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Swords of Good Men

(The Valhalla Saga #1)

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  701 ratings  ·  112 reviews
To Ulfar Thormodsson, the Viking town of Stenvik is the penultimate stop on a long journey in this riveting adventure of clashing Viking powers. Tasked with looking after his cousin after disgracing his father, he has traveled the world and now only wants to go home.

Stenvik is different: it contains the beautiful and tragic Lilja, who immediately captures Ulfar’s heart-–bu
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published August 1st 2013 by Jo Fletcher Books
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Mark Lawrence
This is an unusual book - not because of the subject, though I can't remember reading any Viking fantasy of late (apart from the one I'm writing) or indeed ever. Sure fantasy abounds with 'Northman warriors', beards a-bristling, who crop up with sometimes annoying regularity in everything from George Martin's A Game of Thrones (& subsequent books) to the recent Grim Company by Luke Scull. But actually honest-to-Odin Vikings with names like Audun Arinbjarnarson and Ulfar Thormodsson ... that's un ...more
Feb 13, 2014 rated it it was ok
"Swords of good men who are rather, dull!"

About a decade ago, there was a film released called The 13th Warrior which also, like this book, had a Viking/Fantasy theme. Based upon the writings of a real Caliph of Baghdad, Ahmad ib Fadlan - it was rather enjoyable. The tales of Beowulf weaved in, with the bowels of Hel being unleashed upon a small village in a relocation. Besieged on all sides to a unrelenting foe, it takes one man (a foreigner) to stem the tide. If you've read Eaters of the Dead
Daniel Ionson
Dec 11, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I enjoyed and found the writing style of this book to be novel (pun intended), but I do sense that many readers would be turned off by it.

Kristjansson adopts a blistering pace with his style. He jumps between settings and scenes more quickly-- FAR more quickly -- than any other writer I have read, often spending only 4-8 paragraphs on one scene before jumping to another. He also has a plethora of characters, so many that my attachment to the [intended?] protagonist is pretty thin.

But I can se
Beatriz Cunha Tavares ☾

Very conflicted about the rating I should give to this book. Until somewhere around the middle of it I was thinking of giving it 3 stars - I was having a bit of a hard time in understanding the story and connecting all of the characters. Also, the fantasy elements were almost absent from the story until this point. But the writing was pretty good and I still had interest in continuing reading the story.

I'm glad I did, because the book turned out to be really good - I was finally able to put al
Jul 28, 2013 rated it really liked it

“Swords of Good Men” is Snorri Kristjansson’s debut and in my opinion a great start to the Valhalla Saga series. It sets a scorching pace, is packed with breathtaking action scenes, throws some unexpected twists in there and ends with a spectacular battle and an ending I didn’t see coming. In other words: this book hits the mark just right. It’s everything I expected it to be and more.

“Swords of Good Men” is the first Scandinavian/Viking themed book I’ve e
Wow, wow. Bloody. Vikings fighting vikings. Vikings everywhere. Once the action starts, it doesn't relent until the last page. Great characterization. I'll offer more thorough comments when my review for the Historical Novel Review goes live. Until then, I recommend this to all Viking fiction fans, if you don't mind fantasy being thrown in. But I found the fantasy added to the authenticity, made it more true to the Viking mindset. I'll definitely be watching for book two.

Jo Fletcher is a fairly new imprint for Quercus specializing in most of the speculative fiction genre. They started with a bang, and their list of authors includes some who’ve proven their mettle like Sarah Pinborough and Ian McDonald. They also have a slew of authors who have debuted within the last few years with success, like Aidan Harte, Mazarkis Williams, Tom Pollock, and David Hair. This year includes promising debut Snorri Kristjansson with Swords o
Aug 30, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: hard-copy
This is a really hard book to review - not because it wasn't a good book, but it was a bit schizophrenic as far as tone and consistency went. I'll start by saying that I've spoken with Snorri on reddit and other formats, and he's a super cool fellow, very smart, very personable. I liked my dealings with him a lot, and marked this book as a "to buy" from the start, and have no problem with my purchase.

Swords follows a number of Norse viking folks, all on the cusp of a large oncoming battle. The m
Mostly it’s a historical fiction tale of Norse vs Norse Vikings, one side for the Old gods & t’other backed by the White Christ & in between is the heavily fortified town of Stenvik & its collection of characters. However there is some witchcraft involved too via a Skuld & the tale does overlap into fantasy throughout but not too any great discourse..... well until the end scenarios & we have full on fantasy abound.

