Ulfar Thormodsson and Audun Arngrimsson survived 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 cannot run away from themselves. For King Olav has left the conquered town of Stenvik in the hands of his lieutenant so he can journey north, following Valgard in the search for the source of the Vikings’ power.
And all the while older beings watch and wait, biding their time, for there are secrets yet to be discovered…
Snorri Kristjansson’s debut Swords of Good Men was one of my favourites of last year. So I was looking forward to reunite with Audun and Ulfar after that rather game-changing ending of the last book. Not to mention that when my review copy arrived there was this to consider, which completely made my month. Saying I started Blood Will Follow with high expectations is putting it very mildly. For the most part Kristjansson met all of them, even exceeded some of them, though the book did somewhat suffer from Middle Book Syndrome. I started to wonder where the plot was going about halfway through, as it felt a little meandering, but trusting Kristjansson to know what he is doing, I read on to find that everything came together beautifully. Be aware that there will be spoilers for the previous book in the series, so if you want to remain spoiler-free best not read on.
Blood Will Follow is in large part about exploring the characters of Audun, Ulfar, and Valgard in more depth. I really loved the development of Audun and Ulfar. We learn more of Audun’s history and witness Ulfar’s grief over Lillia. But sadly, we see precious little interaction between them, as they go their separate ways quite early on. I found Audun’s narrative more compelling, mostly because Ulfar in his grief turns a bit cold and callous, while Audun retreats into himself, which isn’t that different from how we met him at Stenvik—Audun is your prototypical strong and silent type. I loved Audun’s stay with Helga, who was an amazing character and whom I hope we’ll see more of, but from the way we left her, I’m sure we will. Helga is a wonderfully self-contained, independent woman, who stands up for herself and doesn’t accept any man’s dominion over her. The way she continuously put her presumptuous neighbour Johan Aargard in his place was fantastic. Here is a woman with agency and power who is not afraid to use it. She’s also quite mysterious and I hope we learn more of her past.
I loved seeing Ulfar with his uncle Alfgeir Bjorne and the group he leaves Uppsala with containing Goran, Arnar and Inga. Ulfar had some great travelling scenes and the growing bond between Arnar and Inga was rather sweet. In addition to Audun and Ulfar’s storyline we also follow Valgard’s story and he is as confusing and infuriating as ever. He does things that are despicable, he’s a turncoat, and an opportunist, yet at the same time he is kind where he doesn’t need to be, for example when he treats a young girl who has been raped by some of the soldiers with tender care. And there are several other acts of Valgard’s that are up for numerous interpretations and it’ll be interesting to see how his story will develop.
As before Kristjansson peoples his book with great secondary characters. There are those who we’ve met before in Swords of Good Men, such as Finn, Jorn, Runar and of course King Olav, who remains a strange figure in his blind devotion to the White Christ and his almost child-like belief in his power. The one character that had me cheering when they reappeared upon the page was Thora. I loved her in the previous book and she was just as cool in this book. There are also several new characters, several of whom have been mentioned above, but one who hasn’t been mentioned but who I really liked as well, though technically he’s one of the not-so-good guys, was Botolf. Like Skargrim he was just too entertaining not to like him.
I liked the mythical inclusions and the way that the old gods and the new are pitted against each other. There are several times when Kristjansson sneaks the old gods into the narrative in an active role and in hind sight I missed some of the signs the first two times. Reading back certain passages the clues are clearly seeded in them, I just didn’t pick up on them. There was also a bit of a change in Kristjansson’s writing style; the changes in point of view were less cinematic and fast, and became more traditional, chapter by chapter, probably due to the fact that the storylines are set in three different places, instead of in the small village. And while there were still elements of the style and rhythm of Old English poetry in the ebb and flow of the prose it was less pronounced than in Swords of Good Men.
While I had my doubts when they parted, by the ending of Blood Will Follow it was clear that it was necessary for Ulfar and Audun to go their separate ways for a while to come to grips with their situation and regain their equilibrium. And even if I wondered at the pacing, it was still a joy to spend time with Audun, Ulfar, and even Valgard. Slight case of middle book syndrome or not, Kristjansson delivers another gripping read, proving he knows how to weave a tale that will enthral his readers. Blood Will Follow has placed Kristjansson firmly on my must-read list and I’ll be impatiently waiting for the last instalment of the Valhalla series. Go read the book and then come join me in the waiting; I’ll keep your seat warm and the mead to hand.
This book was provided for review by the publisher.