#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.


#SPFBO – Not a Review : Finalist Reading Schedule, Book #4

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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 .

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 fourth 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.  Today’s post is to highlight the fourth book I will be picking up.

My fourth finalist will be :

Darkness Forged by Matt Larkin

Darkness Forged (Legends of the Ragnarok Era #1) by Matt Larkin is the finalist selected this year by Kitty G.  Kitty’s review can be found here and below is the description and author details:


Vengeance is Wrought. Darkness is Forged.

The greatest crafts on Midgard come from the dvergar realm of Nidavellir. Volund, a gifted smith and once apprentice to the dvergar, escaped their dark realm to find solace in the arms of a valkyrie.

Nine years of respite.

And then she was gone.

Volund will do anything to get her back. But his reputation precedes him, and a cruel king knows the weapons Volund forges can win his wars. Imprisoned in the king’s forge, Volund’s only hope to escape is to find his wife. If he can’t, more than the forge’s darkness will overtake him.


Matt was born and raised in Virginia, and graduated from the College of William and Mary there. His lifelong love of fantasy began with The Hobbit. This led him to start writing his own stories at a young age. His primary influences are mythology and history. He now lives in Florida with his wife.

Find out more at https://www.mattlarkinbooks.com

#SPFBO : Stage 1 Complete

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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.

You can find my updates for batch 1batch 2batch 3, Batch 4 and Batch 5 by clicking on the links and my finalist announcement can be found here.

So, the first stage of the competition is now complete, 10 finalists have been chosen, the finalist page over at Mark Lawrence’s blog can be found here but for quick reference below are all the finalists with links to Goodreads:


Last Memoria by Rachel Emma Shaw



The Combat Codes by Alexander Darwin



The Lost War by Justin Lee Anderson



Black Stone Heart by Michael R Fletcher



Darkness Forged by Matt Larkin

Darkness Forged


Voice of War by Zack Argyle



The Fall of Erlon by Robert H Fleming



A Wind From the Wilderness by Suzannah Rowntree



Shadow of a Dead God by Patrick Samphire



Nether Light by Shaun Paul Stevens



Congratulations to all the finalists and good luck in Stage 2 😀