The story is fast paced as it jumps around a lot between the three factions & wit
Blodeuedd Finland
At first I will admit it's not the historical for everyone. This is about war, fighting, a siege, death. You get the idea.

Ulfar comes with his cousin to Stenvik. And he is not the only one. King Olav is coming there too, and others to plunder and kill. But before that Ulfar falls for a mystery woman (yes those things can never end well). And we gets to see the tension in the city. It was a brutal time after all.

The raiders and King do not come at once. We get to see city life, the raiders planni
Greg (adds 2 TBR list daily) Hersom
Swords of Good Men is a solid historical fantasy. Up until the last quarter of the books I was figuring on giving it 3 stars but the ending ramped things up. I plan to read the next book soon.
Jul 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
There is a 2009 film called Vahalla Rising by Nicholas Winding Refn that stars the uber-talented Mads Mikkelsen. It follows the journeys of a Viking and explores the stark, often brutal, time which he lived. Swords of Good Men, the latest publication from Jo Fletcher Books, covers similar thematic territory but goes that little bit further. Imagine a novel that offers insight into the nature of a proud warrior culture and how tribes managed on a day-to-day basis.

The remote settlement of Stenvik
Aug 17, 2013 rated it liked it
King Olav to his general, Finn: "Conviction, Finn, is worth a thousand swords of good men."

I enjoyed this novel well enough, though I thought it nothing extraordinary. It's basically three plots which eventually merge into one: one involving a small trading village, Stenvik, on the southern coast of Scandinavia; another, a band of outlaws that have come by sea and are led by a woman exhibiting strange powers, calling herself Skuld, after the Norn of the future; and the third, involving King Ol
Martin Owton
Aug 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
'Swords of Good Men' straddles that line between historical fiction and fantasy, there's a bit of magic in the tale so I'm going to go with calling it fantasy. I assume the rest of the stuff is historically accurate; and I'm certainly not going to argue authenticity with an Icelander whose veins flow with the blood of the Vikings. Set in the ~10th century when Christianity is striving with the followers of the old religion for the minds of the people this is the tale of a siege of a trading town ...more
This is basically the Viking version of 300, full of epic acts of manly cunning and violence and manliness. It's full of richly drawn characters set in opposition to each other, and nicely written (though I found the cinematic-style intercutting of sometimes very short scenes to be rather disruptive to a smooth reading experience). In that regard, it's probably a four-star book.

However, there are only three female characters in the entire book: a woman in a man's job who's out-manning the men at
Mark Halse
Oct 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
I read a lot of Viking books. A lot. Some are amazing adventures and still others are strange disappointments.
This one started out a little strange. It was unconventionally written and wasn't your average Viking adventure. Once I got used to the rapid POV changes it proved to get stranger by the minute. But in a good way.
Overall, it is a book about the old faith making one last stand against the white Christ's conquest of western society. King Olav and a strange fairy bitch are converging on a
Mar 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Slow paced and detailed in world building actions and thoughts of the characters getting much faster as the story progresses. A good reminder that not all gods were benign and merciful.
Jul 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013
Swords of Good Men is written by the Icelandic, living in London author Snorri Kirstjansson. It’s the first in the Valhalla Saga and also features as Snorri Kristjansson’s debut. When I encountered the blurb of this book on the website of Jo Fletcher it was immediately a book that I wanted to read. I haven’t had the chance to read more into the Scandinavian inspired types of stories after I finished Runemarks and Runelight so I was really looking forward to emerge once again in this part Norse h ...more
Mar 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I haven’t dished out a 5 star review in what feels like a while. And longer still for a debut. In my earlier days I was a little too eager to dole a 5 out to any book I enjoyed, but one rainy British day I decided that 3 stars was a good book, 4 stars was a really good book, and 5 stars blew me away in one manner or another. Swords of Good Men earned the 5 because it essentially ticked all my ‘Awesome’ buttons. I will now elaborate on a few of those buttons:

Pace: The book isn’t a long distance r
Feb 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: vikings
I live in Denmark, I have done the last ten years. I have learned Danish and I speak and understand it all day every day. I've read books in Danish. English-written translated into Danish and books written by Danish authors. And there's a difference. You can see, read and tell there's a difference. There's a different way of thinking and formulating a sentence or a paragraph. A different way of putting an idea over. I'm not going to say their world view is different from ours, but having been he ...more
Sachin Dev
Dec 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015-great-reads
Originally reviewed here on my blog:

