All Magni wants is peace and quiet, but when your father is the God of thunder, you don’t get to live the life you want. When Thor destroys all his son knows and loves, Magni vows to bring prosperity and end the violence… forever. But can you escape cruelty in a universe built on it, or the shadow of your father when everyone calls you by his name?
Maya, her rage more powerful than she knows, wants freedom to pursue her own destiny. Neither torture nor blackmail can make her obedient or pretty enough for Freya, her foster-mother and Goddess of love. Fighting for independence and revenge, can a mere human win a game where Gods dictate the rules?
Bjørn Larssen is a Norse heathen made in Poland, but mostly located in a Dutch suburb, except for his heart which he lost in Iceland. Born in 1977, he self-published his first graphic novel at the age of seven in a limited edition of one, following this achievement several decades later with his first book containing multiple sentences and winning awards he didn’t design himself. His writing is described as ‘dark’ and ‘literary’, but he remains incapable of taking anything seriously for more than 60 seconds.
Bjørn has a degree in mathematics and has worked as a graphic designer, a model, a bartender, and a blacksmith (not all at the same time). His hobbies include sitting by open fires, dressing like an extra from Vikings, installing operating systems, and dreaming about living in a log cabin in the north of Iceland. He owns one (1) husband and is owned by one (1) neighbourhood cat.
The first thing that you notice about Bjorn Larssen's CHILDREN is the stunningly gorgeous cover. I mean, this is some dazzling work and it draws you in immediately to want to find out more about it. Then as you begin reading the book you realize that as gorgeous as the cover is, the prose is just as gorgeous, if not more so. I was immediately struck by both the depth of the characters and the flawless dialogue that made me laugh most of the time, and yes I admit, shed a tear on a few occasions as well. It's really difficult to get me to buy in that much to make me emotional while reading a story, since I'm a bit of a cynic by nature. But damn if Bjorn Larssen didn't make me care about every single character in this book, even the ones that only make a passing appearance.
But let's get to the heart of this book, which is the incredibly well-told story that makes you want to keep turning the pages, and turning, and turning. If you love Norse mythology and also historical fantasy, then you will love CHILDREN as this is one of the very best books I've ever read that deals with the Norse gods and legends. What makes this book a cut above the others is that it also turns the conventional wisdom of how we view these gods on its head quite a bit. Truly the best retellings do this in my opinion, take a well known tale but twist it in such a way that you could almost say they reinvent the same tired old story.
By relaying the story of CHILDREN through the eyes of two very different descendants Magni and Maya, Larssen has gifted the reader with a fresh take on the Norse mythology that we have come to know up to this point. Both living in the shadows of their legendary predecessors, and both extremely worse for the wear, we get to see through alternating chapter POVs how each deals with their own personal abuses and neglect. Be warned that none of it is sugarcoated in the least, and in a way this is another thing that makes this book great, its willingness to lay bare both the good and the bad and have us experience every thought and action right along with the characters on a personal level.
This book is about as raw and brutal a read as you can come by but it is also incredibly moving and never makes you feel like there's not something worth salvaging in the end. I was really blown away by CHILDREN and am here to say that if you don't read this book, you are seriously missing out on a rare talent right now by the name of Bjorn Larssen. He will not hold your hand and tell you everything that you need to know explicitly, but he will ask you to work a little for what is a phenomenal payoff if you just invest a little time and attention. The true testament to how this book moved me is that I couldn't get it out of my head for the entire day after finishing it. In fact I even went back and read the final chapter again because I wanted to experience it fully just one more time. I don't have much more to say other than get this book and read it if you appreciate a story that is told in such a way that you feel like you live it with every word, sentence, and page.
The fantasy book “Children (The Ten Worlds, # 1)” by Bjørn Larssen is a very good book related to Nordic mythology. The writer takes us to the worlds of the Nordic gods where we follow their children and their stories. The world of the ten worlds is very well elaborated and the plot takes us through some of these areas, and the writer did a very good job of describing every detail and area through the story. In some places in the story, I had a good laugh because some of the characters are just so silly, and sometimes naively uncorrupted. As for the love scenes in the book among the Nordic gods, there is a very great variety of choices, so all the choices will be found in the book in terms of love. The main and supporting characters are well worked out and every action they make has its consequences. All in all, this is a very good book for fans of the fantasy genre.
Now a little about the story: The main story follows Maya, the daughter of the goddess Freya and Magni, the unrecognized son of Thor. Their lives are intertwined because of the behind-the-scenes games of the Nordic gods who have no smarter job than to constantly create tensions among the ten worlds. Unfortunately, neither Maya nor Magni knows what they got involved in, not by their own choice, because the Nordic gods are behind all the events. Maya gets Thor's stolen thief from the hooded sorcerer and gives it to the king who wants to marry her mother Freya at all costs. Normally this action provokes the wrath of the god's Tor who is the protector of Asgard. Maya runs away from the king who tries to rape her and meets Magni. Simultaneously fickle and deceitful, Loki comes with Frey to the king's court. The very appearance of Loki can only mean one thing, something bad will happen. Maya and Magni will find themselves at the center of all these happenings as innocent bystanders and their life paths will find themselves on the chessboard of God’s players. In all this commotion the two of them will have to find their way and it is only a question of what price they will pay at the end of that journey.
I would recommend the book to fantasy lovers associated with Nordic mythology.
Well, I finally get to write a review of one of the most highly touted fantasy books of 2020, “Children”, Book One of “The Ten Worlds” by the marvelous Bjorn Larssen.
I must admit, I had so much anticipation building to read this book, and it was so hyped to me by friends, I did have some mild concern of a potential letdown. But no!!! The book was even more spectacular than advertised.
You know a book is going to be great when, not ten pages from the front cover, you are laughing hysterically at the index! This index contains a ribald, hilarious character list that includes all the places in Larssen’s (Nine out of Ten) Worlds and denotes the various Gods with a brief description of their powers, roles, and lineage. Larssen’s droll wit is on full display here, and it was certainly a precursor of things to come.
That said, “Children” is by no means a comedic look at Norse mythology. While there is both light and grim humour aplenty in the book, it is overall a poignant and violently compelling read that is destined to haunt you, especially with some of the themes and concepts explored. “Children” is a book, for me, first and foremost about trauma, callousness, abandonment, and loss. It is those parts of the book that will cause the reader to grimace, weep, but ultimately be entirely satisfied with the read.
