Over some past iterations of our stop of the Storytellers on Tour series (which you can see here, here, and here) I’ve gotten a chance to read – and then tell you about – some very interesting books. Not that long ago I took part in a cover reveal for The Skald’s Black Verse, and was curious about the book. Given the opportunity to read it, well, I leapt at that chance.
Before I get into my take on things, let’s set things up with the official book blurb:
When a soldier’s murder sparks rebellion in the tiny village of Skolja, Brohr’s past marks him as the prime suspect. Haunted by his brother’s ghost, and drawn into a web of dark pacts and tangled loyalties, Brohr must choose between the path of vengeance set before him, and a chance to forge his own fate.
From the shadows, an all but extinct race of alien demigods have begun the end game of their millennia-spanning war, and one has chosen Brohr for his closing gambit.
But Brohr’s grandfather harbors a dark secret that will change everything.
Above it all, a dread portent looms in the sky, spelling the death of Brohr’s world. With doom spiraling toward them, Brohr must lead an unlikely rebellion, unearth disturbing family secrets, and tame the raging ghost that haunts him. Can Brohr lead his people out of darkness, or will he succumb to his own terrifying bloodlust, and destroy the very people he has sworn to save?
Now, if I were in the bookstore, and I saw the cover and then read that on the back, I’d definitely be interested. Now that I’ve read the book, I will say this – the blurb, while accurate, conceals some key points to the story. In other words, it’s not a trailer that gives away all the good bits.
As the story starts out, you’re first thrown into the deep end of some happenings, and then you get a chance to learn more about these characters and the world they inhabit. It starts off feeling like a pretty low- (or no-) magic medieval fantasy world, albeit one with a heavy influence of Norse history and mythology. Now, that could be all of the Vikings and Last Kingdom we’ve watched, but that’s what I picked up. Either way, you think you know what you’re in for.
Then, sort of out of nowhere, there’s actually a sci-fi angle that comes into things, almost out of nowhere. Ok, that’s a new dimension. Then, when you think that there’s no magic in this word, it turns out that yes, yes there is. The best as I can describe it – without giving things way – is think of it sort of like artificing (for those familiar with that term) with a decidedly musical, and natural, bent to it. So, right there you’ve got some layers generally not present in books of this genre. And frankly, any fantasy story that can include a different way that magic is done (and actually explained), well, I’m a fan.
I’m also very much a fan of how Jordan Loyal Short brings in other pieces of history and knowledge for the world he’s building. This is done via small snippets (ostensibly from other books that exist in that world) explaining seemingly random bits of history and information. This is a clever way of bringing this information in, without it having to be shoehorned into a character’s monologue or something. I’ve seen a few other books build out a world in this manner, and I find it particularly effective.
So, then, that just leaves the Black Skald, and what his mysterious verse is. I don’t want to give too much away, other than you do have the Black Skald revealed to you, and you learn about some of these verses as our characters journey through their story. And navigate some of the politcal intrigue layers that are introduced (local, federal, and theological) as the story unfolds.
So, yes, suffice to say, there is a LOT going on with The Skald’s Black Verse. I enjoyed reading this book, and enjoyed the approach that Short took with layering in information and having surprise reveals of different elements of the story. So, yes, this is one I’d recommend if you like the sound of a Norse-setting fantasy novel. You don’t just have to take my word for it, though! If you want to see what some other folks thought of the book, you can check out the full tour schedule (which will be linked as things go live) right here: storytellersontour.online