on January 1, 2001
Too many recent fantasies seem to have been written by authors who know other recent fantasies -- and that's about all they have to draw upon.
Not Lars Walker! Walker is telling his own story -- and what a storyteller he is -- but his imagination is drawing on a much richer compost than (it seems to me) most authors command. Walker knows the Icelandic sagas, and has adapted the terse saga style for the modern fantasy reader. Thus he provides us with a series of memorable supernatural incidents -- pagan gods, werewolves, ghosts -- and battle scenes, but he doesn't "write them up" in pulp magazine style. You may find yourself going back and reading again some of these scenes, to savor how really eerie or violent they are. His locales are generally convincing; they do not seem to have been invented by a writer who is making things up as he goes along.
There's human depth here, too. Walker gets me interested in characters without halting the story for extended patches to "work up" the description of the person. Here are men and women with blood in their veins.
I'm teaching an undergraduate course on modern fantasy. If I'd known of this book in time to include it in the reading list -- where it would have been in the company of Tolkien, Le Guin, and Peake -- I'd almost certainly have done so. I would have liked to include an example of really worthwhile swords-and-sorcery fantasy -- and that's what we have here!
on February 29, 2000
I wasn't expecting much from this book. Happily, my expectations were far too low. This book was just plain fun. It was also incredibly thought provoking, and an introduction to a part of history about which I know little.
I'm not going to say much about the book, because I think you should read it, and don't want to give any spoilers. But I will say that "Father" Aillil is a very good main character. He is a human being, with human failings and weaknesses, who manages to grow, to learn, and to become a better person, all the while giving us a good perspective on what's going on around him. While I don't agree with him on everything (to start with, I'm not even a Christian :-) ), his thoughts and beliefs brought me new things to think about. A truly wonderful gift from the author.
Buy it, you won't regret it.
on June 26, 2000
My husband and I have read books aloud together for years, and science fiction and fantasy is our favorite genre for this purpose. Our latest completed endeavor: "The Year of the Warrior" by Lars Walker.
Not only is this book great entertainment, which is what a good fantasy novel should be, but it offers a complex and unflinching look at various religious issues (i.e. the conflict between following the teachings of Christ while forcing others to submit to the same).
Through the eyes of the book's narrator, Father Aillil, Walker offers a first-hand look at an intriguing period of history - the supplanting of Pagan beliefs by the spread of Christianity, in this case in Norway.
As the old beliefs and gods conflict with the new, Father Aillil must wrestle with his own inner demons and come to grips with his own secret sin.
I fear to say more may give away too much. Suffice to say, I encourage you to buy this book. Read it with someone you love, and it may provoke some very thoughtful discussions.
on October 27, 2002
I feel that the publishers did this book a diservice by naming it the Year of the Warrior, as well as marketing it as a "swashbuckling, slice-and-dice adventure story" (see the picture on the front cover). I picked up this book as a quick weekend read, not really expecting much and found a rare jewel. This book reminds me of Gene Wolf's Shadow of the Torturer and Claw of the Conciliator. It is deep, moving and draws you into a world of moral dilemma and search for meaning. The book is intelligent and as a man who searches for meaning myslef, i found this book really resonated with my own struggles. A definate recommend.
on December 15, 2006
I heard about Lars Walker from a well-read friend and ordered this book from Amazon. Before I review it, I can tell you I went on to order Walker's other two books and am now disconsolate that there are no more published volumes for me to consume. Lars Walker is a genius. His books are published in the paperback fantasy genre, but he's stalking big game and will touch you deep in your soul.
If you want to read great stories about the Vikings and the early stirrings of Christianity in their land, this is the book for you. Walker has researched his subject well. He knows what the Vikings were really like.
Wonderful characters and plot are added to genuine insights about the spirit. There are scenes from this novel that haunt me. I almost never read books twice, but I'll read this one at least twice more.
on July 5, 2002
I really enjoyed this book. It's a rousing adventure story with great characters. The men and women portrayed, while flawed, are interesting and help draw you into the story.
The author paints a wild and untamed world with danger around every corner. The type of world I love to read about. Also, the struggles the characters go through to understand their world and their relationship within it is intelligently done. It's a good tale of spiritual journey.
