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Beth Meacham, David Brin

The Broken Sword

The Broken Sword - Poul Anderson Poul Anderson is an authors' author. Wait, I already said that in my review of Tau Zero. Now I will talk about his versatility, The Broken Sword is nothing like his sci-fi books that I have read before, and it is so very different from Tau Zero that it is hard to believe the same author wrote both books. I can not imagine Arthur C. Clarke writing this, or even Heinlein, whose only fantasy [b:Glory Road|50856|Glory Road|Robert A. Heinlein|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1389403992s/50856.jpg|1862679] is still very Heinlein in style.

I believe the Broken Sword is one of only two fantasy novels that Anderson wrote, the other being [b:Three Hearts and Three Lions|338329|Three Hearts and Three Lions|Poul Anderson|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327952691s/338329.jpg|1559991] which I have yet to read. It is a fairly straightforward story about two changelings, one human swapped at birth with an elf/troll hybrid. An unwise idea from the elf king that inevitably end in tears. The most interesting aspect of the book for me is the prose style, which is written in a kind of pseudo-archaic or “Olde English” language.

Magic tends to be sparingly used in modern fantasy, and they tend to be backed up with some kind of logic, cause, cost, and effect. The Broken Sword uses an old school unsystematic magic. Chanting and hand waving tend to get the job done, things are conjured out of thin air, that sort of thing. In this cynical age it is hard to suspend disbelief but for Poul Anderson I made special effort and just went with the story without over thinking the logic of it all. Still, I have to say the main characters are rather dense in that they can not figure out the hero Skafloc’s mysterious biological parentage. Granted the reader is privy to the info to begin with, but the clues available to the characters are very obvious.

This is not a lighthearted adventure tale, it is unrelentingly gloomy and melancholic, not a lot of (intentional) laughs to be had. Some of the passages are very atmospheric, like this one:

“Wiser the witch returned, with a rat for familiar who suckled blood out of her withered breasts with his sharp little teeth and at night crouched on her pillow and chittered in her ear as she slept.”

That gives me the heebie-BeeGees!

Also noteworthy is that even though this is fantasy Anderson still managed to predict a future invention:

“It was a high feast, for which many human and faerie babies had been stolen, along with cattle, horses, and wines of the south. There was music of the snarling sort the trolls liked, rattling out of the air.”

Clearly the trolls are listening to death metal. There is a sort of sci-fi rationalization of the fantasy elements in the author's afterword at the end of the book which may be tongue in cheek, or the result having just smoked something better left alone.

Anyway, that’s enough babbling from me. TLDR: Very good old school fantasy, well worth a read. Any way, it should not take up too much of your time. Compared to the size of your modern fantasy epics this book is a mere pamphlet.