#SPFBO Review (4): Darkness Forged (Legends of the Ragnarok Era #1) by Matt Larkin

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300 books           10 Judges            1 winner

The 1st of June marked the start of the sixth Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (details here.)  My Introductory post is here.  Stage 1 is now complete and the finalists can be found here. My first, second and third finalist reviews can be found here, here and here.


The fourth book I read for Stage 2 of the SPFBO Competition was Darkness Forged by Matt Larkin.  This is an unrelentingly dark book that I actually enjoyed far more than I anticipated (given my current reading mindset).  The story here is a retelling of an old Norse myth about three brothers who each embark on a quest and we follow their exploits as they head off in different directions.  For the most part we focus on one brother in particular who struggles with his own inner demons and in fact the title of the book I think refers to this particular character and the torments he suffers along the way that eventually shape him into something dark and merciless.

As the story sets out we have an almost fairytale style – although, to be clear, this is definitely not a bedtime story (unless you like nightmares).  Three brothers returning from a hunt find their homestead abandoned, their wives missing and all that is left behind are their three wedding bands.  Each brother sets out to search for their wife swearing to return home in a year’s time.

So, the three brothers.

Slagfid is the eldest, married to Svanhit he is a master swordsman.  A slightly difficult character to like.  He definitely said some rather irritating things as the story began and of the three he was the one who came across as least concerned with the search for his wife.  Slagfid decides the best way to find his wife is through battles and heroic deeds.  All three wives are Valkyries, their backstory is provided and obviously they have returned to the duties to which they are bound.  Slagfid eventually becomes embroiled in a plot to help a princess vowing to kill her enemies after she saved him from drowning.  He believes that the fights he undertakes will undoubtedly warrant a visit from the Valkyries..

Agilaz is the middle brother. A serious young man and an adept woodsman, tracker and archer, married to Olrun.  Agilaz finds himself in service to a Jarl, accompanied by his young son Hermod.  Agilaz also finds himself losing sight a little of his original purpose until he hears the fate of his younger brother and sets out to help him.  His path also becomes fraught with danger once he is entangled with the fate of his brother.

Volund is the youngest brother with the darkest story.  Following an apprenticeship to the dark dwarves he is a master blacksmith and can create fantastic weapons and armour not to mention craft jewels and goblets.  Volund’s apprenticeship was harsh beyond measure and has filled him with darkness that is barely held at bay.  The love for his wife Altvir is the only shining light in his life and of the three brothers he remains constant throughout in his desire to find her.  Unfortunately, his path takes a very dim turn and he finds himself captive, injured and increasingly bitter at his circumstances and this leads him to commit atrocities that are unforgivable.

Considering the length of this book I think the author manages to really get across a good feel for the place and time.  Undoubtedly this was a harsh time in which to live.  The struggles to survive, the constant threat of attack from one source or another, the cold, the hunger, it all comes across well, and is, of necessity, bleak.  Mostly told in a linear fashion the story also includes flashbacks or interludes that paint a picture of Volund’s apprenticeship and help us to understand what he went through as a young boy.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, It is difficult to form a real attachment to any of the brothers.  The elder two don’t have as much page time and the youngest carries out some quite harsh deeds in his quest for revenge.  Plus, ultimately the ending is far from happy on most accounts.  This is also very dark and I would make mention of various triggers, rape, sexual slavery and torture, to name just a few that immediately spring to mind.  Mostly, such dark deeds do take place off page but I thought I should mention them nonetheless.  On top of this I found the dialogue a little annoying as the story set out, mainly because it all seemed to revolve around women and was rather disparaging, although this is something that became less noticeable as the story moved on (probably because the brothers went on their separate ways).

Overall, and in spite of the grimness, I did enjoy this tale. However, this isn’t a lighthearted or fun read and the tone is fairly relentingly harsh so be warned of that before picking it up.  I also found myself a little sad that Volund’s tale was so bittersweet (undoubtedly erring on the bitter side) but, given his actions it was kind of obvious that this was never going to have a ‘happily ever after’.  Also, to be fair to the author, having read up a little more about these brothers and their myth I think he does an excellent job of fleshing out their story and filling it with magic, sorcerers, shapeshifters and other fantasy elements.

I received a copy courtesy of the author, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 8 out of 10.

8 Responses to “#SPFBO Review (4): Darkness Forged (Legends of the Ragnarok Era #1) by Matt Larkin”

  1. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    There seems to be an increase in stories based on Norse lore and myths lately, so this books seems to be perfect for readers who are interested in them. Intriguing indeed, even taking the darkness into consideration…
    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yes, I’m enjoying the increase in norse myths in our books. Bring it on.
      Lynn 😀

  2. sjhigbee

    A superb review. Thank you for giving us a detailed insight in what seems to be a very challenging read. I would have badly struggled with this one, as I really prefer to bond with at least one protagonist…

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yes, it is difficult, I kind of had sympathy for the youngest brother but then some of his actions are just so terrible that you can’t overlook or forgive them.
      Lynn 😀

      • sjhigbee

        Hm… not my kind of story at all!

  3. waytoofantasy

    This one sounds intriguing but decidedly not for me LOL. I am very selective about the dark fantasy I read these days because of my mood. But glad you enjoyed this more than you thought you would!

  4. #SPFBO – Not a Review : Finalist Reading Schedule, Book #5 | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] During Stage 2 I will read, review and score the remaining 9 finalists as will the other judges until a winner is revealed.  As with previous years I have given each of the 9 books a number and randomly selected a reading order.  Today’s post is to highlight the fifth book I will be reading and provide information regarding that particular finalist.  The first finalist I read was Shadow of a Dead God by Patrick Samphire.  This was a great start to the finals and my review can be found here.  My second book was The Fall of Erlon by Robert H Fleming which I posted my review here.  My third book was Shaun Paul Steven’s Nether Light, my review for which can be found here. My fourth book was a Norse myth inspired story called Darkness Forged by Matt Larkin and my review is here.. […]

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