Once you start this book, you'll finish it quickly. I look forward to more tales about Erling and Ailill. Nice Job!
on August 9, 2010
Lars Walker's The Year of the Warrior published by Baen Books left me awestruck. Don't judge this book by it's pulp-fiction cover; this is a historical sword and sorcery novel that transcends the genre. I feel as if any attempts on my behalf to convey the sweep of this story will utterly fall short, but I'll try and give little tidbits.
The historical aspect:
In this novel Walker plumbs the depths of the dark ages as the the pagan Norse religion begins to be supplanted by Christianity in Norway around 1000 A.D. Walker probes the uncomfortable horrors perpetrated by men in the name of Christianity: "Be baptized or die," becomes the mantra of the Church. And fighting this misguided version of Christianity is the brutal religion of the Viking Norsemen. For Christians reading this story, it is a harsh confrontation with an often overlooked period of history...the inglorious, tragic attempt to win the world for Christ by the sword. However, Mr. Walker creates two of the most memorable characters ever written, Father Aillil an Irish priest who despises God, and a mighty Hersir named Erling, who as a Christian, aquires Aillil to be his priest.
The story is stuffed full of adventures, heart-wrenching drama, agonizing moral dilemma, titanic battles between men, and gods (demons). And that leads into the fantasy side of the story...
The fantasy aspect:
The gods of Norway don't sit idly by. Aillil calls them demons, but the pagan Norsemen's gods show themselves in many shapes and forms, driving the motives of men, infiltrating human minds, and often manifesting themselves bodily in open warefare with Aillil, Erling, and any who dare disrupt their dominion over Norway. There are Berzerkers, Ogres, underground women, and werewolves. And there are the Norse gods Thor and Freydis!
The skill of the writing:
Walkers writing is flawless. Historical scholarship, excellent storytelling, and powerful prose collide in this novel. I've already bought several copies to send to my friends!
on October 24, 2011
I just submitted a review for Lars Walker's other book, West Oversea. My evaluation is the same so I will reproduce it here:
The other reviews go into sufficient detail so I will keep it brief. Lars Walker does what so few Christian novelists do: he makes the faith foundational to the tale so that it permeates everything yet without discarding plot and character for the purpose of evangelizing. I cringe at Christian novels and films that wear their faith on their sleeve and sacrifice good storytelling. In fact, it is for this reason I tend to eschew the term "Christian" as an adjective. A good tale, much like Christ's teaching, should provoke thought by challenging presuppositions or at least help the reader see things from another perspective. Lars Walker has accomplished this and is one of my favorite fiction writers because of it. I especially appreciate the fact that he answers emails.
on June 5, 2013
Lars Walker is one of my favorite authors, and these first two books in the saga of Erling represent some of his best work.
I have a particular interest in Vikings (being Norwegian), as well as Christian history (being Christian), so the "historical fiction" aspect of these books is especially appealing to me.
I also love fantasy, and while these stories do not fit neatly into the fantasy genre, they deal with the supernatural in a way that transcends both the spooky horror or triteness of most modern supernatural thrillers, and never sink into the lame cheesiness of most "Christian fiction." These books answer the question of what happens when the servants of the Christian God (who is real) enter a pagan land and encounter the forces of pagan "gods" (who are also very real). The spiritual clash is gripping and exciting, as is the emotional journey of the mere mortals who are sometimes caught in the middle.
The characters are fascinating, never two-dimensional, and their dialog is usually witty and delightful. While never outright comical, I found myself laughing out loud on multiple occasions (thanks especially to the dry sarcasm of the main character, Father Aillil).
I cannot recommend this book more highly, to believers and infidels alike!
on March 19, 2015
This book is about the Vikings, set just before AD 1000. As the cover indicates, there's a lot of fighting in the book. So much that it would be rated R, as a movie. There's also a little sex, but I wouldn't say that the book is pornographic. The plot is gripping, and often surprising. It's a good read.
That said, I was completely surprised by the book. It turns out that many theological questions are answered in it. It's not preachy, though, and the leading character, an Irish captive who is asked to serve as a Christian priest in a pagan culture, has his flaws. But he is also trying to really serve God -- to do the right thing, towards the oppressed, and keep others from doing the wrong thing. The most important theological question is this: Should people be baptized against their will? That is, should a conqueror, or ruler, insist that all he is over be baptized? Should a priest resist this sort of thing?
There are real spiritual battles in the book. Thor makes a brief appearance. There are witches and wizards, and powerful spirits. I've never read anything like this, and I'm glad I did.
I'm not sure where the "Year" of the title comes in. The narrative covers more than one year.