Reader beware: heed the author’s warning at the start of the book that “Children” may potentially induce some triggers, due to the representations of violence of a sexual, physical, and emotional nature displayed in the novel. Additionally, even the consensual sex is graphic, but not gratuitous in any way, and there are many very tender moments interspersed with the more explicit love scenes.
Yet, the book is by no means bereft of love, courage, and thankfully, hope for the future. Larssen is a master of initially punching the reader in the gut with sadness and futility in one scene then leaving us with the expectation of something much more positive and optimistic to come in the next.
The narrative of the book centres around the eponymous “Children”, of which there are two. One is the foster child Maya, who is a sorceress, born of mortal parents. Yet Maya is an orphan, and raised by the duo of the ravishing, calculating, and shallow Goddess Freya – Goddess of Love - and her lover-brother Freyr, God of sex and fertility. The second is the god-man-child Magni, who is the son of the legendary Thor, champion of Asgard and essentially chief general / battle-commander of the Gods.
Maya and Magni are very different characters, yet their commonality is plain. Both are compassionate, courageous, and determined to forge their own way in the world, and not be anything like their divine parents. Their story will touch the reader, and you cheer for them at every turn, even in the face of seemingly inescapable doom, wrought by the capricious gods, especially their own parents. They are amazing, memorable characters, extremely well fleshed out by Larssen, and the best part of the book for me, but there was so much more to absolutely adore about “Children”.
Fans of Norse / Slavic legend will love this book! All the familiar deities and heroes that will excite and mystify, populate the universe of “Children”. Loki, Odin, Frigg, Heimdall, Tyr, and more loom larger than life on the novel’s pages – they are gods, after all. Yet Larssen’s uncanny ability to depict the horrible foibles and sins of the gods, and their cruel disregard for humankind - even their own children, save when those children suit their objectives - really makes the story incredible. The gods as depicted by Larssen are just fallible super-beings who are often far less morally superior to their human offspring and subjects.
In the opening scenes, the famous magical war-hammer of Thor, called Mjolnir, is stolen. Maya is involved, and eventually she encounters Magni. Without spoiling things: trickery, chaos, and catastrophe ensues. Larssen’s beautifully emotive prose, perfect pacing, and jarring scenes make the book impossible to put down, and for days, when life forced interruptions on my reading time, all I could think of was getting back to “Children”.
In this case, words have failed me, and less is more when it comes to praising the masterpiece that is "Children." I cannot say enough positive about this book. It is truly one of the best books I have read all year, amongst a lot of fantastic books. “Children” is sublime, and Larssen is an astounding author, one to watch as he ascends to glory in the ranks of those who pen fantasy fiction. Highly, highly recommended! Bjorn, please bring on "Land", the next installment in the series, as fast as you can!!!
What an incredible book. Lovingly crafted, raw, brutal, funny, and beautiful. Children takes a deep dive into Norse mythology for a darkly entertaining and sometimes shocking grimdark retelling. The characters are wonderfully realised, and I the writing feels bold, confident, clever, and inspired. I usually struggle with long chapters, but the powerful storytelling made putting this book down incredibly hard even when horrible things were happening. Truly a fascinating and memorable read, and definite must for fans of mythological fantasy.
CONTENT WARNING: The author of this book includes a content warning for sexual, physical, and emotional violence which may not be suitable for all readers. They provide a full list with further information on their website if required.
We all discover books and authors we love along the way, but rarely do we stumble upon a writer who makes us think we are in the presence of greatness.
Bjorn Larssen's debut novel Storytellers was a tour de force, earning awards and 5-star ratings (myself included). If he'd never written another novel but that one, it would have been enough to cement him as a great author.
But this year he gifts us with Children (which I insist on calling Children of the Gods), the first in a series bringing Norse mythology to life.
If your idea of these legends are culled from Marvel movies, then you're in for both a shock and a treat (mostly a shock). Odin is a megalomaniacal ass. Thor is fairly stupid. Loki is an absolute psychopath. These aren't your grandma's myths.
The story is split into 2 narratives: That of Maya, servant of Freya (ice-cold egomaniacal Goddess of Love, whose main purpose in life is to have sex with her twin brother- off-page, mercifully) and Magni, neglected, forgotten son of Thor.
Maya is human, but possesses some low key magical abilities, such as shifting and crystal magic. She doesn't know what she's supposed to be doing with her life, she just knows she doesn't like Freya and would prefer her own company. The last thing she wants is to be sucked up into the various games and intrigues of the Gods.
Magni is a huge, sweet, simple man-child who just wants to take care of his mother and be left alone by those who insist he's their God Thor (he unfortunately takes after his dad in looks). People either want to use or abuse Magni and the constant push and pull wreaks havoc on his psyche.
He and Maya meet and part and meet again throughout the years. Both cling to their friendship, even as they are torn away from each other and forced into violent, impossible situations.
The rise and fall and growth of these two is phenomenal. You will laugh and cry and scream and rail and you will wish nothing more than to put a warm blanket around them both and offer them a cookie while you rub their backs. You love these 2, even as they are forced to do terrible things to survive.
This is not an easy book to read. You would not drag this to the beach. You aren't going to whittle away a few hours on a lazy Sunday dipping into this tale. It demands all of your attention, sleep and well-being be damned.
I can honestly say that when I read Storytellers last year, it was unlike any other book I'd ever read. Now I say the same thing for this book. Children is simply amazing.
Larssen will be remembered, long after you and I are celebrating in Valhalla or suffering in Hel. Reading his works is to read a master. He will be up there with Hemmingway, Faulkner, Orwell, etc.
In writing “Children,” Bjørn Larssen has succeeded in capturing the tone of the Norse myths. It’s a story that is dark, dangerous, cruel, yet with glimmers of fun and humor and adventure. I actually felt like I was thrust into the world of Odin, Freya, and Thor with this reimagining and exploration of the children of the gods. (An excellent and thoroughly intriguing concept, by the way)
I found Magni and Maya strong and real and believable. Everything you want from characters that lead such a powerful punch of a story. Their growth through the book was incredibly moving, as was the love and friendship they shared.
