Norse Code by Greg Van Eekhout (book review).

March 27, 2015 | By | Reply More

Ragnarok is coming and it’s coming to downtown USA. Mist is a Valkyrie determined to retrieve her sister from the depths of Helheim and maybe stop the apocalypse on the way. Hermod is a god, son of Odin, and lately wandering vagrant but, after encountering some wolves he suspects are about to eat the sun, he thinks that maybe it’s time to step up and take action. Mist and Hermod just might be able to help each other out but, as the number of portents continues to increase, the end looks increasingly nigh.

NorseCode

‘Norse Code’ is a standalone novel by Greg van Eekhout, who I have to admit I’d not heard of before picking up this book. Coming in at just 292 pages of small format paperback, it’s a small book, but it certainly packs in plenty of action.

The plot is a fantastical blend of urban fantasy and Norse mythology, beginning with a genetic testing programme (the titular Norse Code project) designed to identify descendants of Odin and descending rapidly into full blown apocalyptic mayhem. If you’re familiar with Norse mythology, you’ll find plenty of familiar names and faces to enjoy, from the mighty Odin himself to the giant wolf Fenrir, through Hel, Frigg, Baldr and, one that might be familiar even to those not well versed in Norse mythology, Loki. Plenty for everyone! The main characters are a Valkyrie called Mist and the god Hermod, but not a great deal is made of the inhuman nature of these two characters. Mist retains much of her pre-Valkyrie character, coming across as just another girl in her late teens/early twenties, while Hermod could be any regular guy apart from one or two brief moments of god-like behaviour.

Ragnarok works surprisingly well in the modern North American setting and the contrast between tired shopping malls and the might of Yggdrasil, the enormous world tree, is great. With armies of good and evil meeting in a car park and the great oracle Sibyl wanting a cup of tea and a muffin in exchange for her help, there are plenty of moments of humour. There’s also plenty of action, with battles between living, dead, immortal, human, wolf and giant dog all featuring along the way.

There is a great mix of settings in this book, and each feels really well defined. We travel through downtown Los Angeles, visit Valhalla, journey to the depths of Helheim and pop in to a few of the other worlds along the way. It’s brilliantly described and I’m amazed at how much detail there is in a story of such a short length.

In a way I’m sad that this is a standalone novel because I really enjoyed it, but it works really well as a contained story, leaving you with a satisfying ending that allows your imagination to run down the paths of what might come next. I would be pretty keen to read another book by Greg van Eekhout and would have no hesitation in recommending this to fantasy fans, whatever type of fantasy they like.

Vinca Russell

March 2015

(pub: Bantam Dell, 2009. 292 page paperback. Price: $ 7.99 (US), $ 9.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-553-59213-9)

check out websites: www.ballantinebooks.com and www.writingandsnacks.com

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Category: Books, Fantasy

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