cover image War of the Gods

War of the Gods

Poul Anderson. Tor Books, $22.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-312-86315-9

Veteran SF/fantasy writer Anderson (The Fleet of Stars) published his first short story 50 years ago, but he still manages to offer readers something out of the ordinary. Here, Anderson reinvents the story of Hadding, an early Danish king, weaving it into a saga of human and mythical races caught up in the conflict between warring Norse deities. Highly episodic in construction, the book reads more like a series of adventures than a traditional novel. Entrusted to the care of the giant Vagnhofdi, Hadding is raised in secret until he is old enough to journey forth and attract allies to help him defeat the Norse king Swipdag, who slew his father, King Gram, and took the throne. Once Hadding regains his rightful seat, however, there are more alliances to be made and enemies to squelch. With the occasional help of the mysterious gray-bearded warrior Gangleri, Hadding succeeds in building and holding a mighty kingdom, despite the treachery of his enemies and the overwhelming weight of his destiny. Anderson writes with a spare style, often relying on the alliterative, rhythmic prose of Scandinavian folklore, giving this epic tale an original spirit and tone. Readers bored with Tolkien-clone fantasies will be enthralled by the intricately detailed world and characters Anderson brings to life here. (Oct.)