This is a truly beautiful, intense, and touching story about overcoming odds and yourself. As someone who reads heavily in this genre, I found it extremely original and fresh. Bjørn Larssen is an excellent writer and storyteller, and you can sense his love and passion for the gods and Norse myth.
10-09: 'Children (The Ten Worlds Book 1)' by Bjørn Larssen is a retelling of the Norse myths, centered around Magni and Maya.
Magni is the son of the God of Thunder himself.. Thor.. but it's his mother he grew up close to. Thor represents everything the young god despises.. murderous and alcoholic. A being who was never really part of his life.. and whose name only brings up feelings of resentment and memories of a cold, distant man.
When Thor destroys everything Magni holds dear, he becomes determined to put a stop to his distant father's violence. His dream is peace and prosperity for the Nine Worlds and a quiet life with the man he loves, but escaping the shadow of his father is difficult because they look so similar that he's frequently mistaken for Thor.
Maya is a sorceress who was spirited away from her human family by Freya and Freyr.. the God of Sex and Goddess of Love.. but she has no interest in the greatest of pleasures.
Having been sent back amongst humans to serve a thick-skulled brute of a King with no promise of when or if she'll ever return home, Maya's yearning for freedom has only grown. A skilled magic wielder, her rage at the games they've played is more powerful than even she realizes, but escape seems to elude her as well.
Though this book wasn't what I was expecting.. which is to say something bold and a bit lyrical.. it was well written. It's far more than bold.. and too raw to be lyrical.. but that isn't a bd thing.
The prose actually takes on more of the brutish traits of the world the reader is thrust into.. the language often simplistic. I found the dialogue to be on the weak side, but in truth.. that's the most difficult thing for most writers to get right, in my opinion.
While the journey is certainly a struggle and natural story investment builds within the telling, I wasn't particularly attached to any of the characters.. which surprised me. I just didn't find them all that likeable.. but that's a very personal thing and has no reflection on the author.
What's really cool about the story, is the unorthodox approach Larssen took to the retellings. His perspectives feel unique while still containing enough core mythos to keep the reader's path forward clear.
Told through a shifting narrative between Magni and Maya, each voice is distinctive.. which is really important to me with multiple-pov perspectives. I like that I know who I'm reading by their tone and even their language.. that I don't have to check and see whose name is present in the chapter.
As for trigger warnings.. if you're uncomfortable with depictions of sexual, physical, and emotional violence.. you may want to skip this one. However, if those don't bother you and you're looking for a story told in interesting and unfamiliar ways.. this might be it.
Children by Bjørn Larssen is one of those truly once in a lifetime reads. Whilst reading it felt like all the stars had aligned, every wish I ever had come true, it was the jackpot lottery win. It has everything. The striking colour and magic that it promises within, decadent characterisation and prose that is as majestic as a sunset. This was a blog tour that I couldn’t pass up on matter how snowed under I was writing reviews (you’d think I’d learn). This is what Norse fiction should be all about and Bjørn Larssen is a master craftsman in it’s art.
The word Children instantly brings images into the mind. Carefree, giggling and a version of their parents. The word carries significant weight and every parent around the world recognises just what that means. They come into our lives and change it. This beautiful novel gives the reader a snapshot of just how they affect relationships and lives.
Bjørn Larssen has the insurmountable task of making his readers care. He stripped back the layers of skin and I was dazzled by the brutality and raw power that his story held. Norse Mythology isn’t a sweet fairy-tale that we tell our children to aid sleep, it is a murderous, brutal world that will gut you open if you aren’t paying attention.
Children is told through two vastly different pairs of eyes, Magni and Maya. Forget everything you thought you may have known about Norse Mythology and its powerful gods at the door because you literally know nothing. Bjørn Larssen has taken the bones of the well-known tales and turned them on it’s fucking head. It is the best retelling that I have had the pleasure of reading. I’m not ashamed to admit that Larssen managed to strip me open emotionally and a tear or two did escape. Forget Thor and Odin, Bjørn Larssen is the real god here!
Anyway, back to the story. Both Magni and Maya are living in the shadows of their respective parents. How can you live up to the figure of Thor? This is no happy tale – both the protagonists are extremely worse for wear having been abused and being exposed to horrific instances of neglect, it’s enough to bring a tear to a glass eye. The author really doesn’t sugar-coat the extremes of good and bad. The characterisation and development are second to none.
The author tackled hard hitting themes in Children and the result is a painfully raw but a testament to the will of the human condition. This is a book that you won’t stop turning the pages to. At it’s core it’s a story about the brutality of love, abuse, and survival. If you read one book this year it must be Children, this is most definitely in my top five favourite books read this year. This is one book that is most definitely worth the cerebral investment.
Massive thanks to Storytellers on tour for my spot on the blog tour and a copy of this amazing book to review. It’s a pleasure as always.
Until I read Children, I admit to having little knowledge of Norse mythology. Aside from the gods Odin and Thor and the name Valhalla, I had no idea of the various realms involved or the many gods and mythical creatures who inhabited them. And they are numerous! So much so, that the opening pages contain a summary of each, which is just as well because I had to continually refer back to this until the names and places became more familiar. It was quite an effort, but well worth it. This book is a tour de force, Larsen’s retelling of the myths a stark, uncompromising study that highlights important issues of neglect and abuse and the impact this has on the victims. We see human nature at its worst, in this instance being played out through the gods. It makes for some uncomfortable reading and is not the kind of material to curl up with last thing at night if you’re looking forward to some sweet dreams. The imagery is graphic, the scenes often confusing, but the storytelling is absolutely compelling and gave me no choice other than to read on. To write a novel of such epic proportions is a great accomplishment that calls for a vivid imagination, not to mention the clever infusion of humour that helps to balance the brutality. Bjorn Larsen’s sharp, intelligent prose and unique stories mark him out as a highly talented writer and, regardless of the genre (his books being hard to define), his storytelling powers hold me in thrall. I applaud him for producing yet another fascinating book. Thanks to his enlightenment, I now know a great deal more about the riveting tales of Norse mythology!
Disclaimer: I read this book as a judge for the Indie Ink Awards 2022 and this is my personal rating. It does not reflect the scoring for the contest.
