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The Broken Sword (Fantasy Masterworks) Paperback – September 12, 2002
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Thor has broken the sword Tyrfing so that it cannot strike at the roots of Yggdrasil, the tree that binds together earth, heaven and hell. But now the mighty sword is needed again to save the elves in their war against the trolls, and only Scafloc, a human child kidnapped and raised by the elves, can hope to persuade Bolverk the ice-giant to make Tyrfing whole again. But Scafloc must also confront his shadow self, Valgard the changeling who has taken his place in the world of men.
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If you like Tolkien and want to read someone who belongs on the same shelf by right of his own merit and isn't a poor imitation, I recommend this book highly.
I literally flew through the first half of the book because it was so good. Anderson blends Viking themes with Celtic fae myth in a new and startling way. Skafloc was born to a Viking Lord, but because his mother was prevented from baptizing him (this being when the Roman faith had begun to take over) immediately after birth, an Elf fae Lord stole and replaced him with a changeling. Cool. Skafloc was raised by the elves and has special abilities because of it. He’s bold, exciting and a strong protagonist. Valgard is…wrong. He shouldn’t exist and that manifests in a brutal, violent nature. Very cool. Anderson also peppers the text with lyrical poetry that emulates the Norse Eddas in a Tolkien fashion, but also has some excellent action sequences. It gives the story a unique flavor.
Unfortunately, halfway through the story loses all momentum and turns into a star-crossed Oedipal romance. Trollheim has often tried to conquer the Elves, but always failed. Until now. In their arrogance, the Elves refuse to see the danger and their lands fall. Skalfloc the mighty iron warrior is reduced to hiding in a cave with a girl, whining about what happened. This goes on for far too long before he decides to find the fabled broken sword Tyr prophesied will give victory, but at great cost. He spends the rest of the book moping because his girl leaves him. Worse yet, the book ends on a cliffhanger when another child is born who is ultimately the one the prophecy refers to about the sword. *sigh* I had trouble finishing the book and kept putting it aside.
Such wasted potential. I wish the author had skipped the “romance” and stayed with the myths. Not every book has to have a romance. The relationship between Skalfoc and his changeling should have been the focus. Overall, it wasn’t awful but I have found much better Norse and Fae based books out there.
The Broken Sword brings ancient prophecies, changeling children, cursed swords, elves the likes of which modern authors shy away from in favor of crafting long lived humans who are good with bows, ancient deities whose time passes but has not yet passed! The legends of Ireland fight alongside those of the Norse, the shores of England soak up the blood of hundreds if not thousands!
If you want to see where so much of fantasy afterward has drawn its strengths from, from Elric's cursed rune blade to the themes of gods playing in the lives of mortals, to the sins of incest and the clash of taboos, The Broken Sword is a must read.
There are epic battles throughout, love gained and lost, great quests and, of course, great tragedy. It has everything.
I think it is the finest fantasy novel I have ever read. I had no idea Poul Anderson could write so beautifully. I have read some of his other novels and while I enjoyed them, it was never because of his writing. In fact, I had thought him a very average writer but who had some fascinating ideas. Now I know better.
My only criticism is that it ended.