The Broken Sword
by Poul Anderson
Originally published by Abelard-Schuman (1954)
Republished by Open Road Media Sci-Fi & Fantasy (2014)
Hark! Gather ye, youths and lasses, for a fierce tale of Skafloc, stolen from his fair mother’s arms by warrior elves, and Valgard, Skafloc’s vile twin born of elf and troll blood. Where Skafloc becomes an honored swordsman in service to elf earl Imric, Valgard becomes a bloodthirsty berserker, slaying all who dare to oppose him. War brews between the races of troll and elf, and Valgard leaves his human family behind to serve the trolls. As sword and axe carve their savage design across all the lands of Faerie, Skafloc and Valgard edge ever closer to a fated clash of steel and blood, with naught but hatred for one another.
For this is the saga of The Broken Sword!
The Broken Sword moves at a breakneck pace. Filler is few, and every chapter moves the story forward with as much action as you could swing a broadsword at. The pacing is absolutely phenomenal, with many small climaxes as the story builds up to its final confrontation. It holds nothing back in showing the brutality of medieval warfare, but it does not graphically revel in gore either. The characters are many, but each one is distinct, and you will grow attached to them as you read.
Also, for a story as dark as this, it lacks the modernist attitude that nothing is sacred. There is a strong sense that the divine is to be respected and revered, and prophecies telling of the end of Faerie are treated as glum tragedies, not yelps of freedom. The story itself reaches back into folkloric roots, modeling itself after the Icelandic sagas.
If the story has one weakness, it is the elevated language of its prose (which I parodied in the introductory paragraph.) Virtually everything is said in highly poetic speech, and many archaic words and even some archaic grammar is used. However, it is not a major weakness since the language can still be understood for the most part, and a reader would be able to follow the story with ease. It just barely escapes needing a dictionary to be understood.
A story of bold deeds and terrible foes, of fierce faerie and mysterious gods, of heroism and tragedy, all told in bold, masculine style — if this sounds like the book you want, The Broken Sword would make a fine addition to your library.
The Broken Sword can be purchased at Amazon.