To say that I was looking forward to read this book would be the understatement of the year. Alongside the fact that the cover is stunning, it has been regarded by many reviewers as downright spectacular. So yes. I was gleefully anticipating the deep dive into its pages.
Unfortunately however, it didn't quite work for me.
Children is the first in a series focusing on Norse mythology. But one with an unexpected and rather fascinating twist. Thor is a bit of a moron, and Loki a nut-job, while Odin's, simply put, an ass. And don't even get me started on Freya. I'm zipping it when it comes to her.
The tale is narrated from two perspectives: one of Magni, Thor's scorned son, living among humans, and the other of Maya, a human woman with some magical abilities, who had been raised by Freya. And I just have to say, these two are wonderfully written. Especially Magni, who is downright phenomenal. A big made, simple man-child who is as sweet as it gets. His innocence and simplicity reflected in every single thought and action were an absolute delight. Just as Magni himself. He is a fabulous character with a just as fabulous development. Unforgettable and masterfully written.
The premise is great, as are the themes represented. This is a brutal and raw story of abuse and survival, of hope and love in it's harshest forms. And the author doesn't shy away from clearly picturing the extremes in an unflinching go bold or go home manner. Something that I always appreciate in a good tale.
And yet, despite all the above, this book didn't quite work for me. Because of the execution.
While the pace was great at times, it dragged at others, to the point of having me check the page count to see how much is left. And the long chapters didn't help. The same stands also true for the narrative - smooth at times but jarring at others. And the dialogue could have been better.
But what really put me off was the lack of balance. On the one side we have a serious dark tale of brutal abuse and heavy themes, as gritty and raw as it goes, and on the other crass humour that would be just perfect for a first class parody. Apart, each of them would be a winner for me. Together though, not so much.
Now don't get me wrong. I love the laugh out loud kind of humour in a solid grimdark of the darkest kind. Hell, I laughed like crazy while reading Abercrombie. But there is a certain line up to which the fun can be taken in this kind of book, for it to actually work for me. And this one crossed it by a mile. Because it delivered dark gritty raw scenes, like an almost rape for example, making you hate the villain and both root and feel for the victim due to the vivid description and the unfairness of it all, then followed said scene up with another that had said villain look like the stupidest buffoon who would put even the idiots from 'Dumb and Dumber' to shame.
Not only did that seem absolutely eyerolling, but it also thoroughly diminished the value of the previous dark scene. For me personally, crass humour with no finesse is not something that really works in a dark tale like this. The two extremes the author makes use of didn't blend at all well as far as this reader here is concerned. But then again, this is a personal opinion and the mix might be just perfect for other readers out there.
Well, what a way to kick off #Norsevember. Children is a stunning book inside and out – I mean just look at that cover! I had seen this one mentioned here and there, and it was the cover that immediately caught my attention because it is beautiful, and as it turns out a perfect cover for this book. As beautiful as the cover is though, the writing is even more so, across all aspects – setting, characterisation and especially dialogue, and can and will wring every emotion of you at one point or another. A masterclass in writing, with a narrative to match, and I was pulled in from the start and so immersed in the world and the characters, that it felt like waking from a vivid dream whenever I was able to put the book down which was always a fight. This isn’t a book where you are given everything about the world and characters from the beginning, but the more you delve into Children, the more you discover, and the payoff is a narrative that refuses to be forgotten. It must be mentioned that in keeping with the Norse Mythology that inspires it, Children is a brutal book, and it doesn’t shy away from the darker elements, but that element is never overwhelming, and you feel the good just as vividly as the back, and it makes for a beautiful, emotionally powerful narrative that hits home on all levels. Children were presented primarily through the POV of two descendants Maya and Magni who are living in the shadow of their legendary predecessors, and this was such a fascinating approach to Norse Mythology that immediately set this book apart. I was loosely familiar with the mythology behind this retelling, and Children took that and made it into something new and different in all the best ways. I love retellings, but it’s retellings like this, which takes what we think we know and strips that away, breathing fresh life into an old story. Magni and Maya were both beautifully written, and we got to experience so much of their world and personal stories, and it was written in such a way that everything was laid bare – good and bad – and you can’t help but be utterly riveted by their experiences and development, and it has been a while since I felt so invested in characters. And that extended to the secondary characters, even those that only had a brief, passing appearance, because they were all an essential part of the book. I was blown away by Children, and it was one of those books that lingers in your mind and calls you back to it because of the sheer impact it has. I can’t recommend this book highly enough, especially for anyone with an interest in Norse Mythology, and who want to lose themselves into a book that will grab hold of you and refuse to let go even after you’ve read that last page. Now, I am off to grab a copy of Storytellers – Larssen’s previous standalone book, and I will be keeping my eye out for future books both in this series and in general because Children has elevated Bjorn Larssen to an auto-read for me.
I'm not the ideal reader for this book, as all I know about Norse mythology is (very) basic information about Odin, Thor, Freya and Loki, what Valhalla and Ragnarok are, and that's about it. Also, I am not a fan of fantasy, on the whole; magic and hallucinatory goings on - nah, you can keep it. However, I was hugely impressed by Storytellers and had read some excerpts of this before it was published, which I liked a lot, so wanted to take a look at this.
The main characters, their stories told alternately and in the first person, are Magni, son of Thor, and sorceress Maya, who has had a somewhat difficult upbringing, not least of all under the watchful eye of the goddess Freya, one heck of a piece of work, to say the least. I liked Maya; she was amusing and spunky. I loved Magni; yes, even when he was taking part in raids on farms, and killing people.
Children is atmospheric, clever, brutal, emotional, extremely well-written, intelligent, imaginative, and funny—and the dialogue is spectacularly good, some of the best I've read. Now and again, the dialogue and Magni's inner thoughts made me laugh out loud, which rarely happens when I read. The sexual activity in the book does not hold back, but get this: it didn't make me cringe. And that comes from someone who almost always cringes at sex scenes. Magni's feelings for Herjólf were so real, so well-portrayed; anyone who has ever been in love (or infatuated with) someone who remains elusive will feel Magni's pain throughout.
