Review: Swords of Good Men / Author: Snorri Kristjansson / Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books / Release Date: August 1st
It’s all kicking off in late 10th century Norway. Cousins Ulfar and Geiri have arrived at the town of Stenvig, the final stop on their tour of the kingdom. It’s a place where strange and unseen forces move and manipulate, a place with residents such as the blacksmith Audun, forced to live a solitary life as he attempts to escape his past. Meanwhile, a young king’s army is on the march, preaching the White Christ, drawing men to his banner with acts of bravery and sometimes mercy. Add to this a fleet of Viking longships, accompanied by a sorceress who is bound to the ways of the old gods, and there’s a lot going on.
At times, it feels like too much. Snorri Kristjansson’s Swords of Good Men hurtles along at a fast pace, introducing one character quickly before moving onto the next. It’s often too easy to forget who’s who, and point of view shifts about a lot. With so many changes, it’s difficult to dwell on each of them too deeply and, while this doesn’t spoil the story, it may leave the reader thinking a good book could have been better. It’s a similar case with location, although we are given a title with each change so we know where we are. In doing this – as well as some sparse, fast-moving dialogue – the book can seem reminiscent of a screenplay, and it can be distracting wondering which film director would best do the book justice.
That said, Swords of Good Men is a cracking yarn, (one that would make a great movie), filled with enough to satisfy any fan of Vikings and their mythology. While the author’s characters could be perceived as shallow, there’s nothing clichéd about them and we care what happens to them as relationships are destroyed or develop. The battle scenes are a beauty to read; chaotic, frenetic, gory, and not always with the expected outcome, they should appeal to fans of heroic fantasy. What the book lacks in depth, it makes up for in energy and sheer entertainment and, as an opening volume of a trilogy, whets the appetite very nicely indeed and leaves the reader hungry for more.