A blend of magic, fantasy, and space travel with plenty of action and gore.
WHAT’S THE BOOK ABOUT
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 blood lust, and destroy the very people he has sworn to save?
WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK
I picked up Jordan Loyal Short’s The Skald’s Black Verse due to an intriguing blurb promising an amalgam of power play between demigods, rebellion in a village, doomsday foretelling, family secrets, and possibly, a journey of self-discovery. Unfortunately, the book did not live up to my expectations.
First, let us dive into what I liked in this book.
It ticks all the boxes in the genre description – Epic Grimdark Fantasy. It is undoubtedly grim and dark due to the gory scenes populating almost the entire book.
The Skald’s Black Verse is fundamentally a story of the conquered against the conqueror. As such, the oppression of the conquered and their rebellion form a major part of the story. From this yearning of freedom, also stems the troubling decisions made by many of the characters. All these add to the dourness of the story.
Further, past 25%, once the plot gathers steam, it does not let up till the climax. The action is relentless. After all, doomsday has descended upon the tiny village of Skolja, the epicenter of all the action in this book.
Who lives? Who dies? Who wins – the Federals (aka the conquerors) or the townspeople (aka the conquered)? You have to read the book to find out.
PLETHORA OF CHARACTERS
Additionally, the author does a good job of presenting the third-person perspective of every major character in the book.
We have Henrik, the interim mayor. As a member of the nobility, his family has the bent the knee. However, he is unsure of where his loyalties lie.
Then we have Lyssa, a girl who wants to flee Skolja and find her absentee mother. Finally, we have Brohr, the protagonist of this story.
But wait, there are more characters – Prefect Brasca Quoll, a sort of head of the Federals; Anders, Brohr’s grandfather, and a vengeful, despicable man, and many more. Thus, multiple threads are describing each character’s actions and thoughts. Short does a good job of intertwining all these threads together and careen the plot towards an inevitable climax.
The rioting in the town, the anger of the townspeople against the federals, the guerrilla attacks by the outlaws – all these are beautifully written and draws you into the thick of things. It also lends a distinctive mood to the book.
Moreover, while blood magic dominates the plot, descriptions of runes, spirits, demigods, and intergalactic wars put it firmly in the genre of fantasy.
DISCONNECT WITH THE CHARACTERS
However, I could not feel any connection with any of the characters. Maybe because all of them were unlikable.
Short has created a grim world where years of captivity and ill-treatment have made the people hard and poor. This spurred them to make questionable decisions. Hence, I could not sympathize with any of their actions.
With regards to Brohr, I neither liked nor disliked him. He is unambitious, wilting under the burden of his grandfather’s hatred, devoid of his mother’s love, and hated by the entire village. However, this is a personal preference. I like my fantasies anchored around at least one likable/noble character which may not be the case for other readers.
COULD NOT UNDERSTAND THE LARGER PICTURE
I also could not understand the context of the story, at least not until the very end. The blurb mentions a war between demigods. We get a glimpse of one of them at the start, but its appearance left more questions than answers. Another one does not make an appearance until the end. Hence, the war between the gods does not get the chance to spill over from the blurb into the story.
Maintaining mystery is essential to move the plot forward, but I felt like groping in the dark while reading the book. It was like watching from the outside. I could see the chasm between the conqueror and the conquered getting wider, but I had only a vague idea of who the puppeteers were. Or what was the end game?
As this is the beginning of an epic, I am sure all these questions will be answered in the sequel(s). However, I wanted more than just a description of the circumstances. I wanted more political intrigue in the plot than gore. Again, this is a personal preference.
If you like a blend of magic, fantasy, and space travel with plenty of action and gore, you will like The Skald’s Black Verse by Jordan Loyal Short.
Genre: Epic Grimdark Fantasy || Pages: 330 || Published on November 6, 2018 || Re-Released: August 6, 2020
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Many thanks to Storytellers on Tour for organizing this blog tour. Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book. This does not affect my opinion on the book. I opted to provide an honest review on my blog.
Do visit the blogs of other book bloggers talking about this book. Click on the image below to be redirected to the tour schedule where you can check other’s posts.
Jordan Loyal Short is a debut author of epic fantasy. His first novel, The Skald’s Black Verse, is a dark and beautiful story about families, cultures, and beliefs at war with themselves. The protagonist, Brohr, must navigate the tangled loyalties and unforgiving biases of a planet conquered by invaders from another world. Using black magic, and the bizarre bond he shares with his stillborn brother’s spirit, Brohr unravels the truth about himself and an eon spanning war that has reached its end game.
Jordan has worked in a variety of industries, as a waiter, bartender, copywriter and more. He lives in Washington state with his wife where he is currently daydreaming about the end of the world.