My favourite part was when Magni was first involved with the outlaws (I loved Ludo, too!), and I also liked Maya's encounter with Harbard, the idea of Idunn's fruit, Magni's conversations with his father, and the information about what each of the 'worlds' is all about, which interested me enough to look up more about Norse mythology.
Subject-wise, it wasn't absolutely my cup of tea, and I did get a bit confused with all the Norse names sometimes ('hang on, was that a person or a place?'), but it's definitely a novel of which Bjørn Larssen should be very proud indeed, and if the magical and mythological floats your boat, I would recommend that you buy it without delay.
This book is entertaining, beautifully written, and gory in a way that matches the tone/events of certain Norse sagas. “Children” starts from Maya’s point of view. She’s in Jotunheim and awaiting Mjolnir, which someone has stolen from Thor. This is a great hook for a story. The reader immediately wonders who the Hel managed to steal Thor’s hammer and why Maya is awaiting it. Insert a creepy king a few pages later, and there’s plenty of conflict. I’m not one for extensive plot summaries, but I will say that I soon saw Thor, disguised as Freya, making an appearance with Loki (also disguised) by his side. Those who have read the Þrymskviða will recognize some of these events. Thor is pretending to be Freya because the creepy king wants to marry Freya. Mjolnir will be given back to Thor when Freya marries the king, but Freya isn’t having it, which is how Thor ends up in a dress.
Children is not an exact retelling of Norse mythology, though. Instead, this book fleshes out the characters in an interesting way. More specifically, readers see the characters’ thoughts through the narration and varying points of view. The sagas tend to be action-driven, and Children updates Norse mythology with modern trends in narrative construction. Fans of Norse mythology and historical fiction/historical fantasy will love this book. I do suggest looking over the author's content warnings, though.
Children is a fearsome kaleidoscope of genres, it has shades of fantasy, historical fiction; it feels in parts profoundly personal and perhaps even to a degree biographical. Being primarily an SFF blogger, it would be remiss of me not to say that it is also a re-telling of Norse myths.
No disrespect to authors such as Neil Gaiman or Joanne Harris, but for me, the bulk of re-tellings are more paraphrasing, in that the myths are for the most part unchanged. Mild creative liberties are taken, and there is perhaps a slight warp to the grain, but they are at heart the same stories.
With Children, you get a re-telling.
Bjørn Larssen retells the shit out of it.
Children focuses primarily on ‘The Lay of Thrym’ and ‘The Fortification of Ásgard’ though there are nods to other myths, and likely some references, which I missed entirely. As this is only book one of the series I’m so looking forward to seeing more of the myths being unpicked and re-woven by Bjørn.
But here Thor, Loki, and indeed most of the gods aren’t the heroes, they are villains.
In the myths the Gods are above all, the other races are lesser, ultimately playthings. Thor’s frequent forays into Jötunheim and his war against the ice-giants surely is a noble thing he is, after all, protecting Ásgard, isn’t he?
But what if Jötunheim is your home? What if ice-giant is a pejorative and you are a proud jötnar who just wants to live in peace? Well, that’s starting to taste a lot like genocide.
And that’s the twist here, the myths are being re-told by the scorned, the oppressed, and the abused.
Children is told through two perspectives firstly Maya ward of Freya and secondly Magni, son of Thor.
Maya has been raised by Freya, and her brother-lover Freyr, since she was a child. She has been abused both mentally and physically for her entire life, by the most narcissistic of ‘mothers’. Through the book, she struggles to both find and be herself, but through a desire for vengeance, she starts to exert control and begins to manifest her pre-destined destiny.
Allow me a brief interlude for a personal ramble. As someone who also was raised by a narcissistic mother, I know all too well the insecurities and scars you’re left with as an adult. There were a handful of scenes between Maya and Freya where in the face of that simmering rage Freya was almost remorseful, and it hit me, I bawled. It was my pain on the page though I’m unlikely to get even a half-measure of their tenuous reconciliation.
Then there is Magni who is the sweetest and purest person in all of the realms; my heart is just full for Magni. The abandoned son of Thor, raised by his mother and despite being only fourteen, stands taller than any man and is the image of his father.
Magni’s chapters were intense, to say the least. Dropped into Midgard and forced to survive under the most harrowing of circumstances all the while being used and abused by almost everyone he meets, it’s tragic.
His chapters are vistas of tense, frantic energy that just do not relent. The writing style used for Magni is perfect; it’s a like a fever dream, like you’re inside a room built of shattered glass. So many thoughts and images are thrown at you, but they’re disjointed, and you don’t know, or indeed care, what is real. You get a very real feeling that Magni is almost drowning under the horror and the madness. But it gets better, and his final chapter was glorious, and I’m hoping that it is love.
It’s certainly not light reading with themes of social inequality, addiction, abuse and toxic-relationships to name but a few. That being said, there are moments of such happiness; the developing relationship between Maya and Magni, rich veins of humour, and moments of absolute joy.
Children is written with such power it is brutal yet afforded such tender care by its author. The language is a delight swinging from the visceral to the florid and is laden with imagery.
Bjørn Larssen really has crafted a masterpiece here. The level of creativity and intelligence on display is peerless, to have created something so unique yet so believable and seamless is a monumental achievement.
I’ll be re-reading Children until Ragnarok, and I don’t think I’ll have unlocked all of its treasures by then.
This is an exceptionally good book. I always loved reading about the different Gods of Mythology in my teens. I felt like decades had dropped away while reading this. The storytelling, the wit, the parts that had me laugh. It was all supurb. Each chapter was like inhaling a different type of parfum. Perfect ending. I can't wait to see what's next out of Bjorn Larssen. If you haven't read his first book, do so. It was my book of the year in 2019.
When I picked up Children, I did so knowing the book might be too dark (grimdark) for me, but willing to take the chance since my taste is interesting and I sometimes enjoy books that are quite ‘grimdark’, even though I tend to avoid anything I find depressing, and since I’d been reading the author’s blog and interviews and I was entranced by his approach to story-telling and to writing characters (and not just writing characters, though I can’t see how writing characters can be fully separate from this, but to approaching some of the elements that can go into making a story grim-dark).
