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The Broken Sword (Adult fantasy)

1 rating: 1.0
A book by Poul Anderson

Thor has broken the sword Tyrfing so that it cannot strike at the roots of Yggdrasil, the tree that binds together earth, heaven and hell. But now the mighty sword is needed again to save the elves in their war against the trolls, and only Scafloc, a … see full wiki

Tags: Cafe Libri
Author: Poul Anderson
Publisher: Ballantine Books
1 review about The Broken Sword (Adult fantasy)

A dark fantasy in the Norse vein; bloody, violent & harsh.

  • Aug 30, 1997
Not the best of the saga-like fantasies, this one's nevertheless quite unique in its odd melding of fantasy & the scientific justification presented to make the tale seem real. The elves, a cold and clever race, not truly malevolent but quite indifferent to men, are beings apart (along with their enemies the trolls and the goblins & other faerie folk). They are unable to withstand sunlight or the touch of iron but are yet rich in alternative, albeit medieval, technologies. They use unheard of alloys of silver for their tools and weaponry and "frictionless" ships to ply the seas.

Here is the story of a mortal taken into this world as a babe, replaced in his cradle by a changeling infant, half troll, half elf, but conjured into the image of the child he has replaced, and of how these two grow to manhood in their respective worlds -- the human to serve the needs of the elves, by handling the iron they cannot touch themselves, and the changeling to come to revile and betray the mortal family he was raised to believe were his kin. Both are betrayed by the worlds in which they are raised and lost for that -- the human for the inhuman heritage he has been raised with; the changeling for his longing for a human soul and his hatred of those who have what he cannot.

The plot is set in motion by the curse of a witch, herself the victim of the harshly brutal behavior of the stolen babe's father, and pivots on the interplay of the magical beings of faerie and the gods who toy with them. All are players and yet pieces, too, on a great chessboard which none knows the extent of -- and the stakes are the very existence of the magical beings and the gods themselves.

Into this world the human, Scafloc, is thrust, a preening and overconfident hero among the elves who finds his fate and his end through a forbidden love and, in so doing, brings into the world the greatest evil, even as he strives to save those who have raised him. Not a happy tale by any stretch, yet headlong and well-told. It is rich in the lore and feel of Norse saga literature and well worth reading, though the end's a bit predictable and does not move us quite as it should. Better than average among fantasies, unique but not quite among the greats.

author of The King of Vinland's Saga

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