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By the Mountain Bound (The Edda of Burdens) Hardcover – October 27, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
In this complex prequel to Hugo-winner Bear's All the Windwracked Stars (2008), Ragnarok has already occurred, but the world must still be cleansed of the residue of the former realm. When immortal einherjar war-leader Strifbjorn rescues a strange woman from drowning, she claims to be the Lady, a long-awaited deity, and defeats Strifbjorn's champion and lover, Mingan the Gray Wolf, to take command. The ensuing internal power struggles set the einherjar at odds while the Lady attempts to rally the community against a supposedly imminent attack by giants. Numerous fantasy authors adopt the tropes of Norse mythology, but Bear actively pursues them, channeling those myths directly rather than overlaying them on more familiar ones. The result demands much from readers, but repays it in vivid, sensual imagery of a wholly different world. (Nov.)
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The prequel to All the Windwracked Stars (2008) details events leading up to that book’s opening, with the heroine, Muire, standing on a snowy field at Ragnarok, the end of the world. To backtrack: a mysterious woman washes ashore, and Strifbjorn brings her to his hall. No waelcyrge (Valkyrie) and no mortal, she will set the Children of the Light against one another until battle destroys them all. Bear weaves together the threads of a story of the old world and the three who came from it to the new one, of great loves requited and not, and of subtle battles of wits, sorcery, and swords. Employing three viewpoints, those of the wolf Mingan, the historian Muire, and the warrior Strifbjorn, the novel is a multifaceted, epical story of how the world ends, whose atmosphere is entirely different from that of All the Windwracked Stars but which shares with that book a similar depth of wonder and brilliant realization of the world both inhabit. Another beautiful, awe-inspiring, quite glorious read from Bear. --Regina Schroeder
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Top Customer Reviews
This series, the EDDA OF BURDENS, seems to have gotten somewhat mixed reviews. Some readers don't like the order of the books. By the Mountain Bound is the second book, which is the story that leads up to the last battle at the beginning of the first book, All the Windwracked Stars. Personally, I love it and wouldn't change a thing.
I do have to admit that I had a hard time getting through one of the early chapters (I started to wonder if the title should be By the "Broke-back" Mountain Bound and yeah, I admit, the "rated R" sexual content wouldn't have bothered me as much if it was heterosexual -- Sorry, I'm old and don't know better.) But once past those few pages, I realized this was an important element in the story, and I still grew to like both characters very much.
In fact, even though Elizabeth Bear has created a very original and engrossing plot, it's the terrific characters that make this story work.
Anyone who read the first book or has a vague knowledge of Norse mythology already has a good idea of how this ends. Knowing the conclusion does not lessen its impact -- and there are still a few surprises.
I've always had a place in my heart for the "few stood against many/ no hope of winning" stories, but to make that that theme to work, the reader really has to be able to empathize with the characters. I found that my admiration for the courage of Einherjar, the Waelcyrge, and the Valraven -- the Waelcyrges' war-mounts -- was equaled by my regret for those that dishonored themselves to become "tarnished." Even when one of my favorite characters commits a horrific act, my remorse for him outweighed the outrage that demanded justice.
Einherjar war chieftain Strifbjorn saves a drowning female who is neither human nor Immortal. She insists she is the Lady of Legend that they have waited to arrive. To prove her deity she fights and defeats Strifbjorn's lover Mingan the Gray Wolf, giving her command of the fighting force. As she tries to prepare her defiant warriors against the attack of the Giants, the post Ragnarok end has begun.
This prequel to ALL THE WINDWRACKED STARS leads to how Muire the historian cowardly survived the end of the world. The story line is complex with readers deeply involved in the emotional big crunch. Ironically fans of the writer know how the tale ends yet cannot resist the trip to find out how Elizabeth Bear takes her readers there. This is a great addition to Nordic mythology by one of the best authors at writing exhilarating mythological fantasies.
The Plot: Einherjar and waelcyrge (angels and valkyrie) are Children of the Light, charged with protecting humans under the guidance of the Light. The 3 main characters (in this book as well as the trilogy) are Stifbjorn - the leader, Mingan - the Wolf, older and more powerful than the rest, survivor of the previous world's end, given new shape in this one, and Muire - smaller of the valkyrie, historian and poet rather than warrior, hopelessly in love with Stifbjorn, who shares a secret and forbidden relationship with Mingan the Wolf.
Everything is upended when a mysterious stranger, Heythe, appears, claiming to be their foretold Lady and challenging Stibjorn for leadership. Yet there are hints of darkness about her, and she may destroy the Children instead of saving them.
The writing is achingly beautiful, and the focus is on the characters' emotional journey (angst! love, betrayal, loyalty, sacrifice). I absolutely loved it. I liked all the characters, and Mingan's POV was particularly compelling. There's pieces of Norse mythology woven through. This is a book to read and re-read.