I can say it was grimdark. I found it depressing and dark, and while I don’t read horror, there were scenes that I think had a horror feel. On the character side of things, it absolutely did not disappoint. Bjørn did a spectacular job bringing the reader into the point of view of the characters, so much so that I shared in Magni’s emotions and responses, in his confusion and overload, to a very high degree. I think that might be uncomfortable for some readers, but I liked it. The story is written in first person, and whereas with many books written in first person I don’t really notice that it’s any different from one written in third person, in this case I absolutely did, and it was all good.
I have read few books that perform immersion to the same degree that this one did. When Thor caused havoc in the palace-halls of Jotunheim, it was as if I saw through Magni’s eyes and through Magni’s mind. I wondered Magni’s thoughts, was certain of what Magni was certain of, was as confused as Magni. That was the scene where I found this experience most notable and obvious, but it was present throughout the book, and in both characters. The characters themselves are genuine and feeling – they have to be to allow for this much immersion, in my opinion. Magni’s thoughts and world-view is that of a good child. There’s a quality of innocence – I don’t mean sexually, though he does strike one as very much unready for anything of that nature; that aside, I’ve never understood what innocence/purity has to do with sexuality or lack thereof – to Magni’s thoughts and intentions, even when he’s been forced to acknowledge and experience far too much horror. But even at the beginning of the book, Magni is quite aware of evil and disaster, of people being hurt and killed, of people abandoning others and not caring or attacking people they shouldn’t. There’s not much more relateable than his thoughts about how humans don’t say what they mean, and what do they mean, and how does one understand these people.
Magni just wants to do good, and help people, and be nice. He knows there’s evil and cruelty, but he never understands why. Or even really what. I truly liked this. I like seeing characters who are simple; honest and true at least to themselves and at least more or less (though Magni isn’t much of a deceiver at all). It’s not necessary for characters to have “subtext,” mixed or hidden motivations, to be real and compelling, and I really enjoyed Magni. But, perhaps precisely because Magni is so lovable and loving, the book is so dark and depressing. The sweet man-child who would never hurt anything ends up killing and hurting and stealing from other people as desperate – or nearly as desperate – as himself; and at least they will be after he hurts or kills or steals from them (I think this isn’t a spoiler, since the book is, admittedly, Grimdark, and if anyone wants to read a review at all, I think this isn’t too much; if I’m wrong, you can know that Raina-who-reads-books-backwards tries, but has no actual intuition for what is or isn’t a spoiler). That was more hurtful in this book than it could have been in almost any other. More hurtful to happen to this character than it could have to almost any other. Yet Magni doesn’t become someone completely evil or callous. In the last acts of the book one sees it as strongly as ever: Magni’s great, controlling desire is protect his people, the jötunn (also called ice giants) of Jotunheim, forever, at whatever personal cost to himself. And he can’t hate anybody, even people who are utter assholes and how can one possibly be as callous an asshole as that? I haven’t read a lot of Grimdark, so I can’t say for sure, but I think Children differs from a lot of that genre in the character of Magni.
Don’t take my lack of much to say about Maya as indicative that she is at all bland or boring. She’s not. However, she stood out to me less than Magni did, and I found Magni’s story to arouse a lot more in the way of emotions and thoughts than Maya’s. There’s actually a lot to say about her, and I really enjoyed her friendship with Magni. There are sometimes that she second-guesses it (later in the book, and you’ll find out why), but I get the feeling that Magni has made a very big impact on her, and they’re very much friend-friends. Her loyalty to him goes deep, and she helps him out in some very big ways, even when she doesn’t know what he’s planning. I’d say their relationship is fairly wholesome. Maya is an awesome character, and I would have enjoyed the character side of the book if it was just her (well, perhaps not really, since how would the book even exist without Magni?), but what I’m saying is that Maya isn’t a deficient character in any way. I’m just not in a mood to speak to her after Magni, who speaks to me a lot more.
I’d say what makes the book most depressing is nearly stated in the blurb: a universe built on cruelty. This is the world of Children. Not a world where there is a lot of cruelty, but a world fundamentally built on it. A world where cruelty seems ultimate. What’s beautiful is Magni’s determination to make a better world that rises like a pheonix from the ashes. His kind, caring heart that never completely dies for good. But the book is really sad and depressing, and Magni’s beauty only makes it more depressing – in what happens to him, in the ways he is broken, in what he does.
This review appeared first on Enthralled By Love (Paths of Fantasy).
I think a thousand authors could try writing this book and it wouldn't work. Massive credit to Bjørn for pulling it off.
I heard this described as a dark retelling/twisting of Norse mythology, but I actually think 'exploring' is a more honest word. The tag line is 'Gods make terrible parents' and that's the sentiment we're working with here. Most Gods in these myths act like dicks. Being raised by them and living with them would surely be a nightmare, so I actually think this story is more about uncovering dark little truths around the existing tales.
That said, the story is still very unique and it's own thing. I enjoyed recognising bits of existing myths that I knew about and seeing how they'd play out from a darker and more realistic angle, but nothing was ever predictable.
Fair warning; this book is pretty grim. But despite there being (offscreen) rape and other grim events, I feel it's more about the psychology of abuse and how people cope, rather than parading out their troubles for shock value. It was well written and rings true.
What I Liked:
- Realistic handling of addiction/abuse: If you've had first or second-hand experience of some of the things these characters go through, I think you'd notice there's plenty of honesty here. It's an accurate and meaningful recounting.
- Gas-lighting: There might be something wrong with me but I was starting to enjoy the tone way too much. Everyone was relentlessly shit to each other, and never in a direct manner. It was like a competition and I loved it.
- Grins: There's humour here, between the bleaker moments. It's that tone again. Everyone is so inventive about how they're being a dick to our protagonists this fine morning, it often ends up darkly amusing. By making the gods more human, they've become both more terrifying and also more ridiculous. It's very smart. People are often at their most ridiculous when being cruel.
- Narrative Style: There's a few moments where I wanted to applaud for inventiveness. You need to relax into the flow of the free indirect speech, because there's a few moments where it's possible to get lost for a few paragraphs. But that makes it work better. It's very natural and raw.
