Mark Lawrence's Reviews > Swords of Good Men

Swords of Good Men by Snorri Kristjansson
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Aug 20, 2013


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 unusual.

However, it's not the subject that makes the book most unusual - it's the writing style. The prose is fairly standard, good, solid, does the job. The point of view though - the set of eyes through which you see the story - changes rapidly from one character to another, continuously, through the whole book. You often get two or three paragraphs from one character here, a page from another on a boat miles away, then a page from a third, and half a page from a fourth. This could be disastrous but Snorri Kristjansson made it work for me. The effect is to give a different experience of what is, when boiled down, a week-long attack on a smallish town. The price paid is that it's hard to connect emotionally with any single character and hard to become too interested in their schemes, but on the other hand you get a much more sweeping view of a grand conflict and if you're not connected so strongly to the characters you certainly connect and understand the events. In a way it feels like a different 'cinematic' treatment where we flash about rapidly watching the battle unfold.

The battle is the thing here. A lot of axes divide a lot of flesh into smaller pieces than required for good health. Blood runs in the streets. Longships plow the waves. The old gods are invoked. The White Christ too.

The ending was a surprise. It certainly left me mulling it over, wondering if I liked it or not and whether me liking it was really the point.

[I should note that there are longer sections with single characters. I don't want to overstate the 'jumping', just acknowledge it.]

This is, in my opinion, a good book. I'm glad I read it. It's far from perfect. A number of plot lines confused me. Things happened that I can't really explain the reason for. The focus felt misplaced sometimes and some characters rang less true than others. However, it's something new both stylistically and subject-wise (fantasy-lite Vikings written by one of their descendants), and certainly if your fantasy reading is starting to feel a bit samey you should give this one a go.

And if none of that sways you, consider this: My mother liked it.

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Reading Progress

August 20, 2013 – Started Reading
August 20, 2013 – Shelved
August 20, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read
September 14, 2013 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-18 of 18) (18 new)

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message 1: by Kdawg91 (new)

Kdawg91 I love Viking tales, I have this on my kindle and haven't gotten around to it. Thanks for reminding me it's there


message 2: by Mark (new) - added it

Mark Lawrence Kdawg91 wrote: "I love Viking tales, I have this on my kindle and haven't gotten around to it. Thanks for reminding me it's there"

what did you think?


message 3: by Kdawg91 (new)

Kdawg91 still haven't read it. got on a netgalley kick and been trying to clear my queue there


message 4: by Kdawg91 (new)

Kdawg91 I put down what I was reading and picked this up, so far I dig it, why did I do it? Because MARK FRIGGIN LAWRENCE asked my opinion of it hehe. I totally should start a group on goodreads dedicated to manly books like viking tales and such.


message 5: by Kdawg91 (new)

Kdawg91 dude, that is a good book, but all men should read Viking tales. It should be a school requirement. I am about two thirds through


message 6: by Svetoslav (new)

Svetoslav In Lois McMaster Bujold's 'The Hallowed Hunt' there are a couple of very nicely put Viking characters (and a polar bear!). You can instantly recognize that they world is based on The Holy Roman Empire during the Ottonian Dynasty - the Vikings are traders/diplomatic envoy, their role just episodic, but still - I think you'll like them (and the whole book and trilogy)


message 7: by Nimrod (new) - added it

Nimrod Daniel Frequent changes of POVs the way you put it sounds like a recipe for a very annoying book, unless the guy is a master.....

I have the book on my TBR, but now I lowered my expectations from this book. A great review btw :)


message 8: by Katie (new) - added it

Katie The first two books in the McMaster Bujold's trilogy, of which The Hallowed Hunt is the third, are probably two of my favorite books. If anyone, ever, asks for a recommendation for something to read, I tell them "Curse of Chalion"


message 9: by Caleb (new) - added it

Caleb If you want to read another Viking fantasy with a really interesting take on the subject matter, and not to mention an absolutely brutal magic system, check out Wolfsangel by M.D. Lachlan


message 10: by David (new) - added it

David I ran across a viking series of books way back in 83-84. it was haakon and the golden axe, http://www.amazon.com/Haakon-Book-The...


message 11: by Kate (new) - added it

Kate Sherrod You've all read THE LONG SHIPS, right? Not fantasy, but historical fiction about Vikings. Orm the Red, bitches!


message 12: by Igor (new)

Igor Ljubuncic So many people reading this, seems intriguing.
Igor


message 13: by Redeagl (new)

Redeagl You are writing Viking fantasy??? Wow. That is not the Red Sister is it??


message 14: by Caleb (new) - added it

Caleb M. I have had this on my kindle forever now! Glad you read and reviewed it. Just might be what I needed to get started on it. The hopping around definitely sounds weird though.


message 15: by Roseanne (new) - added it

Roseanne I may be particularly partial to your reading interest and writing style (color me biased) but the "Mother approved" bit got me warm and fuzzy inside and chuckling on the outside. Nice review, Mark, as always.


message 16: by Sic (new) - added it

Sic Transit It sounds like you're describing a literary evolution of cinematic jump-cuts. As in, the incredibly annoying effect loved exclusively by Hollywood directors.
I have seen such a thing work, most recently in The Heroes (that whole passage was divine writing), but that was jumping between linked characters. Jumping at random? Unless the author is phenomenal - and you don't seem convinced - I think I'd find that far too annoying to be effective


message 17: by Mark (new) - added it

Mark Lawrence Kdawg91 wrote: "I put down what I was reading and picked this up, so far I dig it, why did I do it? Because MARK FRIGGIN LAWRENCE asked my opinion of it hehe. I totally should start a group on goodreads dedicated ..."

Did you finish it?


message 18: by Aaron (new) - added it

Aaron Advani have bought this based on your review :)


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