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The Broken Sword

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  3,627 Ratings  ·  281 Reviews
'The first great modern American fantasy' Baird Searles

Thor has broken the sword Tyrfing so that it cannot strike at the roots of Yggdrasil, the tree that binds together earth, heaven and hell. But now the mighty sword is needed again to save the elves in their war against the trolls, and only Scafloc, a human child kidnapped and raised by the elves, can hope to persuade B
Paperback, 274 pages
Published September 2002 by Gollancz / Orion (first published 1954)
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In a stunning development certain to send shockwaves through the world of Fantasy Literature, The Lord of the Rings, long considered by many to be the "Greatest Epic Fantasy" of all time, has been bitch-slapped and bitch-smote by Poul Anderson's 1954 dark fantasy epic, The Broken Sword. Anderson's story is now loudly demanding at least a share of the top honors. Such recognition would be welcome and long overdue according to fantasy icon Michael Moorcock who believes that Ander
Jul 28, 2013 Lyn rated it it was amazing
How is this book not more popular?

Written four years after The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and published the same year as Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword is a fantasy masterpiece. Combining Norse myth and legend, English and World myth, with historical fact and setting, this tells a legendary tale economically and with a fable-like tone.

Adventurous and entertaining as well, the only reason I can think that it has been less successful than its Englis
J.G. Keely
Feb 03, 2010 J.G. Keely rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, novel, reviewed
Every young medium, if it wishes to be taken seriously as an art form, must find a way to present mature stories. Movies began to take themselves seriously in the thirties, comic books began their struggle to elevate themselves in the late seventies, and videogames have been trying to achieve greater depth for the past few years.

Yet, like any rise from adolescence to adulthood, this reaching for maturity is always an awkward period. It is marked by overcompensation, by the striking of certain po
Dec 30, 2016 Matthias rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Matthias by: Brad
Many ages ago, when majestic forests dominated our lands and little cottages of hay and wood were the only thing protecting the hairy humans from the elements, tales were not just tales. The stories passed down from one generation to the next held Truth. The stories read in those days were never forgotten. They were carved in trees and stones, they were carried with the water and the wind, they were illuminated by the stars and the moon. The tales were everywhere as mountains harboured dwarves a ...more
Mar 20, 2013 Apatt rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Poul Anderson is an authors' author. Wait, I already said that in my review of Tau Zero. Now I will talk about his versatility, The Broken Sword is nothing like his sci-fi books that I have read before, and it is so very different from Tau Zero that it is hard to believe the same author wrote both books. I can not imagine Arthur C. Clarke writing this, or even Heinlein, whose only fantasy Glory Road is still very Heinlein in style.

The Broken Sword is one of Anderson's comparatively few fantasy n
Mar 31, 2016 Markus rated it really liked it
"It was a cool spring dark with the moon nearly full, rime glittering on the grass and the stars still hard and bright as in winter. The night was very quiet save for the sighing of wind in budding branches, and the world was all sliding shadows and cold white light."

Published in 1954, Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword is one of the forgotten giants of early modern fantasy. The book remains an astounding influence of several important writers in the genre.

Set in medieval England, the book feature
The Broken Sword: A dark fantasy classic of Norse mythology
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword (1954) was selected by David Pringle in his Modern Fantasy: The 100 Best Novels, and is highly praised by Michael Moorcock, whose character Elric of Melnibone and his demon-possessed sword Stormbringer are directly inspired by The Broken Sword. The audio version is narrated by Bronson Pinchot, who has an amazing vocal range and narrates with passion.

To get right to t
Michael Fierce
Mar 29, 2012 Michael Fierce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Lord Of The Rings, and elves


There are hundreds of good fantasy books, several that can be considered classics. Only a few can be compared in any fashion to the The Lord of the Rings. For me, this is one of them.

It may not be as grand or as ambitious as LOTR, but The Broken Sword is recognized, by several in the know, as an unheralded classic by Poul Anderson, a major fantasy & science-fiction master, and this book, a personal favorite of mine.