What I Wanted More Of:
- More Norse Myths: And by more, I mean MORE. Because there's already loads. What I mean by this is that the book starts to mesh into our real world by the end and I selfishly wanted it to stay separate. This is a personal taste thing. I love fantasy worlds that are separate from our day to day lives. Perhaps bringing it in this late in the book was the surprise for me, as I'd enjoyed the book so much I felt like I'd lost something precious. Not that big a critique, really. Plenty of readers would love this expanding of scope, and there's a clear direction for the sequel.
- Narrative Variety in the Climax: As mentioned, I like the stream of consciousness narration in this book. But it started to bog down for me a bit towards the end. I was heavily invested in the story and wanted to see it unfurl rather than being stuck in poor Magni's head for so long. As a reading experience it's very fair and accurate - you do really feel the pain Magni is going through. As a reading preference, I felt like I'd had that experience, applauded it, then wanted something else to happen.
Very glad I picked this book up. It's certainly one of the more interesting reads I've had. It's also interesting revisiting these myths as an adult and with a very different lens to the endless tomes of mythology I devoured as a younger reader.
I'm one of those readers who, the moment a book's cover catches her eye, and the content is vaguely aligned with her interests, she'll snap the book up. And I really, really wanted to like Children by Bjørn Larssen. His writing style is strong and unrestrained, and perhaps it's the latter part of this description where things fell a little flat for me. I can liken this novel best to a vine that's been allowed to grow beyond the trellis, so that the structure of the book felt somewhat all over the place.
The story is told from the alternating points of view of the human magic-wielder Maya, exiled from the home of her foster-mother Freya (yes, THE Freya), she's left serving a king whom she doesn't like one bit. For Reasons that are many and varied. Enter Magni, the natural son of the god Thor, who has, ahem, an axe to grind with his father. Because, Reasons. I'm not going to go into the depth and breadth of this sprawling story, but as the Norns will have it, the tricksy, shapeshifting Maya's and soft-hearted Magni's paths do cross, and their individual tales weave fluidly with a retelling of some of the classic Norse myths.
Children is an ambitious read, and for the most Larrsen executes things well. Maya is desperate for freedom, but her desire for this comes at a great cost – one that she's perhaps not quite prepared to pay. Magni's life is anything but easy, and in his naïveté, he jumps from one cringe-worthy situation to another. And perhaps that was one of my main reasons why I wasn't as enamoured with this story as many other readers were – I felt that at times Magni's lack of guile made him fall almost squarely into the TSTL* category. Neither character, in my not-so-humble opinion, did much growing so much suffering one terrible denouement after the other.
The pacing for the novel also felt uneven, to me, at least, and at times confusing. There were moments when the writing became too fast, too unstructured, but then again, YMMV – this is most certainly an ambitious telling, but I'm pretty certain it's also not going to be everyone's cup of tea, as there are scenes of emotional, physical, and substance abuse, in addition to manipulation and oodles of violence. Then again, I wouldn't expect anything less from the Norse pantheon. They can be a tricksy lot who don't particularly care for those they see as being less than them. My thoughts are that this novel could have used a more rigorous structural edit right at the get-go, but on the whole this is still a worthy read. If you're looking for a 'lower-deck' type story featuring minor personages from the old sagas, then this might well be right for you. In this case, I suspect, that the fault for not liking this book as much as others did falls squarely with the reader.
This well-written and ambitious novel was an intense read to say the least. Following two of the children of the gods, the story casts a damning light on the more well-known Norse deities from Thor to Odin to Freya and of course, the ever villainous Loki, through the eyes of those that have suffered at their cruel or simply thoughtless whims. Maya is a sorceress with seemingly minor powers who has been manipulated and lied to throughout her life by her foster mother, Freya. Magni is the son of Thor but desires nothing more than the simple life of a blacksmith, an ambition constantly thwarted in the cruelest of ways by his resemblance to his father and his rather simple-minded approach to life that makes it too easy for people to take advantage of him. The narrative shifts back and forth between the point of view of these two lost children, each caught up in events so far outside of their control that they seem powerless victims for much of the story. Be warned there is emotional, physical, sexual and substance abuse threaded throughout their journeys but it is never gratuitous or for mere shock value. The world they live in is harsh and unforgiving and the real heart of this story is the ways in which our two protagonists try to cope with and make sense of their abuse. The chapters with Maya's thoughts are the easiest to follow as she has the better grasp not only of the larger picture of what is happening with the gods but has the intellectual bandwidth to process it, not that that necessarily makes it easier for her to accept. Magni's chapters are much more chaotic as we are given a window into a mind that is literally fracturing for want of being able to understand or endure the torture he experiences. The author does not pander to the reader. Not everything is spelled out explicitly. This is a book that requires some work to keep up with what is happening and all of the connections between characters and events, so not the kind of light beach read some readers may be looking for. For me, it was worth the effort and time because it was such a unique take on very familiar myths and an incredibly insightful look into the effect abuse of all kinds has on its victims. Recommend for fans of well-thought out fantasy world-building, myth and folklore, and brutally realistic storytelling. No sugar coating here but a very rewarding and surprisingly relatable tale.
I have to admit that I’m not overly familiar with Norse mythology. I know the “basics” about the gods but I don’t really know their stories. I’ve been meaning to read more about them though, so when this book came up I jumped at the chance to read it. Let me tell you right now: this ended up being much more outside of my comfort zone than I initially expected! I love fantasy but admittedly don’t read much on the darker side of the genre and I would say this falls solidly in that category. Larssen does not shy away from the raw brutality of the nine worlds and I can’t stress that enough.
Some CW/TW (all or most off-page; some mentioned in detail but most not): dubious consent (possibly from a minor although age not 100% clear to me), rape, sexual and mental abuse, incest, addiction, substance abuse, toxic relationships, blood and gore.
TL;DR:An intensely dark story about the Norse gods from the perspective of two “minor” but important characters that shed light on the raw brutality of the human world and the gods they worship. Larssen’s writing is infused with a relieving humour that balanced the story’s darker elements. The world-building and characterisation were exceptionally done and you will come to deeply care for both protagonists. This definitely won’t be for everyone but if you have a strong stomach for dark fantasy and you’re interested in Norse mythology and experiencing a different perspective of the gods, you should definitely give this a try!
