Tag Archives: Norse mythology

Book Review: The Raven’s Table by Christine Morgan

Collections are a notoriously hard sell in the publishing world, especially if you haven’t got the household name to back you, but sometimes you come across books that turn that notion on its head. Christine Morgan’s The Raven’s Table – Viking Stories is one such collection, with tales and saga-esque poetry set in the Norse world, it’s a feast of Vikings and thralls, gods and goddesses, curses and cults.

In my previous post I reviewed Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology which, despite its glorious cover, felt over-indulgent on the author’s part, and left me feeling… meh. The Raven’s Table does all the things Gaiman’s collection should have but didn’t. With each tale, Christine Morgan drops you into the character(s)’s world without preamble. There’s no over-explaining of the mythos ‒ it just is. It’s this type of storytelling that allows the reader to be fully immersed.

The Raven's Table

The Raven’s Table has eighteen tales and poems within this collection, four of which are originals. Don’t let the ‘reprint’ status give you pause, though, as each story is a vicious delight of blood and gore, war and betrayal, monsters and mayhem. It’s clear from the first story that Morgan knows her mythos, giving the reader insight into the lesser-known aspects of the superstitions and rites of Norse mythology. There’s a depth to each of the tales that creates layers you don’t often see in storytelling, and boy does she nail her imagery.

Morgan takes poetic licence with her narrative, often melding stanzas in the form of storytelling by the characters within her tales, which only reinforces the saga-esque feel of the book. Morgan is the skald who has sat you around the fire, retelling the places she’s been, the things she’s seen, and giving warning to those who dare defy the gods.

Not one story is alike, although Morgan’s narrative-style is the thread that binds.  There are some truly beautiful turns of phrase in the stories, pieces that will transport the reader entirely into the fear of a thrall, the struggle to stare down a Valkyrie, the absolute certainty that monsters are real. When stories start with: ‘Men died screaming.’, you know you’re in for some bloodied fun.

It’s hard to pick a favourite from the collection, but I’ll give the top five of those that have stuck with me now that I’ve finished the book: The Fate Spinners, The Barrow Maid, Njord’s Daughter, With Honey Dripping, and Sven Bloodhair. That was a tough top five to pick, I have to say… so I’ll sneak in At Ragnarok, the Goddesses.

I mentioned earlier that The Raven’s Table did all that Gaiman’s Norse Mythology didn’t, and I stand by that. If you’re wanting to read seriously impressive Viking tales that cover the gamut of the Norse mythos without that didactic feel, then ignore Gaiman’s offering and instead pick up Christine Morgan’s collection – you won’t be disappointed.

Fair warning, for those who don’t like blood and gore and sex in all its forms, this might not be the book for you. For the rest of you – it’s the best collection I’ve read in a long while.

On a Goodreads scale I give it five stars.

Book Review: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Now for a change of pace. Yes, it’s book review time, and up on the blocks is Neil Gaiman’s latest offering: Norse Mythology. I have to admit, I was truly excited for this signed copy to arrive, like stalk-the-postman-excited (sorry, Kev). Mythology has always held a special place since I was a child. There were gods and monsters and battles and magic ‒ many-legged beasts and winged deities, muses and fates… so much wonder and woe. It was the playground of my imagination, both glorious and treacherous.

The Norse mythos is also one of my favourites – the gods are fallible, and they make no excuses for who and what they are. Gaiman, too, has used mythos in a lot of his work, American Gods (arguably one of his best) delves deeply into the role of gods both old and new, and those who have read it know exactly who Mr Wednesday is. So it really wasn’t a surprise that Gaiman decided to pen a retelling of the Norse mythos in his own words, expanded upon and tweaked somewhat.

Unlike my other book reviews, there’s no need for a spoiler warning here – this is known ground Gaiman’s covering. Which leads to my next question: why? I thought long and hard about this question, as there’s nothing really in Norse Mythology that you couldn’t find in The Edda. Sure, Gaiman has put his spin on it, but… that’s pretty much all you’re getting.

