An ancient evil has come to collect its sacrifice.
When a soldier’s grisly murder sparks unrest in the tiny hamlet of Skolja, Brohr’s past marks him as the prime suspect. On the run from the Tyrianite Legion, he uncovers an unthinkable secret about the raging spirit that haunts him, and the pact his grandfather struck long ago.
While the brutal occupation of his village devolves into bloodshed, Brohr must unlock the secret magic in his blood and lead the Norn in a last-ditch rebellion.
Behind it all an ancient horror pulls the strings of conqueror and conquered alike. Can Brohr untangle the hidden plot and unite his people before disaster rains down from the sky above?
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The Skald’s Black Verse is a combination of genres where a medieval Norse style town of Norns has been invaded by aliens called Tyrianites. The invasion happened some time ago when we join the story and the town of Skolja is occupied by the invading forces, with a Tyrianite federal prefect named Brasca Quoll in charge. There is a caste system in place and people can climb the ranks by taking part in the ‘Rite of Submission’ setting aside the old gods and worshipping the Tyrianite pontiff instead. The organizational structure of the Tyrianites brought to mind the Romans with legionaries and prefects. There is no doubt as to who is in charge:
The prefect was a strange mix of pragmatism and idealism. He realized that if he did not prove useful in the coming ordeal, Brasca Quoll would happily cut his throat and forgo diplomacy. If it came to rebellion, Henrik would not survive. Regardless of the outcome.
Against this background a comet is seen racing across the sky and the invading forces begin evacuating their moon base in preparation for the comet hitting the moon and causing chaos.
Brohr is our main character – a half Tyrianite, the product of a rape by the invaders. He often becomes consumed with uncontrollable rage which leads to violence and he seems unable to control it. He is hated by the Norn townsfolk since his darker skin colour reminds them of the invasion. He is blamed for the murder of a legionnaire who was probably his father, but he and two other witnesses know deep down he didn’t actually kill the man. The crime was much more mysterious, perpetrated by a dark shade without recognizable features. A creature from their folklore – but surely no one will believe such a story. All of these elements drive him towards rebellion.
Meanwhile Henrik’s father, the mayor, has been building a spaceship for escaping the planet during just such an occasion – will it even fly though?
The characters in this unusual story are fully fleshed out and believable- I liked Lyssa the unconventional barmaid turned apothecar’s apprentice who prefers wearing more masculine clothing and I sympathized with Brohr who is hounded and hated wherever he goes. His temper loses him the girl he loves and his grandfather Anders, a skald and a practitioner of dark, blood magic, has never been particularly kind to him. Henrik and his father are also magic users and have taken the Rite of Submission. When the mayor and his wife are killed by witch fire for being collaborators, their son Henrik Torvald, a user of rune magic, will surely take over as mayor – but he is not as subservient towards the federal prefect as his father had been:
Before his father’s murder, he’d disliked the prefect as a bland representative of that distant power that had devastated his people. Another rival to trade insults with, perhaps. Another arrogant federal. But he didn’t hate their might, he respected it; he hated their ridiculous culture. Their ridiculous religion that deified a politician, that mercantilized superstition, with offerings of coin or blood or flowers that bought happiness in the afterlife.
The worldbuilding in this debut novel is excellent – I could really visualize Skolja and it’s houses and buildings. We learn about the religion and cultural customs as we go and also those of the Tyrianite invaders via excerpts and quotes from their writings at the beginning of each chapter.
The tone is dark, with a brutal prologue that some will find hard to read and violence following Brohr wherever he goes, but if you enjoy this type of dark fantasy you will definitely enjoy The Skald’s Black Verse. There is plenty of fast-paced action, interesting cultures, space travel, planets colliding, folkloric creatures – so much to love!
About the Author
Jordan Loyal Short is an author of epic fantasy and a small business owner. He has worked in a variety of industries, as a waiter, bartender, copywriter and more. He lives in Washington state with his wife where he is currently daydreaming about the end of the world.
You can visit his webpage at www.jordanloyalshort.com