Thursday, 13 March 2014

The Final Countdown: ODIN'S WOLVES by Giles Kristian

Odin's Wolves by Giles Kristian

I have said it before, and I will say it again. I truly do love these kinds of Viking historical fiction. They are books that mingle the sagas with excellent penmanship and colourful adventure. I could read them every week for the rest of the year and be every bit the contented reader.
My journey with this series has not been without its own twists and turns and literary adventures. From the hiccup that was my first attempt with the series a couple years back, to the rediscovering of the series in 2013.
To think that I nearly missed out on all this Raven fun by not giving the first book the time it needed to grow on me.
Luckily, I gave it that time at a later date. With a reread. And it was that reread of book one, Blood Eye, that brought me the long way around to this book, book three in the Raven series, Odin's Wolves. (of course, I must not forget that I got there via the 5 star stepping stone between them: Sons of Thunder).

For most of this book I was infatuated. The writing, the adventure, the characters. The delightful balance of all three had my heart racing and my mind flying.
Giles Kristian's vivid scenery and zesty stories have stirred my imagination over and over. At times, his studious pictorialisation has even surprised me. Me, a deliberately and willingly jaded reader of Viking fiction and Viking non fiction. Yes, I still can be surprised. I love it when authors keep it fresh. Adding their own ingredients to the well traversed literary landscape of Viking historical fiction. 
Nothing worse than feeling an author got his or her knowledge from Wikipedia. And I can promise, you will never get that feeling from these Giles Kristian Viking books. This author's inspiration comes direct from his own imagination, and not indirectly through the imagination and research of others.
One of those surprises came in his description of Yggdrasil. He gave me a whole new way to imagine the tree of life and - in the same breath - gives explanation of how it may have been imagined by these early travellers and raiders. I even marked the passage to quote here in this review and then I went and put the book aside for a couple months (I was that far behind in my reviews). In the process I lost my marks and so too did I then lose the page where Yggdrasil - and the birds flying amoung its branches in the sky - had been described.
You will just have to take my word for it. It was beautifully described and wondrously fetching to the mind's eye.

As you may have guessed by my words in the last paragraph, for 'most' of the book I was infatuated. Disappointingly, it was not all a source of infatuation for me. This, I am happy to say, has nothing to do with the author's story nor his writing. The fault lays with me and my deeply ingrained disinterest in Romans.
I cannot say too much on that without giving away plot lines. Fear of spoiling the book for others leaves me with little room to manoeuvre when giving my personal opinion of the second half of the book.
Let me just say that, through no fault of the author's, I found myself at an impasse. My favourite culture of history mingling with my least favourite. Viking meets Roman. To others that would sound wildly exciting, but for me, when that happened, to the lengths that it did, the book and I suddenly became incompatible. But it is still a terrific book and I still give it 4 stars out of 5. Majority of people will not have any problem continuing to enjoy the book passed the point where I stopped enjoying it.

I would recommend nobody be put off reading the book by me confessing that I did not enjoy the last half as much as the first. As you all know, sometimes, no matter how good the book is or how well it is written, if the subject matter it not compatible with a reader's personal tastes, there is nothing one can do. Try as you might.

Now that I have finished this trilogy, I am even more excited to read the latest instalment which is due out this year. God of Vengeance is a prequel to this Raven series. I have read the blurb and I am thrilled to my boots by the premise. Bring it on!!

- MM

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