Blood Will Follow
by Snorri Kristjansson
Reviewed by Adam Armstrong
Snorri Kristjansson came thundering onto the scene last year with Swords Of Good Men. Aside from having a name that is a mouthful, Kristjansson showed readers a world where Vikings were alive and well…until someone stuck a sword in them. The first book is a great read, if only for the city under siege parts. When a new author comes along and sets the bar high, sometimes even that same author can't reach the bar on the second go round.
Our heroes, Ulfar Thormodsson and Audun Arngrimsson, have survived the battle of Stenvik. But survived may not be the correct word. Skuld has cursed them to walk the world forever and their wounds seemed to be gone. The two friends walk away from all the bloodshed suffering from post-traumatic shock. Without much discussion, they head their separate ways to find answers. Kristjansson doesn't bother recapping the last novel; he picks up the action shortly after the last book ended. Swords Of Good Men had an abrupt change right at the end that rocked the reader, and Kristjansson doesn’t want them to get their balance just yet.
King Olav has achieved his goal of taking Stenvik. He can use the stronghold to spread the word of the White Christ, or to spread the blood of those who don't wish to listen. But King Olav is restless. There is so many that still stand in his way with their old gods. Treachery runs rampant in the men that are now under him, most against their will. The plotting healer, Valgard, convinces Olav to head north where he can easily gain footholds. But Valgard is looking for something from his gods, something that will make him more powerful than any other mortal. We get a closer look at Olav in this book and are robbed of some of the mystery, and therefore intrigue, of the character.
Ulfar attempts to drink away his brush with death while Audun tries to work it away by taking all jobs that come his way. Ulfar eventually finds his way back to his home, where he has to explain why his friend, Geiri, died in Stenvik. Treachery abounds and more plots are revealed against Ulfar. That will have to wait as Ulfar once again rides into battle against King Olav's army. But first he has to find a friend that can help him.
Audun meets a wise old man, Fjölnir, with one good eye. The old man allows Audun to work for him for a while before soldiers come looking for able-bodied men. The old man protects Audun from the soldiers but tells him he must leave. He gives Audun a belt that he can use to fight off the berserker in him. Audun leaves and once again finds work for a widow named Helga. He works for her for some time before the two fall in love. But she has a jealous neighbor that turns Audun over to the soldiers looking for all able bodies. Audun agrees to leave with the soldiers to prevent violence at Helga’s farm. Once Audun is gone, the men who were involved with informing the soldiers of Audun’s presence are killed by mysterious magic, and Helga vanishes.
The two friends have learned much about themselves, but now they have to find each other. King Olav's army is growing larger and stronger by the day. And Valgard may have found the secret to the old gods. Men and gods are rushing to battle one another.
The book was well written. There were plenty of minor battles, and other slices of life that weren't slices of men. Unfortunately I kept waiting for something to happen. This felt like a "bridge" novel. In that, I mean there were lots of important events in the first novel and this one just kind of strolls along building up for something to happen in the next. If you are a diehard fan or if the first book really pulled you in (as was the case when I read it) this isn't a terrible idea. But for the average reader looking for a good fantasy book to get lost in, Blood Will Follow may not win them over. As I stated above, this book starts with no recap, which may leave new readers scratching their heads.
Sneaking in the Teutonic gods was pretty interesting. Introducing the reader to characters that were heavily hinted at being gods of the Teutonic Pantheon really catches the attention. And the general conniving nature of the gods, pulling strings behind the scenes and setting things in motion, works with this novel's format of setting up ideas before the next installment.
In some ways Blood Will Follow is an improvement over Swords Of Good Men--we weren’t awash in bombastic speeches this time. But I felt there was no true climax, like the siege and eventual loss of Stenvik in the first. All in all, it is still a well-written book and will fall nicely in the memory once the trilogy is finished. Pick up a copy and read it…after you read the Swords Of Good Men.
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