Saturday, August 09, 2014

Books: The Broken Sword

Poul Anderson is mostly known for his epoch-spanning "Technic History" space opera, but he did write his fair share of fantasy, too. I recently read one of his early books, "The Broken Sword," and I found it to be an entertaining tale flavored with pseudo-Norse legend.

"The Broken Sword" tells the story of Skafloc, originally the son of prosperous human vikings. But elves secretly kidnap Skafloc as a baby, and leave a changeling called Valgard in his place. Both Skafloc and Valgard grow up to be fierce warriors, destined to play pivotal roles in the conflict amongst elves, trolls, giants, and gods. Which one of them will wield the mysterious Broken Sword? And at what cost?

Even though it was originally published in 1954, "The Broken Sword" holds up well today, mostly thanks to Anderson's gift for pacing. At times, the book describes battles blow-by-blow, with vivid images of every slash and hit. During others, episodes and seasons pass by with little comment, summarized as too tedious or tangential to the story. In the end, Anderson leaves you with a thrilling yarn about a dark ages Scandinavia, before the coming of the "White Christ."