I received a review copy of Odin’s Game in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Tim Hodkinson, Aria Fiction, and Head of Zeus.
Odin’s Game begins the tale of Einar, a young lad from Iceland who spends his time helping his mother on their farm, hoping to win the affections of one of the local ladies, and practicing at Knattleikr in preparation for the yearly showdown with the neighbouring village. Events take an unfortunate turn for our protagonist quite early on in the novel and he finds himself outlawed from his estate and Iceland as a whole. Following the prompting of his mother he leaves the only home he’s known and travels to the Orkney Islands where his uncle Thorfinn ‘Skull Cleaver’ resides as Jarl. How he will be received and what will happen to him during his two years of exile is uncertain. Einar goes to seek his fate and hopes along the way he can unravel the mystery of who his father is.
Set in the 10th century, Odin’s Game is a quick fun read, full of excellent action passages, great supporting characters and exciting twists. The chapters can be devoured in 5-10 minutes and being as riveting as they were, “just one more chapter” easily turned into reading 100+ pages in one session. Einar is a fine protagonist and it was enjoyable to see how he handles himself, and the thoughts that go through his mind, during some of the awkward and worrying scenarios he finds himself in throughout his adventure to the Orkneys and then to Ireland.
“‘Don’t feel bad,’ he said. ‘To jarls and kings, the lives of men like us are just pieces in a game of tafl. But the nobles in turn are just pawns in Odin’s greater game.’”
Hodkinson’s Dark Ages Europe was presented really well, being just descriptive enough to paint a clear image in my mind’s eye without detracting from the intense, well-worked set pieces and thrilling pace. I have no idea how historically accurate any of what is presented throughout The Whale Road Chronicles is, but I knew after about 40-pages that I was absolutely all-in, just going with the novel’s flow as if it was a fantasy read set in a world I’m more familiar with. The old gods like Odin and Thor are revered by many but the messages of the Christ God are circulating throughout Europe too.
I’ve had a bit of a reading drought recently and could not decide what to read next. I decided to pick up Odin’s Game because I had no expectations and knew nothing about it other than that it was supposed to be fast-paced historical fiction. I’m glad I made that choice. Odin’s Game is a very solid historical fiction story that is gritty and violent, yet is still a joy to read. My only, very minor issue is that there were a few errors that I believe an editor should have picked up but that didn’t distract me from my extremely positive reading experience and I’ll be moving on to the next book shortly. Recommended.
“When he was a boy the thought of travelling at night had evoked terror at the idea of what monsters lurked in the dark. Trolls, witches, dark elves and, the most fearsome of all, the dreadful walking dead, the draugr, who rose from their burial mounds at night and haunted the darkness, waiting to pounce and kill. This night, however, Einar was in the company of the monsters.”