Children (The Ten Worlds, #1) by Bjørn Larssen

My Five Word TL:DR Review: Norse Mythology, dark and brutal

ChildrenI’ve thought long and hard about this review.  In fact, I think I can safely say that this review has taken me longer to write than almost any other I’ve ever written and this boils down to a couple of things.

Firstly, and this is one of the measures that I gauge the success of a story by, is the amount of extra reading that the book provoked me to undertake once I’d finished.  Basically, you could fit my knowledge of Norse Mythology onto a pinhead!  I mean, I have a scattering of bits and pieces but it’s not something I’ve read up extensively about and that is something I would like to amend (throw your best recommendations my way please).

Secondly, this is not particularly an easy read, and definitely won’t be for all readers (in fact the author makes quite plain, before the read even commences, that there will be areas that might upset some readers).  Larssen doesn’t hold the punches and this is a dark story, brutal, and difficult to read in parts, that takes an unflinching look at Norse mythology and turns some of the stories on their heads.  So, basically, whilst I enjoyed this retelling, it’s not the type of story that you come away from bandying about words such as ‘enjoy’ or ‘fun’.  For me, this was an interesting read, made more so by the fact that it uses a lot of well known elements of Norse mythology to construct a tale of perhaps lesser known characters from the pantheon.  It’s an interesting story from a time that was indeed harsh.  These days we might think of this period as cruel or barbaric but this was a more simple time when people believed in magic and strived to achieve greatness through their deeds in life and this often led to bloodshed.

In terms of  the story we see the world through two characters.  Maya, adopted daughter of Freya and Magni, son of Thor.  As with each new generation children are the seed of change and Maya and Magni are no exception in they balk against the demands of their parents.  The gods in this story are powerful and beautiful, but they’re also unkind, manipulative and scheming and their children are pawns that they use mercilessly – until the children rebel that is.  Both characters come together to form a friendship of sorts in what is ultimately a retelling of the ‘The Fortification of Ásgard’ legend.

What I really enjoyed about this was the world building.  There’s a lovely simplicity to the way the author builds a picture in your mind starting with an excellent Index of the Nine Worlds  followed by an introduction to the Gods themselves and their children.  Seriously I loved this and found it incredibly helpful – particularly that the author had the foresight to put this at the front of the book instead of the rear! (I know that probably sounds a bit pedantic but I can’t describe how frustrating I find it to discover such helpful tools at the end of a read).  Both children spend time in both the mortal realm (Midgard) and in the home of the Gods (Asgard).  You could be forgiven for thinking Asgard the superior place, it knows no want and the food of the Gods is something you can only imagine in your wildest dreams whilst Midgard suffers all manner of scarcity and depravity, and yet both worlds are cruel and difficult places in which to live and given the rather pampered world of the Gods I can’t help coming away thinking that they’re much worse than humans.

I would say that both Maya and Magni are complex characters and are a little difficult to get on board with – but I think that’s a necessary part of the story.  They’ve both suffered at the hands of the Gods and their childhoods contained unpleasantness that informs their adult characters.  I really liked that they ‘found’ each other though and this attachment turns into something protective that helped me to connect with them as the story progresses.  In terms of other characters you may be pleased to hear that the more familiar characters such as Loki and Freya play significant roles, the first in his customary trickster role and the second being her beautiful, vain but also scheming self.

In terms of criticisms.  I think this is well written and I really enjoyed the way Larssen reinvents an old myth giving it enough elements that are well known and comfortable while at the same time giving it a new spin.  However, I think I liked the first half of the book better – even though it was perhaps more brutal.  I felt a slowing down of pace in the second half although not enough to make me want to stop reading.

Overall, if you love Norse mythology I would definitely recommend this first book in the Children world and I will definitely pick up the next retelling that Larssen imagines.  A pretty and beautiful tale this may not be but it is, I feel, a good representation of an era that was the epitome of grimdark.

I received a copy for review purposes.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating: 7 out of 10 (or 3.5 of 5)