Look, don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful-looking book. That cover is sublime, and the print edition is top quality (gotta love those matt covers) and looks wonderful on my bookshelf – yes, even with just the spine showing. The writing is solid, the storytelling pure Gaiman (along with the humour and wit), but at times it did strike me as rather self-indulgent. Thing is, I’ve read The Edda, and that may be the issue I have with this – the source material is divine.

Norse Mythology

When I got to the end of Norse Mythology, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. I didn’t hate it, but I couldn’t say I loved it either. What I did recognise, however, was its use for those who are testing the waters of Norse mythology and wondering whether it’s for them (it is, I’m just sayin’), or even just wondering what the fuss is all about. It’s the perfect introduction to the mythos, to those greater tales – the sagas – that so beautifully bring to life the Norse and their gods and goddesses, their giants and their beasts, of Fenrir and Sleipnir, and Gjallarhorn of Ragnarok.

Perhaps it’s for those who watch the series ‘Vikings’ (which I love), and want greater understanding of the role the gods and goddesses play in that universe. And if it’s a stepping-stone to someone wanting to read The Edda, then I’d say Norse Mythology has done its job.

There’s really not a lot else I can say about it. Was it truly awful? No. Did I enjoy it? Somewhat, I guess. And I think that’s where the real issue lies. There’s nothing… outstanding about it. Someone who has no real knowledge of the Norse mythos may have a different take on it; Norse Mythology is easier reading than The Edda. Maybe that was Gaiman’s idea behind the book, to make it accessible, to entice readers unfamiliar with the sagas to step into that world and explore. Maybe. I don’t know. Like I said, it does come off a little self-indulgent, but that could be just me.

The cover is beautiful though.

On a Goodreads scale I give Norse Mythology three stars.

Festivus Book Pimping – Greig Beck

Happy Festivus Book Pimping Day! Or night… depending on which side of the world you call home. So with most of the stuff I create, it tends to grow organically, and this series (yes, I’m calling it a series), has also done so. While it will be books I’m pimping, it’s also authors… I’m pimping. Yeah, that sounded better in my head than it reads on the page, but hey, it’s Festivus, let’s roll with it!

Next up on the Festivus catwalk is another Aussie author and best-selling novelist, Greig Beck. Greg has a great number of novels on his backlist, but the two I’m presenting (see what I did there?) today are two books of his I’ve read this year – both of which I gave five stars on Goodreads. I absolutely loved both of these books, and read them far quicker than I wanted. It’s those books I love, the ones where you just have to know how it all ties up but you so don’t want them to end.

Okey-dokey, first up on the catwalk is Return of the Ancients (Valkeryn Chronicles #1), wearing a wonderful red ensemble with a touch of horror and most wonderful splash of Norse mythos. I’ve reviewed the book here, but this is from the website:

Return of the Ancients is the first of a two-part series and tells the story of a future world of great beauty and great horrors, and of two races who fought a war for an eternity. Arnold ‘Arn’ Singer, an average teenager living in Illinois is thrown forward into this world and finds he is the last human alive. The land is populated with mysterious and bloodthirsty creatures – some want him dead, while others see him as their only hope for survival – a return of one of the mysterious and all-powerful ‘Ancients’.

Return of the Ancients

I was enamoured with this story, with Arn and with the ‘creatures’ and world Beck created. I’m a sucker for Norse mythology, and there’s a great deal of it here, blended so beautifully with Beck’s imagination, so much so I earned sunburn from not putting the book down when reading while on holiday.

Now, with as much military flourish as Return of the Ancients can muster, it marches back off the catwalk and prepares for war.

In perfect response, please welcome Valkeryn 2: The Dark Lands to the catwalk in a pretty damn awesome fur and armour piece. War has come to the Wolfen, and the past has waged war on the future. I haven’t yet reviewed this book on my blog (time restraints and all), but it lived up to then surpassed my hopes. Here’s a little something from the website:

The mighty Wolfen of Valkeryn, descendants of the canines of the era of man, have ruled for many millennia. But now their kingdom has fallen to the monstrous hordes and the remaining Wolfen scattered. Arn Singer, perhaps the last human alive on the planet, finds himself cast into this maelstrom of chaos and horror. He seeks answers to the missing Ancients – mankind itself. But back in his time the world continues to destabilise – the portal through which he fell is destroying the plant and must be closed. Special Operations soldiers have been sent, fully armed, into the distant future to bring back Arn… or his body.

