The Scald's Black Verse by Jordan Loyal Short
Today's review is The Skald's Black Verse by Jordan Loyal Short.
This was one of those books that really took me by surprise.
I received a code from the author saying do you wanna have a listen to this and then write what you thought about it? So I did!
Before we get to see what I thought of the book, here is some info
All he wants is to live in peace, away from the ignorance of his village, to outrun the raging ghost which haunts him.
But a hidden evil seeks to harness Brohr's fury.
Accused of murder, hunted by ruthless soldiers, Brohr delves the way of the Skald, unlocking forbidden blood magic as he unearths terrible family secrets.
When the red moon is broken, and all is lost, it’s up to Brohr to lead a rebellion, or face the end of the world.
Jordan Loyal Short begins his sci - fi/ fantasy Trilogy, Dreadbound Ode with this dark tale of rebellion and Revolution in The Scald's Black Verse.
Brohr is the grandson of Anders Nilstrom, a deeply scarred veteran of The Tyrianite invasion of his homeworld Heimir. Brohr is a mix of Norn and Tyrianite, born of a brutal assault by Tyrianite troops, which leaves his mother pregnant with twins
However, his twin is killed at birth and bound to him by a dark ritual performed by his grandfather shortly after Brohr's birth.
Skip forward quite a few years and Brohr is planning to run away with his girlfriend. However, things don't go according to plan when his supposed best friend tattle tales on his plans and they are stopped. As a result, Brohr loses his temper, and subsequently beats said best friend half to death.
As a result, he is shunned even more than he was, and things go from bad to worse when he is out drinking and gambling. The result of the night, which is one that is echoed in towns all over the universe it seems, is violence. However, whilst the man that Brohr became involved with is unconscious, he is killed be a shadowy apparition. The event is witnessed by two others Lyssa and Hendrick.
This incident is the catalyst for an event that will change all their lives forever.
I have got to say that this book surprised me, and I did not expect it to go the way that it did. Initially, the world building points to a Norse inspired fantasy. A pitch black Norse inspired fantasy, I may add! However, things soon took a different turn with the introduction of space faring invaders that are oppressing the people of Heimir and the whole book goes in a direction that I did not foresee.
The story is made up of four diffiering POV’s; Brohr, Lyssa, Hendrick and Brasca, each of them very different. Brohr is possessed by the spirit of his dead brother and resembles a berserker (or The Hulk, or even Slaine the Horned God when he goes into his warp spasm). Then there is Lyssa, an independent young woman who is totally bored of working in her father’s tavern. Next up is Hendrick, a spoilt prig of a boy whose father is the Mayor, and also one who has done very well from allying himself with the oppressing forces. And finally, there is Brasca, the Tyrianite Prefect sent to Heimar as some kind of political punishment.
The story is mainly confined to one place, the village of Skolja (although there is some mention of other towns in the world). Whilst in some ways it may seem that it is limited in its world building, it does add to the intensity of the book. And I have to say, I did find this book quite intense.
Like I mentioned earlier, this is a dark fantasy, pitch black even, but this works well. It highlights the oppression that the inhabitants of the village are experiencing, and it also heightens that sense of foreboding that is ever present throughout the book.
Throughout the story, there seem to be a plethora of differing influences in there, such as; epic fantasy, grimdark, ecological disaster, sci fi and even some folk horror. Whilst it may make you wonder how these elements can be melded together, Jordan Loyal Short makes them work extremely well and provide a fantasy tale that is quite individual.
The magic system is quite intriguing, with the Scalds using blood magic, which is used for all sorts of things like hiding evidence and intent. However, other forms of magic are used in the book, and we learn about bindings.
The characters are all well realised, with Lyssa being the standout for me. At times I found Brohr to be a little less than the sum of his parts and could be quite frustrated with him, whilst Hendrick was a typical lordling’s son. The other character Brasca was well realised and complex. It was interesting to see his story unfold to show how he had fallen from a star of the Tyrianite Empire to being demoted to his current position.
I liked that Jordan Loyal Short used some typical other fantasy elements like the chosen one trope, warring gods or the found family trope, and twisted them to fit the story.
So, if you like your dark fantasy flavoured with a bit of grimness and spiced up with a touch of Sci Fi and horror then give The Scold’s Black Verse a try.