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The Broken Sword

The Broken Sword - Poul Anderson

I also reviewed this book on "Goodreads". There they have a simple 5 star rating system thus the "rating choices" are more limited. Here I can go 3.5 stars for The Broken Sword. This book is better than a simple 3 star might indicate. The problem is that I don't like it as much as many 4 star books...or many of the books I've rated four(4) stars. I'll note here that I'm not trying to rate this or any book on things like, writing quality alone. I suppose I basically rate on what I think of as overall enjoyability.

This book is exceedingly well written. Based on several types or areas of mythology from northern Europe the story telling style is patterned after the Icelandic Sagas. With influences from Norse mythology, the folklore of Iceland, Scandinavia, England Ireland and Germany the story ranges forth. Beginning with a violent act leading to an act of revenge that brings about the substitution of a changeling for a human babe in turn leading to a Troll /Elf war and even referencing the coming of Ragnarok this is a true saga.


I have seen reviews of this book that rate it as better than Tolkien even one by Michael Moorcock...I can't agree with that. I don't find the book nearly as good or absorbing as Tolkien, not even in the same ballpark. I couldn't get involved with the people in the story.Just my personal opinion of course.


As for the novel and it's individual characteristics, the elves here are not the High Elves of Ireland...nor the Elves of Tolkien. These are the Norse Elves from Alfheim, the Fairy Knights cruel and selfish. The Norse mythology fatalism is preserved throughout the novel as the foreshadowing of doom follows our characters from the cradle to the shores of Alfheim and Trollheim. You'll get lots of battles and action along with many, many.....many "woe is me" soliloquies. With a love story right out of German saga (and Wagner[Vagner]) the foreshadowing leads us right to the end of the tale of Valgard, Skafloc and and the Sword.

As noted above the story revolves around the changeling and the human who is fostered by the Elves. The title of the book will tell you (obviously) that there is a sword involved and the story of it's reforging is integral to the novel. While there are long passages of plot exposition and great swaths of florid verbiage much of that is owed to the oral tradition of story telling the book is based on. You will also find intricate, detailed and very gory battle scenes that leave little to the imagination.

Michael Moorcock gives credit to Poul Anderson and this book as having great influence on his Eternal Champion books, especially the Elric Saga and the sword, Stormbringer. If you've read Moorcock's books (as I have) you'll undoubtedly see much of this. This book is intricate and well written if a bit dated (both intentionally and otherwise). I suppose the style may put some off but on the whole I don't think it will be a problem for most.

So, not a contemporary fantasy and very involved in being a saga, still a good story and a good novel.

I go three 3.5 stars and I do recommend you at least give this one a try. Written in 1954 it deservedly holds a place as a fantasy literature classic.