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This review is from: The Saga of the Volsungs (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
The Saga of the Volsungs is a quick, brutal and exciting read. It has small elements of fantasy, such as the slaying of the dragon which gives Sigurd of the Volsungs his name, but it is mostly what you might call a family drama. The tie of the family in Iceland was very important, for better and worse; loosely tied family members will often betray each other for power, as you will see in the text.
Also heavily present is the pantheon of Norse gods. Odin makes several appearances in various forms, either to help or hinder people's efforts, and Loki and Thor also make their way into a small section.
The introduction and ending notes are both very helpful in this edition; the introduction does well at placing the events of this story and its writing into historical context, and the end notes help to illuminate aspects of the story that would otherwise be lost on many (Odin's disguises, Icelandic terms, etc.)
The Saga writing style is something that may not be familiar to many readers, as the writing is very terse and straightforward. It is a style people often complain about, but I very much enjoy it, even though it admittedly takes some getting used to. It is interesting to note that the Icelanders wrote all of the sagas in prose, when nearly everywhere else in the world at the time stories were written in verse.
The only thing I can think of to say against this book is not a complaint against the book itself, but against Penguin; all told, you are only getting about seventy pages of actual saga material. Penguin should have included more sagas together. Overall, this is an enjoyable read, even more so than Nibelungenlied, the more well known German tale of the same story.