In this debut fantasy, heroes and villains inspired by Norse deities prepare for battle over an enchanted sword.
To Aerion de Lorka, son of Lord Kent, sword fighting is as beautiful as music. On the morning of his seventh birthday, he enters the nearby temple of Tyr, the Norse god of courage and justice in battle. There, he decides to train endlessly to become a paladin—a holy knight who travels wherever his god bids. Meanwhile, in the “poorest part of one of the meanest towns in all the land,” destiny shapes a boy named Dar. He’s physically fit and mentally cunning, and a life of thievery and abuse only sharpens these traits. He creates an alter ego called the Purple Mask and plots his own father’s downfall. Once on his own, he discovers a shrine to Loki, Norse god of mischief and revenge. As Dar agrees to become that deity’s foul instrument, Aerion overcomes his slow beginnings as a squire. By age 18, he’s the kingdom’s most capable and admired knight. He’s accepted into the Brotherhood of the Blade to help protect Tyr’s legacy and the hero’s sword, created by Odin himself. Mortenson does an excellent job of keeping the gods in the background and their human agents on a steep, sprawling collision course. Throughout the narrative, Aerion and Dar each assemble like-minded colleagues, including the wizard Marseilles, the elf priestess Treena, and the poisoner Tox, among others. Tension mounts as Loki manipulates his greedy acolytes into stealing Tyr’s sword. Mortenson’s prose has a straightforward, lyrical quality in lines such as, “Shadow elves…looked as if someone had carved away at the smooth edges and made a weapon out of a thing of beauty.” Frequently, the theme of perfectionism pops up, and as Aerion becomes excessively devoted to prayer and obsessed with his own shortcomings, Tyr must reignite the paladin’s confidence: “Too fine an edge blunts too quickly.” After a cascade of action at the end, the story leaves room for further adventures.
Refined swords-and-sorcery in the mold of J.R.R. Tolkien and Lord Dunsany.