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Book Review: Blood Will Follow

Blood Will Follow by Snorri Kristjansson, The Valhalla Saga #2

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…

As I have mentioned before 2013 saw a lot of great debuts and another one that really stood out was Swords of Good Men. A book that was different from the mainstream fantasy and featured an interesting storyline, blood battles and lets not forget plenty of Vikings. Snorri Kristjansson introduced some relatable characters like Ulfar, Sigurd and Audun with their respective stories in Stenvik and one hell of a premise for an story. Norse mythology has always been something of my interest and I have read several stories centering around some of the gods themselves like Odin, Thor and Loki and some more, but never read one that focused more on the era itself and this is what really got me interested and kept me fired up since then. Because Snorri Kristjansson uses one idea in his book, namely the word of the White Christ is being spread by King Olav Tryggvason and not in a nice way, you have to accept it or else... but what is the Norse Pantheon started to interfere...? Ok, enough said. On to Blood Will Follow! (Heads up, it definitely will follow...)

Snorri Kristjansson started off the story of Swords of Good Men in a more casual way with Ulfar having to make only one last stop in the town of Stenvik. Only to have it turned around completely as the story progressed, by introducing some interesting folklore and of course the crusade of the White Christ. In the ending of the book there was one big battle at Stenvik was fought on multiple fronts and turned into on all out bloody mess, revealing also the true nature of several characters. One of those, that of Audun, I was very pleased to see. Both Audun and Ulfar were caught up in the middle of this battle and only had on option left to survive. With the last scene of the book, Snorri Kristjansson really left the story on one big cliffhanger.

The story in Blood Will Follow picks up directly after the events of Swords of Good Men, Ulfar and Audun both survived the drop over the wall and now are making their way in the as far away from Stenvik as possible and try to put this behind them. Soon though Ulfar and Audun part ways, Ulfar want to finally make his way home for his unfinished business. Audun, though feeling better after the battle at Stenvik is still wary, he decides to let Ulfar take his course and he starts walking and see where the road will take him. Though what they both didn't know... something happened on the wall at Stenvik. Events have made Ulfar and Audun into something more. As soon as Ulfar and Audun make their separate journeys a stranger makes an appearance, he only has one eye, and is accompanied by two dogs... This was really the moment I was waiting for, because we all know who this mystical character is. He hands over something to both Ulfar and Audun but they don't know what the significance of it might be... I really like the direction that Snorri Kristjansson took his story into. Of course this isn't the whole story in Blood Will Follow, as Ulfar and Audun have to their battles cut out for them along their journey and not just bandits or other vikings that they encounter but also some of the demons their carry for themselves. Just like Swords of Good Men, there is a third perspective, that of Valgard, the healer from the town of Stenvik. Valgard's story tells how King Olav is still planning his crusade of the White Christ. With King Olav having conquered the town of Stenvik he is only one step closer to his goal, but still isn't enough. He wants to have everyone belief in the White Christ and in this he goes far, down into the forceful way, and blaspheming all the Norse gods... It's more the case that you have to accept his beliefs, else you wont be accepting anything anymore. Valgard does have a way of excerting his presence and idea's and he gets King Olav so far as to lead his force to the north, to find the key to the Vikings' power... 

As you can make up from above, the characters that you follow are Ulfar, Audun and the new perspective that of Valgard. In the case of Ulfar and Audun, I got to know them quite thoroughly in the first book, though in the beginning of the book Snorri Kristjansson wove a mysterious around both Ulfar and Audun but later on as the story progressed you got to learn about them in more and more detail and especially their pasts proved to be interesting to say the least. For a sequel it's always important to not let the story become stagnant and you have to keep on developing not only the world but also the character and this is something that Snorri Kristjansson does in a most interesting way. By letting the Ulfar and Audun run their separate course you really get to see them in their own way and how they, by themselves, have to fend of several problems on their own, this really gave a much better grip on their character showing more and more of their nature. And it soon comes to show that their nature isn't only as gentle as a breeze... The new addition to the story, Valgard, was a very interesting choice. I can't tell too much about his character because the surprise would be over. What I can say is that this is the type of character where you will scream at. Not to cheer him on but because he is an ass, sorry for my language here, I first thought he might have had some ulterior motives but these proved to be false he is in for himself and I am very curious to see where Snorri Kristjansson will take Valgard next and how it will go down between him and Ulfar and Audun. 

As for the secondary characters. I was again very impressed with how Snorri Kristjansson managed to flesh them out so well, from the Viking raiders to Finn who is part of Valgard crew down to the Norse gods (yes !!! :-)) they are all well developed and give lend their own influence to bend and shape the story of the main protagonists. They really to produce not only a tense setting but also make the story one whole. 

This does bring me to another thing. The gods. Yes, no spoiler here is you read the first book and if it still spoil, I don't care it should only motivate you to pick up this book even sooner! I am a big fan of Gods in stories and oftentimes I read about them in full elemental force display. But in his story, Snorri Kristjansson doesn't show them in this way, it's more on the contrary, Snorri Kristjansson uses them to exert an influence on several characters. And this is something that I really liked. Letting the mortal fend for themselves with some items that do descent from the Gods. Added to this was a scene between the one-eyed wanderer and another god that really put a smile on my face. I can only say that I was very, very pleased with how Snorri Kristjansson used the Gods in his story and has made me very eager to see just how this powerplay will continue in the next book. 

In my Swords of Good Men I gave one small comment regarding a bit of chaos in the story when jumping from location to location or character to character. Well this is completely absent in Blood Will Follow. I mean of course the chaos, the book is written in a much better way producing a compeltely fluent story for me and one hell of an reading experience. There was a lot of focus on the bloody battles in the first book, but it seems that for it's sequel Snorri Kristjansson choose a much calmer route, taking his time to tell his story, to show much more of the world and the characters that walk within it. Some people might say where is the action? Well there is still plenty of that but the focus for me was really found in developing and preparing his story for the next book. Very nicely done. 

Swords of Good Men was a very solid debut, and with Blood Will Follow Snorri Kristjansson has really outdone himself. I do have to say that the tone in Blood Will Follow is different from what I read in Swords of Good Men, where there was first a lot of action, Snorri Kristjansson now slows down the pacing of the story and takes him times to completely develop the premise of his story. But just as what I have come to learn from the first book, there is never a dull moment in the story. For this development of both the story and the characters Snorri Kristjansson took an interesting approach that made them grow in their own way giving you as a reader much more grip on them. Adding the third perspective from Valgard added a lot of new possibilities which I am eager to see how Snorri Kristjansson will develop in the third book. And just lastly Snorri Kristjansson shows Vikings are pretty damn awesome! Bring on the next, I am hooked. 


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