Today is my stop on the blog tour for ‘The Black Skald’s Verse’ by Jordan Loyal Short organised by Storytellers on Tour. This was an excellent read and has added another book to my TBR as I eagerly await book two. I hope that you will check out the book and the author, and enjoy the rest of the tour with the schedule in the banner below or (HERE). I’m also linking the song that has been stuck in my head ever since I read the title, and was on repreat while I worked on the review – Skalds and Shadows by Blind Guardian.
*Disclaimer: ‘I was given a copy this book in exchange for an honest review.’*
When a soldier’s murder sparks rebellion in the tiny village of Skolja, Brohr’s past marks him as the prime suspect. Haunted by his brother’s ghost, and drawn into a web of dark pacts and tangled loyalties, Brohr must choose between the path of vengeance set before him, and a chance to forge his own fate.
From the shadows, an all but extinct race of alien demigods have begun the end game of their millennia-spanning war, and one has chosen Brohr for his closing gambit.
But Brohr’s grandfather harbors a dark secret that will change everything.
Above it all, a dread portent looms in the sky, spelling the death of Brohr’s world. With doom spiraling toward them, Brohr must lead an unlikely rebellion, unearth disturbing family secrets, and tame the raging ghost that haunts him. Can Brohr lead his people out of darkness, or will he succumb to his own terrifying bloodlust, and destroy the very people he has sworn to save?
I was asked to describe the kind of books I liked the other day, and I said ‘fantasy, the darker, the better’ and that is very much why I loved The Skald’s Black Verse, although I would say that it is more science-fantasy that pure fantasy. I also liked that I was caught entirely by surprise when what had been set up as a world/story with Norse vibes, shifted gears with the unexpected arrival of a voidship with interplanetary invaders. For some books, this might have been a gamble too far, but here it is brilliantly executed, and it takes the best of the more traditional Norse inspired stories and twists it into something refreshing and new.
There is nothing gentle about this book, and it must be noted that the first chapter, in particular, is brutal to read and may not be for everyone. However, while it is shocking and firmly places the book immediately onto the dark spectrum of fantasy, it is done with a purpose and is important to the rest of the plot. It also feeds into the atmosphere of the book, which is decidedly bleak, although not entirely without hope. This is a world of conquered vs conqueror, of blood magic and possessions, with a looming threat of a comet rushing towards a world that is already on a precipice, and where there are no easy choices and possibly no right answers either, and there is a delicious moral greyness to most the characters as they wrestle with those choices.
There was a lot happening in this book, from the character level with Brohr’s haunting, to simmering rebellion and beyond and for the most part it was well-balanced between the four main characters, and a rich cast of secondary characters, and the events happening around them. There were a few places where it felt as though the context of the story was lost a little, at least until the end, where aspects of the blurb were made clearer, although it did add an element of mystery that had me unable to put the book down as I needed to find out what happened next.
However, the writing – particularly for the fight scenes, and the complexity of the plot, more than made up for it and kept me firmly in the flow of the book as the characters themselves. They weren’t always likeable, but their choices and struggles rang true and reflected the world around them, and I am torn between Brohr and Henrick as my favourites, although all the characters had their moments to shine.
This was a fantastic book and a stand out debut, that was nothing like what I had expected and everything I love about dark fantasy, and I cannot wait to see where the story takes us in the sequel (I was delighted to realise this was book one!). I would recommend to anyone who enjoys the darker things in fantasy, and those looking for a well-executed blurring of the boundaries between Sci-Fi and Fantasy.
About the Author:
The Skald’s Black Verse – Jordan Loyal Short (Published Nov 2018/ Re-released August 6th 2020) – **** (4/5 Stars)
If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.