Sunday, 29 May 2011

Becky Bookworm Book Review: The Valkyrie Sagas - Mimir's Well by Dr Gregory Pepper

The Valkyrie Sagas: Mimir's WellThe Valkyrie Sagas: Mimir's Well by Dr. Gregory Pepper

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dr Gregory Pepper definitely put a whole new spin on the world of Norse Mythology and the role of the Valkyries. For a starters he maps out Asgard in quite a different way to many by having the Aesir as an actual race of people living in Asgard which is a land linked to Vanaheim the land of the Elves and in turn the land of the Giants, Jutunheim. Britfrost the rainbow bridge is colourful but it's more like a constantly shifting giant glacier between the lands and in another peculiar twist the Norns dont so much as weave people's fates but sing songs that make who ever listens have an urgent need for sex. That is one of the other more striking things about his twist on these legendary characters that he introduced sex into the equation. Not only does he have Odin making love to Freyja (suprisingly ok with Frigg) but he also allows his Valkyrie Warriors and Maids (There is a difference between the two classes of Valkyrie but I won't explain it and spoil the story) have intimate affairs with the other male Gods such as Loki, Baldur and Freyr. Thankfully it's not an overpowering influence in the overall story although it is constantly linked to the Valkyries in some way. Dr Pepper also spins so of the classic myths into the narrative such as the building of Asgard's Walls by a mason (who in legend is tricked by Loki becoming a horse and running away with the mason's) yet in Dr Pepper's version it is a Valkyrie with Loki cunning which ultimately outwits the giants building work although it did lead to some bloodshed.

To me personally as a huge fan of the norse mythology and as a writer who is also trying to bring norse myths back but featuring the Valkyries more prominently I find only A) the use of sex, B) the twist in the wall legend, C) the irritating way all the Gods addresses the Valkyries as 'fair Kat' or 'Fair Prudr' (just sounded a bit tooo old fashioned and posh for the strong rugged gods of Vikings and more like posh aristrocrats); and D) the way the omniscient narrator was a bit too free and would jump between characters quite often in the same paragraph apart from the in the same chapter (think a limited omniscient narrator focusing on one character per chapter would have been better) jarred with my overall enjoyment of the book.

It is a good book though and throughout the narrative you can clearly see how much detail and imagination Dr Pepper has put into inventing or discovering not just the role of Valkyries (in his version they don't just collect the best souls for obvious reasons but also have a darker purpose) but also the way they lived, the way they were chosen, how they got their names, their ranking and servitude under Freya and the other gods, and how any modern soul claimed by them can adjust and survive to become one of them. This also of course shows how much Dr Pepper has read the norse myths and soaked every detail from them to create them into a world (much like in the Thor movie suprisingly) where magic and science coexist so they act as one and the same. That fact however is realise more towards the end and linked with the object in the story title. It is a most definite refreshing and original take on the all the Gods and their roles as well as the land they inhabit. I would recommend it to others who love the same subjects but I also would warn them that things are quite different in Dr Gregory Pepper's nordic universe.
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Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Soul Chaser - Sneak Peak at Chapter 8 Omens in the Ash