The Broken Sword was first published in 1954, the same year as The Fellowshi
Dan Schwent
Jun 24, 2010 Dan Schwent rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, 2010
Imric the Elf Earl steals a human baby and leaves a changeling, Valgard, in his place. Little does he know the changeling will start the worst war the elves have ever seen. But what of Skafloc, the child that was taken, and the broken sword given to him as a baby by the Aesir?

I originally picked this up because Michael Moorcock frequently cites it as an influence on his Elric saga. Upon reading it, I can see what he means. The Broken Sword has a lot of the epic feel of the Elric saga, complete w
Dec 16, 2014 Bookwraiths rated it liked it
Originally reviewed at Bookwraiths Reviews

The Broken Sword is a modern Norse myth that both dazzles and disappoints with its tale of unwitting mortals caught in the web of gods.

When just a newborn, our hero Skafloc is snatched from his mother’s breast due to the machinations of a disgruntled witch, who hates the babe’s father. This crone tricks Imric, a mighty lord of the elf-folk, into substituting a half-elf, half-troll changeling named Valgard for Skafloc. Thereafter, the two babies grow up
DNF at 80%.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that I'm SO CLOSE to the end, and why would I give up when I've already gotten this far?

Because I'm fucking bored out of my mind, that's why.

I heard that this book was a must read for fans of Tolkien, and so when I saw that it was read by Bronson Pinchot on Audible, I snagged it. Woot! Yay for me, right?

Wrong. This book was slow torture for me to listen to. I figured I could bang it out in a day while cleaning my house, and that's what
The Broken Sword is a imagined mythology by Poul Anderson in the Norse style. It features poetry and adopts the style of the Norse myths I loved as a child. For that very reason I give it a four star rating and only because of the tragic nature of its plot do I avoid giving it the full five stars.

This is an excellent introduction for anyone interested in looking at the style of Norse mythology. I admit it's not perfect but Anderson apes the traditional Norse style very well while also creating a
1954. The same year that The Fellowship of the Ring came out. And yet, this is arguably a better book.

What? No way! But what about JRRT's depth of world-building, the gradual easing of modest characters into epic ones? What about the language? How could a single fantasy novel by a popular SF author outdo one of the standards of literature?

Easy. Make characters as sharp and bright as arrows, fit them into the bow of a world, and let them fly straight and true. Give them immediate adventure, no su
Mike (the Paladin)
Oct 10, 2009 Mike (the Paladin) rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Here's another where I wish we had either a 10 star system or a half star system. This book is better than a simple 3 star might indicate. The problem is that I don't like it as much as many 4 star books...or many of the books I've rated four(4) stars. I'll note again here that I'm not trying to rate this or any book on things like, quality alone. I suppose I basically rate on what I think of as overall enjoyability.

This book is exceedingly well written. Based on several types or areas of mythol
Feb 01, 2014 David rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, audiobook
This novel is a fantasy that blends Western religion with Norse mythology. An elf kidnaps the young baby Scafloc, and in his place substitutes a changeling named Valgard. Because of his inhumanity, Valgard becomes evil, and does some really bad things. He takes refuge among the trolls, where he becomes a feared warrior, bent on revenge on the elves.

The story is dark, with not a trace of light-heartedness. It is common practice for "good" Vikings to go off and pillage, as do most of the other rac
Aug 23, 2011 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2fiction, fantasy, 1paper
I re-read this due to my friend Stephen's glowing review. I'm glad I did. The mythology was excellent. It's been a lot of years since I've read anything by Anderson, although I liked his books quite a bit when I was younger. I think I bought this in the late 70's, have had it around ever since & am glad I hung on to it. It was a fabulous read, a type of fantasy I rarely see any more. Very reminiscent of Beowulf - I know of no higher praise. I think one reason I didn't rate it higher before w ...more
Sep 13, 2016 Joseph rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A classic of the first water, full of magic and revenge and inappropriate relations, told in masterfully-crafted prose. When AElfrida, wife of Orm the Strong gives birth to a son, a witch rushes off to tell Imric the Elf-King who, that being his nature, immediately goes off to father a son on a captive Troll princess, which son he can then leave as a changeling when he takes Orm's true-born son.

