Path of Gods is the third book in Snorri Kristjansson’s VALHALLA SAGA and it pretty much stays the path of what has come before, for good and ill. I rated the prior two books three-stars each, and that’s exactly where I’m placing Path of Gods. Fun dialogue, several engaging characters, and an excellent Norse setting are the strengths, while pace, fluidity, and characterization are the weaker elements.
Path of Gods picks up where Blood Will Follow ended, and it’s probably a good idea to reread the earlier books as there’s no recap and with so many characters and settings, it’s a rough go at the start unless you come with some relatively fresh prior knowledge. King Olav continues his attempt to Christianize the North and end the belief in the old gods, opposed by old school warriors like Sigurd and Sven, rejoined by Audun and Ulfar. Meanwhile, something even more dangerous is seeking power, as Valgard twists men and animals into warped forms and raises an army to end the world.
As mentioned, one of the positives is the sharp, snappy dialogue. The Norse culture’s love of constant insult is on display throughout, and along with the frequent instances of sarcasm and dry wit, provides lots of chuckles and out-loud laughs. The engaging characters are the old timers Sven and Sigurd, individually yes, but especially together. And the Norse setting is wonderfully conveyed in all sorts of sensory detail. Kristjansson does a simply fantastic job creating a sense of cold, of isolation, of northern forests — the whole book has a thrilling chill to it.
As for the down side… Other characters don’t fare nearly as well as the two old warriors. Audun and Ulfar have a few moments of fun dialogue, but beyond that the characters are just flat and uninterestingly passive. Some other characters feel like so much more could have been mined from them, such as the fiery Thora, but just as they threaten to bring some much needed spice into the story we’re off to someone else.
Those frequent shifts are another negative, at least for me. I’m rarely a fan of the Tom Clancy-like style of zipping quickly amongst uber-brief chapters. Your mileage may vary based on personal preference, but for me that undermined potentially rich scenes and characters by not allowing us enough time with them.
The short chapters and frequent shifts also contributed to the pacing problems, or maybe highlighted them is a better description. Because much of Path of Gods is marching, a lot of walking, camping, then more walking. The many quick shifts seem to want to give a sense of quick pace, but the content of the many scenes seem to do the opposite. Some of the plot too just seems rushed or more than a little arbitrary, and while the deus ex machina is prepared for so doesn’t really fit the definition, it still doesn’t satisfy as much as I would have liked.
So we’ve got the Rule of Three here. Three books, three three-star ratings. If it were a longer series page-wise, I’d be hesitant to recommend it. But each book is pretty slim, there are some funny moments, and the Norse background is a nice bit of difference. It’s a relatively weak recommendation, granted, but if you don’t mind the many short chapters stylistically, you might find Path of Gods more in the 3.5-4.0 range.
Valhalla Saga — (2014-2015) Publisher: Swords of Good Men, Snorri Kristjansson’s debut novel, incorporates the myths that fascinated him as a child with his passion for epic fantasy. To weary Viking Ulfar Thormodsson, the town of Stenvik is the penultimate stop on the return leg of a long and perilous journey. It has been particularly challenging for Thormodsson, who has been charged with protecting the life of his high-born cousin. Having traveled the oceans of the world for two years, all he wants is to go home. But Stenvik awaits. The small coastal town is home to a colorful array of individuals, from the beautiful and tragic Lilia, who captures Thormodsson’s rough heart, to solitary blacksmith Audun Arngrimsson, whose past hides many dark secrets. The travel-worn Vikings also discover that King Olav is marching on Stenvik from the east, determined to bring the White Christ to the masses at the point of his sword—even as a host of bloodthirsty raiders led by a mysterious woman sails from the north. Meanwhile, there is trouble brewing between two of the town’s competing factions, a conflict that threatens to sweep all of them, natives and visitors alike, into the jaws of war. Thormodsson and his companions soon learn that in this conflict between the old gods and the new, there are enemies everywhere—outside the walls of Stenvik as well as within.