The Broken Sword
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The Broken Sword

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  2,140 ratings  ·  143 reviews
'The first great modern American fantasy' Baird Searles
Paperback, 274 pages
Published September 2002 by Gollancz / Orion (first published 1954)
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The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienThe Name of the Wind by Patrick RothfussThe Hobbit by J.R.R. TolkienMagician by Raymond E. FeistLegend by David Gemmell
Best Heroic Fantasy
47th out of 421 books — 601 voters
The Prose Edda by Snorri SturlusonRunemarks by Joanne HarrisEaters of the Dead by Michael CrichtonThe Poetic Edda by AnonymousThe Norse Myths by Kevin Crossley-Holland
Norse Mythology
10th out of 123 books — 244 voters

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Community Reviews

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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...more
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...more
Michael Fierce
Sep 21, 2013 Michael Fierce rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
Dan Schwent
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...more
Mike (the Paladin)
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...more
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...more
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...more
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
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
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.

I believe the Broken Sword is one of only two fantasy novels that...more
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
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
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...more
Having read Three Hearts and Three Lions many years ago, I knew that Poul Anderson was a good writer, a great writer in fact; but I wasn't yet aware that he was an utterly brilliant writer. Now I am.

The Broken Sword is essentially the archetypal fantasy novel. It has Nordic roots and a Viking spirit. It has elves, trolls, dragons; it has feasts, battles, duels; it has passion, love, witchery, betrayal, stratagems, heroism, recklessness, madness, fate... It even has leprechauns.

By themselves, suc...more
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This book was a gift from my favourite ladies, who sadly are not on this website, but the idea came especially from one of them, because I told her that I love mythology, and then she told me that she had loved this book and she wanted me to love it too, so on my bithday this was the surprise!

Elves, trolls, vikings, magical lands... I have to admit that at first I was more than lost, because although I love mythology (in this case is the nordic one!) I never found the occasion to read about it...more
The Broken Sword is one of Poul Anderson's earlier works and in the introduction to the edition published some twenty years after the first publication he apologizes for the book's roughness. But it's this very raw, violent roughness that makes the book so great.

Mr. Anderson's later fantasy works are great for their high romance and their conscientious self-distance. They're well crafted high-adventure tales that wink at the reader occasionally and to great effect. They're wonderful, but they la...more
Don't you just love tales about evil swords? I know I do, oh, yes, I do!

There are your Stormbringers of classic fantasy and the Frostmournes of contemporary pop-culture, and I love them all. There is something so wonderfully tragic about the hero's last desperate means of defense eventually turning on them. Anderson's The Broken Sword is probably the book that popularised this trope in modern fantasy. The book's influences on Moorcock's Elric at least are hard to deny.

But this is only one reas...more
Michael Thorn
I loved this book. The mythology was amazing. It did a great job of incorporating the old myths into a fantasy story. It does have a fairy tale aspect to it, and I would have liked more detailed action, but it's still pretty good. Also, my major gripe with the book is about 3/4 of the way through they tease you with this list of awesome adventures that the hero goes on, and it's like, "but, we don't have time to talk about any of those." Like fuck you, do not tease me with this awesomeness. Also...more
Mar 21, 2010 Raj rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: fantasy
Although not a big fantasy fan, I very much enjoyed this tale of swords and sorcery with its nordic gods steeped in England. It's the contemporary of The Lord of the Rings, published in the same year as Fellowship and it has a similar feel to it, down to the use of verse, although this feels 'harder' than LOTR, with more of an edge to it. Anderson is certainly a versatile writer, spanning the spectrum from heroic fantasy (this book) to hard science fiction (Tau Zero, which I read a couple of mon...more
If Poul Anderson had written only 'The Broken Sword', he would be remembered now as one of the greatest masters of dark fantasy. The book was published at the same time as 'Lord of the Rings', but really there's no comparison: 'The Broken Sword' stands alone for the single-minded bleakness of its fantastic vision - for its exhilarating beauty and unlikeability (in the best sense of the word). Now wonder it was a failure.

Anderson learned his lesson. He went on to forge a moderately successful car...more
Jason M Waltz
very strong and entertaining book, but only read the original, not the weaker (by the author's own admission!) updated version. great use of original myths with authentic elves and vikings.
I've not read much fantasy - Tolkien mostly - unless you count Terry Pratchett's Discworld series or the Laxdæla saga, so I can't critique this book amongst its peers as a work of fantasy.

I hadn't been too impressed with Tolkien and had read somewhere that The Broken Sword apparently exhibited strength in all the places I felt were weakest (for me at least) in The Lord of the Rings.

To be fair, after reading both, you can't really compare them. They're apples and oranges.

I loved The Broken Swor...more
Aug 29, 2013 Lexxie marked it as might-read-1-day  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lexxie by: Michael Fierce
Shelves: mythology, fantasy
I love norse mythology, elves and Beowulf, so when I read Michael's review I just couldn't help but add The Broken Sword to my massive list of books I'd like to read.
Dec 14, 2007 James rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Adolescents and adults
Shelves: fantasy, mythology
A dark, stark representation of some classic Northern European mythology; like a bleaker Tolkien making a Norse edda more accessible to a modern audience.
Charles Lupo
This story itself was just an average fantasy story, with a ho hum ending. It had Norse mythology, which I didn't realize when I bought it, and was a pleasant surprise. The writing style was very poetic and descriptive, reminiscent of Beowulf and Oedipus.

I likely would have stopped listening if it weren't for Bronson Pinchot. He was simply amazing. He added a great deal of depth to the narrative with his emotional and enthusiastic performance. He is quickly becoming one of my favorite narrators....more
My favorite Poul Anderson book. A wonderful, wonderful fantasy read.
In The Broken Sword, Poul Anderson mines the same Nordic/British myths and folklore that Tolkien did, and tells a rousing, tragic adventure. An infant is born to a Viking warrior and his Christianized family, but a proud and haughty elf lord takes the child and leaves a changeling in his place. Thus, Skafloc grows up among the elves and learns their ways, while the half-troll-half-elf Valgard is raised as human, but becomes a savage, unruly warrior.

The plot isn’t too complex: the two warriors, w...more
I first heard of Poul Anderson when James Cameron's AVATAR was released. Some people said that AVATAR was very similar to a short story that Anderson wrote called CALL ME JOE and I read it. They really are kind of similar. They both have a paraplegic who controls the body of an alien with his mind through some advanced remote control thing. Still I can see how James Cameron might have thought of the idea for AVATAR without having heard of CALL ME JOE.

Anyway, I was reading THE LORD OF THE RINGS a...more
An Odd1
X-rated casual pagan violence and lust fulfilled.
"Here ends the saga of Skafloc Elf-Foster" p274, a lilting Greek-style tragedy, rhymes within a tale of death, deceit, betrayal, vengeance, regret, sorrow, and doom, hard to "Like". Early Christians still worship Norse pantheon, so before a baby baptism, elf lord Imric steals new son of Viking Orm. Imric "did what was needful", lay with a troll princess gone mad after 900 years imprisonment, "walked nine times widdershins" p12, and Gora bore fier...more
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Sci-fi and Heroic...: The Broken Sword Discussion 34 37 Jul 27, 2012 11:13AM  
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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
More about Poul Anderson...
Tau Zero The Boat of a Million Years Three Hearts and Three Lions The High Crusade Trader to the Stars

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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.” 1 likes
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