Poul Anderson, The Broken Sword (1954)

broken swordI’ve been called out to write a review of The Broken Sword. I accepted the challenge, although without much enthusiasm. You see, I’m not a fan of Moorcock, whether he fawns over Anderson’s book or not. For me his prose is the epitome of good intentions paving the road to hell. Or maybe a slightly less dramatic, but very accurate saying: when your best just isn’t good enough…

And the same can be said for Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword. If I read it when I first read Tolkien… If I haven’t read Nordic sagas before… If I wasn’t allergic to the word ‘quoth’ and ‘fey’ or to overconfident writers who write their afterword as if they were Metatrons giving us heathens the word of God… If cows could fly. Then I might have liked it. But as none of these things happened, I must admit I found Anderson’s work artificial and boring. I know, I know, The Ultimate Fantasies series, Fantasy masterworks, a classic, one of the founding stones of modern fantasy, blah, blah, blah.

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Poul Anderson, The Broken Sword (1954), James Lovegrove, The Age of Odin (2010) and Michael Moorcock.

Today – two very short reviews of books different by any measure but background – both are deeply rooted in Nordic myths. The use their respective authors make of said background is very different but that doesn’t change the fact that I enjoyed both of them. And as a bonus – a few words on author smart and influential, but not widely known outside hardcore genre fans.

Innovative use of mythology in complicated multi-faceted story (for the fifties) vs undemanding fun. Which might mean that you’ll go thrugh 580 p. “Odin” faster than through 231 p. “Sword”, but that’s no way to judge the relative value of books. It’s not a contest, I just wanted to write two short reviews, so I needed two books having something in common 😉

Recently, when commenting on infamous “The Last Ringbearer” I said that to find complicated, morally dubious Elves, one should read Sapkowski. And I stand by that statement, but another book that offers an unusual look at this fair race is “The Broken Sword” by Poul Anderson, prolific but slightly forgotten author. The book published in 1954, incidentally a year when certain other book was published as well. Tolkien is, deservedly, more famous, but Anderson is also worth a look. It is not without reason that some important names were involved in his recent tribute anthology by the renowned Subterranean Press.

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