The boys, Valgard (the changeling left in human lands) and Scafloc (the true-born son, fostered by the
Feb 27, 2011 Nikki rated it really liked it
I was really excited about reading The Broken Sword, because when I first toyed with the idea of buying a book by Poul Anderson -- this was actually the first I bought, it's just took me longer to read -- I realised how closely it was based on the style of the Norse sagas I've studied. It draws on the mythology, of course, and the path of curses and thwarted love and raiding echoes that of the sagas, but it also echoes their form: the narration, especially to begin with, is very much like a saga ...more
Jun 08, 2011 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First I want to note this most recent Fantasy Masterworks edition has a wonderful introduction by mastercritic, geek, and fellow bookworm Michael Dirda. (Love that guy!) Dirda notes in his intro that there are two versions of THE BROKEN SWORD in existence, as Anderson made revisions to the text in the early 70's. (I assume that would have been for the Ballantine Adult Fantasy line of books, but Dirda didn't mention that.) The text Gollancz has reprinted here is the more savage and brutal origina ...more
Dec 01, 2015 Alina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Much harder and slower reading than I first thought, many words being in Middle and Old English, which nonetheless were perfect for the related times.

The story is interesting, drawn from Scandinavian, Irish and English myths, with conflicts between Christianity and Pagan Gods. Most probably the dark and grim creatures and happenings are closer to the original folklore than in other works, Anderson not being afraid to include bloody murders, rapes, cruel gods. Battles are masterfully told, b
Oct 01, 2011 Contrarius rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
This is quite a striking book. Epic Fantasy, with a capitol Ep. And this isn't your standard rainbows and happy endings Epic, either -- this is old-time-religion, blood-and-guts, Ring-of-the-Niebelung, Bad Sh*t Happens Epic. The Broken Sword was written with an Epically old-fashioned, Epically dramatic, Epically romantic prose style, and intentionally stole ideas from many other epics that preceded it (as, of course, did many of those earlier epics themselves). And it's got everything a good Epi ...more
Ben Loory
Feb 23, 2015 Ben Loory rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The evil done in the world was never all troll work," said Illrede quietly. "It seems to me that you have done a deed more wicked than any of mine in bringing that blade to earth again. Whatever his nature, which the Norns and not himself gave, no troll would do such a thing."
"No troll would dare!" sneered Skafloc, and rode in upon him.
Ahmed Mahdi
May 17, 2015 Ahmed Mahdi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dark-fantasy, fantasy
هذا الكتاب هو أحد الملاحم الفانتازية المغمورة، فقد صدر هذا الكتاب في نفس سنة صدور صحبة الخاتم الجزء الأول من سيد الخواتم، فاختفى تحت ظلال شهرة تولكين، ولكنه على عكس الكثير من الملاحم الفانتازيا الحديثة التي تستقي كل شيء من تولكين؛ فإن باول أندرسن -بحكم أصوله الدينماركية- يستقي عناصر ملحمته من الأساطير الشمالية التي استقي منها تولكين؛ بالرغم من العديد من التشابهات بين الملحمتين مثل وجود الايلف طوال القامة و الدوارف الذين يعيشون بالأعماق وحتي التشابه بين بعض الاسماء مثل الدوارف ديرين الذي يشبه في ...more
Apr 08, 2009 Alex rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
The Broken Sword is a book I'd recommend with absolutely no hesitation if you like Michael Moorcock or fantasy with a rawer, more down to earth classic edge. The story is simple, a straightforward and unpretentious and the book is short ad to the point, a human child is stolen and sent to live with the elves and replaced by a changeling who becomes bitter when he learns of what has happened. The two brothers end up on a railroad to a showdown; throw a cursed sword, an incestuous relationship and ...more
Jun 08, 2011 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Note: this is the Revised Edition 1971.

