Sooooooooooo. This book. I wanted to like it a lot — there’s Norse mythology and bards and Beowulf and a titch of magic and adventures and Adventures and seafaring and it’s all fairly exciting. I think I just read this at the wrong time.
See, the book I finished right before this was The Amulet of Samarkand, and part of my fangirl gushing over that book was the way that everything was so opposite of what I expected from a fantasy novel and so dark and intriguing. This book? Exactly what you’d expect of a fantasy novel, not dark, not really terribly intriguing. It’s a sort of action book, primarily, and I just wasn’t mentally prepared for that.
The story is of a kid called Jack, who becomes apprentice to a bard, which in this world is not just a teller of tales but also a bit of a magician, using the tale-telling business to tap into the… I don’t remember… crap… Google says Yggdrasil (pronounced eeg-druh-sill), which is right, but there was another name for it. We see how much attention I paid while listening to this book. Sigh. Anyway, the stories have some magic to them that can have varying effects on the listeners. But that’s not really the story. The story is that at some point, the bard to whom Jack is apprenticed is attacked and in the ensuing chaos Jack and his sister get kidnapped and taken aboard a slave trading vessel and eventually gets to a Viking village and then he slights the queen but good and then has to go on an epic quest to fix the slight and then spoiler alert he succeeds and goes home.
So there’s a lot of stuff happening here, and it’s all quite predictable because you can tell it’s meant to be a riff on old Norse mythology and whatnot and according to the internet the print book mentions this explicitly at the end, and also mentions that what I felt was a really horrible sort of throw-away joke at the end was actually kind of the point of the book and wow that is neither in the audiobook nor implied by the text itself.
Taken as a sort of epic poem, the book is pretty good, though it drags in parts. I quite enjoyed the Norse setting that I haven’t seen too much of elsewhere, and I enjoyed the humor that Farmer puts into her writing. I had some problems with the aforementioned joke, which almost ruined the book for me (I’m not sure if I would have felt different knowing about it in advance), and with the main female character whose role in the story was apparently to be kind of lame and then blossom into a lamer person. Ugh. There are apparently sequels to this book, even though the book itself can stand alone, but I won’t be reading them.
Recommendation: For those interested in a bit of Norse mythology and lore and who like an Adventure.
(A to Z Challenge)