I have suprised myself and actually done some writing on Soul Chaser Chapter 8 Omens in the Ash, not alot and not often but enough to at least get the first 3 pages done and what's even more suprising is yet again through Jenny I am learning not just more about her but also about the Aesir themselves, legends which no ones knows about just act themselves out before my mind and evolve into my own writing. 
There is still a lot more to write on Chapter 8 before it reaches the point where it should lead into Chapter 9 but it's proving to be a very revealing and thought provoking chapter already. So here's a taster of the norse treats I've discovered through my valkyrie muse - hope you enjoy - any feedback is appreciated.
*** *** ***
I relit the candle on the table with a small flash of the rune Ken (^) and rummaged in the bottom of my trunk. Amongst the heavy shadows of clothing I came across with some relief the small ash wood engraved box containing parchment, quill and ink and a few pieces of my Valkyrie jewelry such as my silver torque bracelet. Bringing it up onto the table I caught myself marveling in a rather silly manner at the scenes the flickering candle light depicted before me.
    Each side of the box had a scene from famous Norse legends and sagas. The one on the front with a silver clasp in the middle depicted Sigurd the Blacksmith, slaying the dragon Fafnir, the left side had Grettir the Strong being hurt by a wicked enchantment from a log that washed up at his secret hideout. On the right end was four figures holding what appeared to be a giant platter until you see beneath it is a small marking of a tree with a couple on its left and a cow and dog on the its right. That was Yggdrasil at the birth of the world with the four Giant Dwarves, their names that of the four winds, holding up the sky so tree, man and animal could live. The rear side of the box though was particularly special, a scene very few of those who live outside the Norse Pantheon know about.
Engraved is a paradisiacal landscape with great plants and wondrous creatures, and under a pavilion in the centre are sat two women, one clearly older than the other due to the length of her dress but each holds a bird at her feet. The older and more regal holds what looks like a hawk or eagle, the younger and sterner of the pair is holding what could be first perceived as a goose but when examining the flair of its wings is clearly a swan. This secret scene depicts the untold legend of how Frigg and Freya recognized each other upon the Peace Treaty and Alliance with the Vanir. Frigg gave Freya the gift of a royal Eagle; Freya in turn granted her new Mistress the grace and beauty of the Swan. All Valkyries in training are granted magical swan feather cloaks in honour of that exchange yet only ever will Freya be allowed to adorn the wings of an Eagle.
That box, like so many special items I’ve been given or earned during my handful of years with these gods and their shield maidens, always had some saga, tale or legend attached. Its own life story of how it came into being, how it came be owned by whom and all that happened after. Such as Freya’s Brisingamen necklace, to be wrought of gold so fine that it glowed as bright as the sun even in a dark room. It was crafted by four dwarf brothers when they discovered a boulder sized lump of gold that had no impurities found in the much smaller lumps found in their mineral mine. Only the Aesir Gods and some of the oldest Viking Einherjar remember the part of the saga where the four brothers had to slay a Wyrm King who slaughtered their family in pursuit of their discovery. No, everyone remembers the more exciting and even naughtier part of that necklace’s tale, how Freya sold her beauty and body in order to gain it.
It’s this eternal link to someone’s past, someone’s life, someone’s memories and experiences that I quickly appreciated as I learned that my own past life was missing from my soul. When I learnt that truth I felt cheated by some cruel force by not just ending what life I had young but withholding what life I did have. I was like a faulty toy on the production line, somehow before, during or after my demise Death in whatever form it was released my soul incorrectly, almost leaving a remnant of me behind in my physical body. A bit of me that may seem unimportant now I’m forging a new life but without the past I don’t truly know who I am or who I was. I know things about me unconsciously like what foods, music, and clothes I like and what things I don’t like but I have no real reason why. I have no truth or experience behind even the smallest of my decisions.  
Martha compared my amnesia of the past life to those mortals who suddenly and quite randomly forget everything in a severe bout of amnesia and have to remake entire lives and relationships with those who knew the old them. Some of them never did revert back to their old ways and recall their old memories. Some never could rebuild those relationships that could be closest to them. Things had changed too much. They were too different. The major difference in my situation is I have no one to tell me I didn’t use to like marmalade or I used to be head over heels in love with some celebrity. I’m a blank page in the middle of a book with no story behind me and the story of my future yet to be written.
It was that great void in the centre of my being that drew me to gorge upon any and all legends and sagas I came across or heard a member of the Einherjar discussing and this ultimately led me to befriend my first Aesir God. Bragi, God of Poetry and Skalds. The father of narratives true and fictional, long or short, famous or folklore. He was the ancient story teller.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Becky Bookworm Book Review : The Hammer and The Cross by Robert Fergson

The Hammer and the Cross: A New History of the VikingsThe Hammer and the Cross: A New History of the Vikings by Robert Ferguson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a brilliantly detailed, well researched, a laid out walk through from the earliest stages of the Viking era through to its demise not just at 1066 but in all the countries the Vikings made land fall and settled (England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Iceland, Hebrides, Shetland, Greenland, North America, Istanbul and the Mediterranean, Russia etc) and of course their home nations of Scandinavia.
The brilliant thing about this book besides it great detail, research, anecdotes and use of archeological evidence and up-to-date findings is how Robert Ferguson examines the mythology and pagan religion of this mighty race of people and how it changed and adapted or in most cases became outlawed and faded away with the oncoming of Christianity. You meet the regular famous characters of this era, Ethelred the Unready, Alfred the Great, Guthrum, Ivar and Cnut etc but you also meet many other great historical power heads of the era not just from Britain but in any country that was invaded by the Vikings and their struggle to defeat and convert them from Marangian Kings to Holy Roman Emperors.
If anyone is interested in this era and of the Viking people then this book is for the keen learner and long-term researcher as it is a very long book due to its detail and knowledge but by the end of it you gain a new fascinating indepth insight into the world from so many different points of view.
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Sunday, 15 May 2011

Becky Bookworm Book Review : Odin's Wolves by Giles Kristian (10/10 STARS)

Raven Odins WolvesRaven Odins Wolves by Giles Kristian

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If readers enjoyed Raven Blood Eye and Sons of Thunder then it's an unspoken guarantee that they will go literally beserk over the third installment of this fantastic viking saga, Odin's Wolves.
In this third adventure Raven and Sigurd and the rest of the crew along with the rescued Danes set their prow beasts in the direction of the mediterranean sea and the riches of Milkagard (aka Constantinople now known as Istandbul). They will not just have to survive new and treacherous waters but the new summer heat of there foreign lands and of course their strange and alien like dark skinned natives complete with new languages, rituals and trade goods. Yet as usual achieving their goal of fame and riches always comes with great challenges, great fights and great cunning to gain the best without shedding the most blood or loosing the most dishonour. The trouble Sigurd's crew and he get into as they visit the ruined city of Rome even before the reach Istanbul is enough to give them lots of good stories to tell in their mead halls back home - but when is it ever enough for these Vikings? How far can they sail and how often must they wet their sword with blood before the price of fame and fortune becomes too high?
This final book is so rich in its detail which softly immerses the reader into the dark age world for this band of vikings, with characters who develop so much through each chapter let alone each individual book any reader can't help but have a favourite let alone admire Sigurd for his prowess as a Jarl and of course a plot that is so full of twists, turns and suprises as complex yet as beautifully planned like the intricate jelling stone carving designs, taking readers though each emotion possible that Giles Kristian has truly proven himself in all areas that make a classic masterpiece of historical fiction that readers of Bernard Cornwell, Robert Low and Tim Severin should note this young viking at heart and in blood author as a writer with true talent at writing a thrilling and captivating story but one who clearly pushes ever last ounce of his admiration and love for this fine race of adventurers, warriors and craftsmen into each type of the keyboard or drop of ink from his pen.
Giles Kristian truly has brought the world of the Vikings into the 21st Century with enough power and a touch of skaldic magic that Cornwell, Low and Severin took years to establish.
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Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Thor's Day Special - The Fantasy - A Mead Hall full of Top Viking Fiction!