Swords of Good Men is Snorri Kristjansson's debut and an accomplished piece of writing that firmly catapults him to the A-list of Fantasy writers. Set in the land of the fierce Vikings - Scandinava is brought to life adeptly by Snorri in the Valhalla Saga # 1 - featuring one too many bloodthirsty warriors caught in the middle of a huge melee. Huge burly bearded fellows swinging a mean double bladed axe, longships plowing through crashing
Aug 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I love a good Viking tale, though I've read far fewer than I would like, so when I saw the announcement of Jo Fletcher's signing of Snorri Kristjansson for a Viking novel, the first in a trilogy, called Swords of Good Men, I was immediately on board. And the book had everything you might expect from a Viking novel. Vikings! Battle! Blood! Berserkers! But it had more, it also had political machinations, a love story, and the struggle of a world torn between the old gods and the new.    

Settling i
Jun 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1-owned
The things I know about Viking can be summed by Marvel comics and the two Thor movies. Basically, nothing.

Swords of Good Men caught my eye because, at the time, I hadn't heard of any other honest-to-goodness Viking-esque books around. It's a brilliant, fast-paced début that I can see a lot of readers liking, and although there is definite room for improvement, I think Snorri Kristjansson brings something amazing to the tapestry of modern fantasy fiction.

Ulfar Thormodsson has been in exile for tw
Oct 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book has the cover and the blurb that would lead anyone to think it's a piece of gorgeous looking viking age historical fiction. I'm going to spoil it all for you now by saying it is not - but then again, parts of it are.
It deals with one definite true viking historical figure, that of Olav Tryggvason, King of Norwary and a fierce converter of his people to the Christian faith. Once you start reading you will learn how the word 'fierce' is perhaps an understatement. But he's one third of th
Oct 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely brilliant; the book started off slow in a strange writing style which seemed to jump continuously between characters which at first was hard to follow but grew and grew into a fascinating tale. I ended up liking the style the author used which actually was easy to follow once you grasped the characters names.

Really recommend this one a very exciting book with surprises until the end.
Laura Hughes
I’ve had my eye on this book for a while, and finally decided to buy it whilst I was in York (or ‘Jorvik’!) for the weekend. After visiting the castles and dungeons and museums (and, of course, the Viking Centre) I was very much in the mood for reading something along these lines.

Swords of Good Men, book one of Snorri Kristjansson’s Valhalla saga, is a fairly fun bit of reading, once you become accustomed to the unusual format. The plot is quite nicely self-contained and focused: it takes place
Jul 17, 2014 rated it liked it
Most of my favorite books have a clear main (or at least central) character. Whether they be historical figures like Genghis Khan or Attila the Hun, legendary names like Robin Hood or King Arthur, fictional character types like Uhtred or Tancred, or purely fantastic like Bilbo Baggins; at least I knew about whom the book was written.

This book was written much differently. Centering more around the town of Stenvik than anything else, the author introduced us to many, many characters. I found it d
Aug 16, 2016 rated it did not like it
Writing: 2
Story: 2
Satisfaction: 1

I was committed to finishing this book for bookclub and was sorry that I did so.

There has been enough scathing word play on the title so I'll skip that bit as tempting as it may be. Overall, this book falls flat in all ways. The prose is not engaging, the characters lack dimension, and the plotlines are both underdeveloped and unsatisfying.

To start with, it was difficult to keep all the characters straight since it seemed like every single character got both a
Craig Slater
Apr 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Another new Author and series that I clicked with and loved instantly. I was watching the Viking TV show while reading it (the one made by the History Channel) so it worked in very well as this book (series) is rich in historical feel. Real and gritty. Dirty and bloody.

It is at its simplest level a story of Christianity (The White Christ) attempting to smother on more traditional Pagan beliefs. An army of previously pagan warriors, that have converted, is marching and across the land, fighting
Gina Galinis
Oct 16, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
For some reason I couldn't get into this book. I'm not sure why, I wanted to like this book, and it seemed right up my alley. I could never get into the characters, I had a hard time remembering who was who and from where as it would quickly change settings and characters. I read half the book and decided I really didn't care to know how it ended and I stopped reading it. I don't think I've ever stopped halfway through a book before, I sure did try to like it, but it just never did anything for ...more
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