Children is presented as a ‘grimdark’ retelling of the classic Norse myths. It’s an unflinching portrayal of how careless the Norse gods are with the lives of others, particularly their own children. The impact this has on them and those they meet is the core of the book. The narrative structure is divided equally between Magni, the son of Thor, and Maya, adoptive daughter of Freya and Freyr. Both viewpoints are told in the first person, creating an intimate reading experience.
I have to admit there were times when I found this book difficult. There are some uncompromising passages of cruelty, the most horrific of these being the ones inflicted by the central characters on other innocent people. Whilst Larssen makes this clear in the introduction and is at pains to establish the reasons for the behaviour of his characters, there are some dark passages in this novel. There were also times when I was as confused as Magni and Maya as to what was happening to them and why. The story is lightened with a sprinkling of humour (offering welcome respite at times) and the various characters of the gods and the mortal races we encounter are well-drawn and distinctive. Larssen ensures you care about the fate of these people, even if the gods are indifferent.
Ultimately, I had to admire the scale and ambition of Larssen’s work. This isn’t a light read and the author expects you to be paying attention throughout. Larssen has taken tales many of us are familiar with and turned them on their head, defying expectations whilst still retaining the essence of the source material. I don’t think this book is for everyone but if you enjoy Nordic mythology and prefer your fantasy on the grimdark side, Larssen’s distinctive voice is likely to appeal to you.
Children is a dark Norse inspired fantasy told from the points of view of two very different children of the Norse Gods, Maya, sharp-witted sorceress, shape-shifting daughter of the goddess Freya; and Magni, slower-witted son of Thor, who looks just like his father but wishes people would stop confusing him with his Dad. They may be different but their damaged personalities share much in terms of the torture and abuse they suffer at the hands of their family and friends and they are both emotionally and psychologically damaged as a result.
Their stories are not for the faint hearted and there are instances of difficult subject matter which could be triggering for certain readers. There is no gratuitous detail, however, which I appreciated, not being a fan of horror stories - which, if written by another author, these stories could easily have become. Larssen’s absorbing description of Magni’s fruit addiction reminded me of certain sequences in the movie Trainspotting and I kept hearing the soundtrack playing in my head as I read those parts. https://youtu.be/4MAzQcEdK2k
As with his previous book, ‘Storytellers’, in ‘Children’ this author tells a story in which the parts he doesn’t explicitly describe are equally as important as those he does. Time should therefore be taken to read his books carefully and concentrate on what is only being hinted at by the characters, as well as the things they do say, or you will definitely miss something. This is not a lightweight beach read by any means, but well worth the investment of time it takes to give it justice.
It can be difficult for authors to come across as believable when writing from another gender’s perspective and there are often some cringeworthy moments when female characters written by men come over too feminine or flowery and I am sure the equivalent is also true for men reading male characters written by women. This is not the case with Larssen, however. His characters are gritty and full of flaws and insecurities, yet with many positive attributes as well. Magni and Maya are completely different in personality and both totally believable. Larssen has managed to include humour in what could otherwise have been a very dark story. Sometimes this humour is at the expense of slow-witted Magni, for example his imaginative naming of the horse which Maya shifts into: “Horse...y,” I said, feeling a bit faint again. “That’s right. My horse, Horsey...”
I would recommend “Children” to anyone who enjoys in depth character development, without skating over psychological trauma and of course mythology and the familiar stories about the Norse Gods. I am looking forward to reading the next episodes in this series.
Children, the first book of The Ten Worlds series, weaves reimagined Norse myths and its world into a tale focused around two characters, Magni/Modi (son of Thor) and Maya (a sorceress). I’m not sure whether Maya is a newly created character or a part of the lore.
Initially, I was very much taken by the style of writing. There’s a bluntness that pulls the reader into the character’s emotional state, which was often unbalanced or distraught. I really enjoyed the first half of the novel, but the second half slowed down a bit too much for my liking.
I like Norse mythology quite a bit, which helped, as I think this novel would be quite confusing for someone who had no knowledge whatsoever about the various realms or gods. The story does feel like you’re reading a myth, which is both good and bad. Good, because it captures the Gods and mortals as characters quite nicely. Bad, because it sometimes seemed like the characters reacted or acted with very little common sense.
I did enjoy most of this read and was extremely impressed with the craftsmanship and skill of the author.
Review: I read Bjorn Larssen‘s novel, Storytellers, and absolutely loved it. So, when Children was presented in my email as a blog tour, I jumped at the opportunity. I am a big fan of this author and I couldn’t wait to read more from him. I was NOT disappointed! Norse mythology fills these pages. The research is there. This book covers this topic with such amazing detail. I was absolutely absorbed while reading this novel. Told in a split narrative between Magni and Maya. I loved these characters. Their stories are written so well. I went on an emotional Rollercoaster, and I didn’t want this story to end. This book will not let you stop reading once you start, so prepare for that. You’re going to need all your attention for this, because it is just so intriguing to read. Highly, highly recommended!!! Rating: 5/5☆ *I received a free copy of this book from Storytellers On Tour in exchange for an honest review on the blog tour. All opinions are my own and unbiased.*
A sentimental rediscovery of Norse myth told with unique artistry, this literary fantasy welds heartfelt characters, imaginative folklore that’s faithful to the source, and the ravaging authenticities of an unforgiving world, into a cutting blade.
Part dark fantasy, all literary fiction, it’s a story centered on the emotions and development of its characters, their relationships, and the desolation of trauma and abuse through the loss of security and certainty. Readers that require explicit directions when it comes to character movement and scene changes might be dissatisfied in certain moments. Nevertheless, they seemed to be a written translation of the characters’ deeply traumatized mind, a reflection of how trauma changes us.
If you’re a die hard Norse mythology fan looking for extraordinary characters, and you can stomach explicit exploration of the convoluted and very real consequences of trauma and abuse, this one’s for you.
This is my second book written by Bjorn and yet again, I was floored by his unique writing style and voice. I loved that the story is out of the ordinary, refreshingly new, and bursts the "conventions" of writing styles and genre. I binge-read this book as I could simply not put it down. Raw, witty, emotional, it will make you ride an emotional roller-coaster, the both thrilling and "wishing I hadn't got on this one" type, which will leave you with your adrenaline rushing, and wanting more. I can hardly wait for the sequel! If you are looking for a book that bursts stereotypes and will leave you breathless, this is a must-read.