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SHARDFALL by Paul E. Horsman

I won this book as a Booklikes giveaway, I am very pleased to say. Never won a book before. Firstly, I was drawn to this book by its cover, which displays a very fine illustration by an artist called Jos Weijmer. Now that I have read the book, I know that it depicts the struggle in Chapter One, between Kjelle, the young heir to a mininghold, and his slave, Muus, on a snowy mountain slope, in the moment after they have found the magical object that has fallen from the sky, which is called the skyshard. After the avalanche, caused by the small stone with its strange blue glow, the two young men, who have only hatred for eachother, are forced to journey and depend on one another, first down an icy tunnel, then out into the world of wolves and feuding Viking bands.

  'Shardfall' is at root a swiftly moving adventure story, set in the Viking Age in the north lands, in a violent, hostile world where it seems far easier to be killed by sword, arrow, fire or spear than to live for another day. It is not a fantasy novel, set in an imaginary land, more of a wild and rough adventure story, in a land that sounds most like to me the west coast of Norway. From the first page, however, there is magic in the tale. A watchman, on duty, guarding a mininghold, at the foot of a mountain, called Silfjall, sees a tiny ball of light fall from the sky. It lands in the snow, near the top of the mountain. It is Muus who holds it first, and becomes its bearer, the Shardheld, as he is named by Asgisla, the Volva, an old woman, who practises what is called in the book seidr magic, who to me was like the seeress, summoned by Odin in the Voluspa, my favourite among the poems of The Elder Edda. She tells him that he must reunite the skyshard with the Kalminir, a standing stone, to stop magic from dying from the world. So like all good quests, the quest of the skyshard, undertaken by Muus, in the company of Kjelle, and others they meet on their way, such as Hrabb, the young thief, Birthe, the girl with her baby son, Bui, wrapped in a cloth bundle, and Ajkell , the bear warrior, though it takes place in the physical world is, at root, a spiritual quest. For what could be more important than achieving a quest that will save magic from vanishing from the world?

  Being a lover of Norse mythology, I enjoyed hearing the characters in this book naming the gods and goddesses of Asgard, such as Odin, Thor, Loki, Freya and Njord. Odin himself appears in the book in his human form as Harbard, a mysterious, one eyed old man. Of course, this is only Book One of the Shardheld Saga. I look forward to reading Book Two and Book Three, to see how the quest of the skyshard is achieved. There is magic in this book, as there is in real life, but it needs to be constantly sought for and when found, it ought not to be taken for granted, but cared for and honoured.

  Of the books in my book collection, this book reminded me most of Weland: Smith of the Gods by Ursula Synge, a retelling of the tale of Volund the smith and the swan maidens of Valhalla from The Elder Edda. That tale too is a wild and rough adventure story, which involves magic and supernatural events and influences. All the way through the wild, often violent events of 'Shardfall', there is the magical, blue glow of the skyshard, the small stone that fell from the sky that Muus keeps in a pouch hung round his neck, and the awareness of a grander, older world than the mortal world, that of the gods and goddesses of the north. A longship sails towards a fjord mouth near the end of the book, so well described by the author that it willed me to want to read the saga to its end, which I will.