, and the plotlines are both underdeveloped and unsatisfying. To start with, it was difficult to keep all the characters straight since it seemed like every single character got both a Writing: 2 Story: 2 Satisfaction: 1 I was committed to finishing this book for bookclub and was sorry that I did so. There has been enough scathing word play on the title so I'll skip that bit as tempting as it may be. Overall, this book falls flat in all ways. The prose is not engaging, the characters lack dimension, and the plotlines are both underdeveloped and unsatisfying. To start with, it was difficult to keep all the characters straight since it seemed like every single character got both a name and a viewpoint, despite their importance in the story. Many characters have names that look pretty similar in print and I get it, we need the Nordic names but surely there are some that don't start with "S." Along with the multiple viewpoints, there are many places where a POV only lasts for a couple paragraphs before switching to the next person. This might work well in battle scenes but as another quirk, for most of this book, the author skips the battle scene entirely. I distinctly recall one moment where there was a build up for a battle, then the next POV character talks about how bad the battle was. Annoying. There IS a large battle scene at the end but eh. Motivations for most of the characters are unclear except for the protagonist who is suddenly and fervently madly in love with this chick - his motivation is to bang her obviously. And then ending is weird, senseless, and terrible.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Craig Slater

    Another new Author and series that I clicked with and loved instantly. I was watching the Viking TV show while reading it (the one made by the History Channel) so it worked in very well as this book (series) is rich in historical feel. Real and gritty. Dirty and bloody. It is at its simplest level a story of Christianity (The White Christ) attempting to smother on more traditional Pagan beliefs. An army of previously pagan warriors, that have converted, is marching and across the land, fighting Another new Author and series that I clicked with and loved instantly. I was watching the Viking TV show while reading it (the one made by the History Channel) so it worked in very well as this book (series) is rich in historical feel. Real and gritty. Dirty and bloody. It is at its simplest level a story of Christianity (The White Christ) attempting to smother on more traditional Pagan beliefs. An army of previously pagan warriors, that have converted, is marching and across the land, fighting each group as they come to it and beating, converting and absorbing them. Then they carry on to the next. But it is also a much more personal tale, of two lads trying to make their mark, prove themselves as men and one getting bamboozled and sidetracked by a girl. We all know what that can be like. The characterization is fantastic, and there’s some good fun to be had, particularly with Thora who as a slender warrior woman put in a position of leadership, finds that screamed excessive vulgarity is the best motivator when dealing with huge slabs of brain limited muscle (men). A realistic and enjoyable read with a firm skeleton in actual history (or at least my knowledge of it) that is well worth a read.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Gina Galinis

    For some reason I couldn't get into this book. I'm not sure why, I wanted to like this book, and it seemed right up my alley. I could never get into the characters, I had a hard time remembering who was who and from where as it would quickly change settings and characters. I read half the book and decided I really didn't care to know how it ended and I stopped reading it. I don't think I've ever stopped halfway through a book before, I sure did try to like it, but it just never did anything for For some reason I couldn't get into this book. I'm not sure why, I wanted to like this book, and it seemed right up my alley. I could never get into the characters, I had a hard time remembering who was who and from where as it would quickly change settings and characters. I read half the book and decided I really didn't care to know how it ended and I stopped reading it. I don't think I've ever stopped halfway through a book before, I sure did try to like it, but it just never did anything for me.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.