Valkeryn 2

I read this book in two sittings, forcing myself to slow as I neared the end – yes, I wanted to know what would happen, but this is a two-book series, so it would end when I so didn’t want it to. And that is the true representation of storytelling.

I thoroughly enjoyed both books, and insisted my children read them as both my kids have a love of mythology, and there’s much of that in here. My son grabbed the first book before my daughter could, and with a teenage protagonist, they will both identify. Yes, there’s some horror, but as a horror writer myself, my kids have kinda grown up around things that go bump in the night. Oh, my son is almost a teenager, and my daughter is a few years in on the teenage years. Me? I’m significantly past my teenage years (phew!), and I loved the books.

As a gift? Well you can’t go past it. The covers are evocative, and will really tease the imagination of the one tearing off the wrapping paper.

Recommended for those who enjoy fantasy, horror, mythology (Norse to be specific), YA (12 and up).

Review: Return of the Ancients (Valkeryn Chronicles #1) by Greig Beck

So I’m back from my week away; well rested and slightly sunburned. One of the many things I love about visiting my father’s farm is the amount of time I get to read while the kids race quadbikes around 300-acres of pristine countryside and scaring the crap out of the wildlife.


I powered through Australian author, Greig Beck’s first book in the Valkeryn Chronicles, Return of the Ancients. I’d been sitting on this book awhile; had read about 50 pages but with the amount of work I had on, by the time I got to bed, my eyes refused to focus on any more words. But when I picked up the book and lounged on the back porch in the sun, I couldn’t put it down (hence the sunburn).

Now it’s time for the requisite spoiler alert:


Return of the Ancients

Return of the Ancients is a story about fifteen-year-old Arnold Singer who, while on a school excursion to watch the test firing of a particle accelerator, gets transported to a new world. And what a world it is. The reader is gifted a glimpse into this world via the prologue, and I was very much looking forward to Arn reaching this destination.

Beck’s world is laden with Norse mythology, but don’t go thinking this is the brilliant stuff of Vikings, but rather the descendants of the great Fenrir. (For those unfamiliar with the Norse mythos, Fenrir is the giant wolf born of Loki and the giantess, Angrboda.) Yes, we’re talking a race of Wolfen – warrior-wolves beholden to Odin and fighting for their place in Valhalla.

Pitted against their long-standing foes, the Panterran, and a legion of monsters borne right out of nightmares, an epic battle looms. And in the middle is Arn. You see, this isn’t a new world at all, rather one far into the future in which human’s no longer exist. Arn’s arrival, however, has been foretold. And the portents aren’t good; Ragnarok looms.

Beck’s new world is beautifully and horrifically described, the Wolfen with whom Arn finally finds himself amongst wonderfully fleshed out (as are the enemy). So much so that the death of one Wolfen in particular, hit hard. It’s an honourable death, worthy of Valhalla, but… dammit.


Arn, though enamoured with this new world and the Wolfen, does want to get home. Those at home (or rather those at the lab), are on a quest to get Arn back via the wormhole that now sits open and ready.  Beck moves the reader back and forth between one world and the other, and it soon becomes apparent that not all are looking at this as a rescue mission.

Return of the Ancients is a fast-paced, action-packed story that grips the reader and doesn’t let go. It’s all leading toward the battle-of-battles that will determine the fate of the Wolfen and Valkeryn, and Arn is sent on one last quest by the Wolfen king. But this won’t just be a battle of forces within this world, but the clash of cultures old and new. More ancients are coming, and there’s absolutely no doubt they’re bringing a reckoning.

Beck’s done an amazing job drawing the reader in, and keeping them on tenterhooks before leaving them wanting more. ‘More’ will be arriving in the next couple of days in the form of ‘The Dead Lands’ (The Valkeryn Chronicles #2) via Cohesion Press.

Do yourself a favour, peeps, read this book ­– I can’t recommend it enough.

On a Goodreads scale, I give the Return of the Ancients five stars.

five stars