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by Fred Saberhagen

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-765-30201-2
Publisher: Tor

Addition to Saberhagen's far-future fantasy series featuring the Faces: indestructible masks brimming with “odylic” magic, they sink into the head of the wearer and confer the memories and powers of ancient gods. Hal, a veteran Argonaut from the previous outing involving Jason and the Argonauts (Gods of the Golden Fleece, 2001), hopes to make himself rich and settle down. He comes upon a hilltop screened by a wall of magic flame; nearby lies young warrior Baldur, weeping over not being dead. Baldur thought that, if he'd been killed in the recent battle, his girlfriend Brunhild, a Valkyrie, would sweep him off to join Wodan's immortal heroes in Valhalla. Now, Brunhild lies behind the wall of flame as a punishment. Nearby, Hal finds a fragment of golden horseshoe; according to Baldur, Valkyrie horses are shod with gold, and they can also pass though the magic flames. Once a year, gnomes climb the mountains to Valhalla to shoe Valkyrie horses. So Hal teams up with Baldur to follow the gnomes: Hal hopes to grab some gold, Baldur needs a horse to pass through the flames. But Valhalla lies mostly in ruins; mighty Woden's either damaged or demented; Loki, author of the flames, is missing, as is Thor; and Valhalla's warriors are a sorry troop, hopelessly inadequate for the upcoming battle against giants, world-worms, etc. Hal and Baldur become involved almost despite themselves.

A so-so installment that, lacking strong mythological underpinnings, badly needs plot drivers.