Now where do you go if, like me, you want to learn what books and authors there are in the world that take on the role of a Skald in the genre of Viking Fiction both Historical and Fantasy?

Well my discovery and subsequential naming of this relatively unknown genre has come about literally by chance from reading one book, discovering another author and so on.
Most Viking Historical Fiction and Norse Fantasy books I've read, reviewed and blogged here or shared on my Goodreads site (look up valkyrie1008) but a while ago, near the end of last year, I realised I'd actually amassed quite a collection of top rate fiction dealing with my favourite interest - vikings and norse mythology.
To try and spread the word I sent in a few reviews to Will Kalif at his Fantasy site full of fantasy books reviews, author interviews, amazon offers etc. Well I ended up sending them all and because there was soooo many he decided to be super generous and even construct a page on his site dedicated to purely Viking Fiction. I even got to be a bit clever and write up a guide to the two sub-genres, Historical Fiction and Norse Fantasy to allow beginners work out what I was ranting on about.
And after recently submitting my two reviews of the Blood series by Melvin Burgess (a modern teenage retelling of the Volsung Saga in two parts) I've realised to my horror that I haven't shouted out about this great man, great site and great page nearly enough as I should!

but esepcially for Vikingy Bookworms like myself
please do follow the link via the image below to sample the great deluxe of books and authors I've read and given a Vikingr roar in approval - I guarantee you won't be disappointed!
Here's a list of all the great names I've discovered who are bringing back the Old Gods and Old Heroes of old in fab new ways:

and recently to join this fine lot

AND there is more planned to come! I always try to have at least 1 viking historical or norse fantasy book awaiting my attention in my ever growing to-read plans and Will and I have discussed plans to add a Viking Non-fiction book list (which I've also been  reading) so you can also improve your knowledge and understanding of this fantastic period in history and revel in the wonders of these amazing explorers, poets, warriors, sea-farers and more!
So do keep checking on the site - it's going to possibly collapse the world wide web with all the Viking Love I'm pouring into it hehehe.

Go on spread the Viking Love - you know I'll drive you BESERK if you don't  

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Becky Bookworm Book Review - Bloodtide +Bloodsong by Melvin Burgess

  BloodtideBloodtide by Melvin Burgess

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a very dark and frightening portrayal of what may well happen to British society if the government flees, gangs rule and technology goes too far.
Yet it is woven smoothly into an age old norse tale of two feuding families, the agendas of the old gods, the pursuit of revenge and how the quest for peace is never free from pain and sorrow.
The characters are all mainly over teenage years yet the struggles each goes through makes them more adult in mind then they appear on the skin.

It is a very good thriller and adventure tale as the saga should be although in some places it does slow down a bit if only to allow the reader to emmerse themselves ever deeper into the grim reality of the world portrayed in the book but the ending is as dramatic as befits the great saga that is being retold. Melvin really has brought fresh blood and misery to this norse legend.
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Bloodsong (Blood, #2)Bloodsong by Melvin Burgess

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The story of Sigurd really does begin quickly and Melvin doesn't waste too much time going over what's happened since Siggy became King Sigmund in Bloodtide but the basic gist is there is still great evil in the former United Kingdom. That comes in the form of a mutant being sterotyped as the dragon Fafnir and his hoard of gold is not just gold but all the many bizarre and sinister technologies of this dystopian world set in the future.
Over all it is a thrilling adventure story, the action never really stops although I did feel it lag a bit during the time Sigurd spent in 'Hel' with Bryony (aka Brighild the fallen valkyrie) right up to when he met the Nibblong siblings. Melvin did manage to keep the wicked mother-in-law in the plot which ultimately leads to the tragic love triangle.
Yet the only real difficulty I had with the story was the way he portrayed Sigurd's character from half way through to the end, it almost became Jesus-like with the millions of people crowding to see him and the way Sigurd kept questioning his own life, his feelings, his past etc. It just didn't seem much like a dragon slaying warrior king-reborn to me but perhaps like Jesus was in the garden before he was betrayed.
But either way yet again Melvin has managed to reinvigerate with fresh gore and woe this tragic norse legend of family betrayal, love and misfortune all because of a cursed ring.

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