“Book Review: Skadi“
Reviewed by Kathy L. Brown
Forced on a heroic quest, a warrior must embrace her fate…to make peace with her past.
Steven Grier Williams’ secondary-world fantasy novel, Skadi, propels a widow and her young son on a dangerous adventure, each following their own path along the hero’s journey. Mysterious forces have chosen Skadi and Bjorn for a heroic fate. As they struggle, learn, and grow, they become defenders of humankind, and by owning their past mistakes, they must reconcile with hard truths about themselves.
Skadi is a woman on a mission. She hopes to find a safe haven in the town of Fensalir and raise her son, Bjorn, in peace. Human settlements in Midgard are few, and a dangerous wilderness, replete with brigand Viking hordes and powerful monsters, surround them. Attacks on travelers are frequent, but Skadi soon learns a worse danger has crept into the once-quiet village of Fensalir—a cruel and crafty monster now terrorizing its people.
Although a powerful warrior, Skadi is a woman near-immobilized by regrets. She focuses on shielding her child from harm as a way to atone for the past. Bjorn, however, is eager to take on any challenge. He knows his mother has deep secrets and is intent on worming his way to the heart of the memories she must face if their family is to prevail.
The novel’s point-of-view is detached, and the voice stark and spare, evoking the gloom of impending Fimbalwinter and the gathering monsters.
The classic hero’s journey structure is a natural choice for a fantasy tale, and that framework serves Skadi well. Time and again, Skadi refuses adventure’s call: She must mourn her husband’s death and protect her child. When she finally accepts her ordained path, she travels into the wilderness to meet powerful mentors and allies, face a series of tests, and encounter enemies new and old.
The plot threads for Skadi and Bjorn intertwine at the outset, but eventually the child must fight his own battles. The path of fate, so appropriate for a Norse-themed story, is a recurring theme. As Frija, one of Skadi’s mysterious, magical mentors tells her, “My role here is to simply put you on your path. It’s entirely up to you to walk it.”
Skadi is an action-packed fantasy, heavy on combat and creatures. Its complex plot is clear, with twists and surprises unfurled at just the right spots. Of particular note to Norse mythology fans, Skadi and Bjorn encounter numerous legendary beings, such as Valkyries, assorted trolls, a dwarf or two, and even a dragon.
Although the action unfolds in a fantasy world evocative of times long ago, subtle analogies to real-world problems will challenge the reader to look beyond the hack and slash. As a particularly villainous villain says, “People would rather have an enemy they can see and know exists, even if it’s the wrong one.” An epilogue provides a fun “post-credit” scene, hinting at a sequel.
Most of the story is presented in fast-paced scenes, with quite a cinematic style. The book provides minimal description and few reflective moments for the characters to internally process their events. Rapid cuts from one character’s storyline to another within the same text passage may create some confusion. While the Midgard of Skadi is a fantasy realm, the ambience is ancient times, thus the choice to employ modern words, phrases, and syntax can distract from the story.
Young adult and adult readers who also enjoy fantasy-themed roleplaying games and Norse mythology will feel right at home in the world of Skadi.
Publisher: Milford House (an imprint of Sunbury Press)
Genre: Fantasy / Mythology
Print Length: 224 pages
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