Published: June 5th 2014 by Jo Fletcher Books
Format: Hardcover, 308 pages
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Ulfar Thormodsson and Audun Arngrimsson have won the battle for Stenvik, although at huge cost, for they have suffered much worse than heartbreak. They have lost the very thing that made them human: their mortality.
While Ulfar heads home, looking for the place where he thinks he will be safe, Audun runs south. But both men are about to discover that they can not run away from themselves.
King Olav might have been defeated outside the walls of Stenvik, but now Valgard leads him north, in search of the source of the Vikings’ power.
All the while there are those who watch and wait, biding their time, for there are secrets yet to be discovered…
Blood Will Follow is the sequel to Swords of Good Men, which was one of my favourite fantasy débuts of 2013. We take up with Audun, Ulfar, Valgard and Finn after the siege of Stenvik, where Audun and Ulfar are separated in their efforts to somehow deal with the events of the last book.
If Swords of Good Men was a story about how far these men would go for their causes, then Blood Will Follow is about who these men are at their cores. They are tested in every way possible, and I loved the enormous character development that we see in this book. Audun and Ulfar are the most interesting because they’ve been made immortal but it’s ruining their lives, but I can’t deny that it was interesting to find out what makes Valgard and Finn tick.
Although I am determined not to feel anything but contempt for Valgard, it’s becoming harder to hold on to my feelings. His defection to the Christian King Olav has certainly made the old Gods angry, but I’m (worryingly) starting to admire how he does whatever it takes to survive and his doggedness in pursuing the mysterious source of power in the North. He’s still a bad dude though, no mistaking that.
The story-world of The Valhalla Saga is again mind-blowing, with varied and interesting characters and a great world brimming with magic and impossibilities. I love that the old Gods walk around in this story, influencing events in weird and wonderful ways. However, it’s becoming increasingly clear that this is a world of men, for men, by men: there aren’t many women in the narrative at all and one is raped, one falsely accused a main character of rape after lacklustre consensual sex, and another is a magical witch-bitch. There are two other women in the story, and although I liked their roles, I’ll be surprised if they’re mentioned again in any context other than to further the MAN PAIN of the protagonists.
Which is not to say that Blood Will Follow isn’t a riveting read. Although slower in pace and less violent than the earlier book, Blood Will Follow is still engaging because it’s so heavily character driven. There are some amazingly choreographed and realised action sequences, but the focus is on the (debatable) humanity of Audun and Ulfar. Like Swords of Good Men, this book uses multiple points of view cleverly to keep readers entertained, but changes in view point weren’t as jarring or stressful as in the first book.
I have no idea where this story is going! Which would normally be a bad thing, but I’m quite enjoying how Kristjansson is slowly unfolding this great epic for us. There is something HUGE going on here, and I can’t wait to discover how it’s all going to fall out. I loved the re-appareance of some of the old Gods we saw in the earlier book, plus the addition of the one we were all waiting for …
Blood Will Follow is a solid second novel and I have enjoyed it. Fans of Gemmell will devour Kristjansson’s books, and I think they’re perfect for fantasy readers who are looking for something new to read. Vikings, mythology, politics, and swords – what could go wrong? I’m looking forward to the next one!