In which the author according to Michael Dirda "...smoothed out its sentences and slightly altered one important section." And goes on to state, "most readers prefer the brutal, lyrical excess of the 1954 text..."

Which can be found in the most recent printing of the Gollancz Fantasy Masterworks series [9781473205444]

Cover art by Boris Vallejo.

I've been reading back and forth between the two editions a bit just by chance not knowing about the version chang
Nov 23, 2014 Jennifer rated it really liked it
I found out that this book was published at the same time as J.R.R. Tolkien'n books. It took about 10 pages for me to become thoroughly enthralled. Notice I said enthralled and not enchanted. A curious word "enthralled". There were "thralls" in the book. Its funny how words change over time and if you don't catch yourself you may not fully understand what the meaning was at the time. But I digress. In this time of Marvel comics its nice to get a proper refresher on the whole Norse God tradition ...more
Oct 06, 2016 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
From Frederick Pohl, a well-known S-F writer, “The Broken Sword” is a tale of fantasy, which has been touted as a worthy equal to “The Lord of the Rings.” And indeed it has everything LOTR has: Gods (mostly from Norse and British mythology, but with the “White Christ,” symbolic of the encroaching Christianity which threatens the pagan religions – See “the Mists of Avalon” for a similar issue)! Elves! Trolls! Faeries! And, yeah, Humans and Changelings! The mellifluous names of characters and loca ...more

3 stars

Imric the elf-earl takes a chance to leave a changeling in place of a human child. The action plays into the complex calculations of the Aesir, but with tragic consequences for others.

I've read a fair number of books by Poul Anderson, but somehow never really warmed to his somewhat clinical style. Still, I recalled this being considered a classic, so I thought I'd give it a try. Unfortunately, my opinion held true of this book as well. It has the scholarly, techni
Mar 07, 2016 Brittany rated it liked it
The book is born in rich, poetic language and a style that very closely approximates that of an Old Norse epic -- alliterative, full of kennings and vivid imagery, like skaldic verse -- but it flops down dead in a rushed and unbelievable ending. Even in a world imbued with magic and populated by nearly every mythical creature imaginable, even in language and style meant to reflect the conventions of Norse storytelling (which can sometimes be sparse and straightforward), Valgard's fate was disapp ...more
Mar 12, 2009 Willie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: heroic-fantasy
I forgot I had this until I found it tucked away in a box. I picked it up and devoured it in one sitting.

It's a dark fantasy, set in Viking England, and is one of the best fantasy novels of all time. It has dark elves, evil changelings, cursed swords, vikings, bloody battles, and enough doom for the gloomiest goth.

It;s all done with verve and panache by a neglected writer who knows all the right moves in the genre, is rollicking good fun, and will stay with you for a long time afterwards.

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Pseudonym A. A. Craig, Michael Karageorge, Winston P. Sanders, P. A. Kingsley.

Poul William Anderson was an American science fiction author who began his career during one of the Golden Ages of the genre and continued to write and remain popular into the 21st century. Anderson also authored several works of fantasy, historical novels, and a prodigious number of short stories. He received numerous a
More about Poul Anderson...

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“Happier are all men than the dwellers in Faerie – or the gods, for that matter…Better a life like a falling star, bright across the dark, than a deathlessness that can see naught above or beyond itself…the day draws nigh when Faerie shall fade, the Erlking himself shrink to a woodland sprite and then to nothing, and the gods go under. And the worst of it is, I cannot believe it wrong that the immortals will not live forever.” 3 likes
“-Il mondo è solo carne che si va putrefacendo su un teschio- mormorò la troll” 0 likes
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