THIS JUST IN In a stunning development certain to send shockwaves through the world of Fantasy Literature, The Lord of the Rings, long considered by many to be the Greatest Epic Fantasy of all time, has been bitchslapped and bitchsmote by Poul Anderson's 1954 dark fantasy epic, The Broken Sword Anderson's story is now loudly demanding at least a share of the top honors Such recognition would be welcome and long overdue according to fantasy icon Michael Moorcock who believes that Anderson's tale “knocks Fellowship of the Rings into a cocked hat.”******Linguists are currently hard at work translating what the hell Moorcock’s statement means, but it does appear to be high praise for Anderson’s novel More on this as it develops Here is a breakdown of this criminally overshadowed epic fantasy tale provided to us by some FANTAnerd who reads way too many books about elves and wizards When looking at Lord of the Rings and The Broken Sword, one can’t help but notice a number of similarities between the two epics Both Tolkien and Anderson drew on well known myth sources from places like England, Scandinavia and Ireland as a primary backdrop for their stories Both have elves, dwarves, trolls and other nonhuman races that predate man and whose societies are in decline and have seen their best days Both have powerful magical objects that eventually doom the wielder (i.e., the one ring and the titular broken sword) Finally, both incorporate epic, melodramatic poetry into the narrative.However, this is where the two books FOREVER part company Tolkien skips off and builds a light, kiddie friendly playground around a bunch of tree hugging runts with hairy feet Anderson hacks and machetes a path much truer to the source material from which it is drawn and creates a dark, savage world where rape, murder and atrocities are a way of life and humans are used as pawns by immoral (or at least amoral) gods who orchestrate events for their own hidden purposes While Tolkien paved the way for commercially popular successors like Robert Jordan, David Eddings and Terry Brooks, the influence of Anderson’s tale can be seen running through the veins of the darker, noirish, fantasy tradition exemplified by writers like Michael Moorcock, China Mieville, Neil Gaiman and Joe Abercrombie.For my money, this latter group is the farinteresting and worthwhile side of the fantasy genre and where I prefer to spend most of my time PLOT SUMMARY/BACKGROUNDThe world created by Anderson is sublime and is easily one of the richest, most concentrated fantasy worlds I have ever come across Taking place primarily in viking controlled/influenced England around 10001100 A.D., Anderson draws from multiple traditions to create a mesmerizing blend of Norse/English/Irish mythology with the added aspect of the steady creep of the Christian tradition as an invading force that is slowly eroding the powers of the old gods For example, as the story begins, the spread of Christianity (referred to as “White Christ”) has so diminished the power of the realms of Faery (e.g., elves, trolls, sprites, sidhe, goblins, etc.) that only humans gifted with “witchsight” can even perceive them The way this is portrayed in the narrative is terrific In addition to the peoples of Faery, the other major group of players in Anderson’s epic are the Norse gods (i.e., Aesir) and their eternal nemesis the Frost Giants (i.e., Jotunn) These Norse gods remind one of the old, ancient tales and they are anything but Hollywood I hesitate to call them evil, but they are certainly the supreme manipulators of the story and most of the narrative threads are set in motion as a result of their clever maneuvers The story begins with a viking named Orm stealing coastal land from an Englishman and slaughtering the man’s entire family, except for an aging grandmother who manages to escape (and who is also a witchDOH!!) The witch plots revenge on Orm and sets in motion a plan the culminates in Imrac, an elfearl, stealing Orm’s newborn son to be fostered with the elves In the baby’s place, Imrac leaves a changeling he created by raping a captured troll princess(I told you this wasn’t Disney) The elves name the human baby Scafloc and Orm and his wife name the changeling Valgard The fostering of a human child by the elves is cause for a massive celebration in the realm of Faery At the celebration, a messenger from the Norse gods presents a present to Imrac to be given to Scafloc when he becomes an adult It is a massive iron sword, broken in two The messenger explains that only the creator of the swords, the frost giant Bolverk, can make it whole but it will serve Scafloc well Iron is the one substance no creature of Faery can touch and so the sword is wrapped and hidden deep in the castle behind magic spells Wellthat’s about all of the set up I want to give as so much of the wonder of the story is all of the maneuvering among the various factions Scafloc grows to be mighty warrior and wielder of elf magic Valgard also grow to be a mighty warrior, but one with a violent temper and the very image of a Viking berserker Both Valgard and Scafloc become pivotal pawns in a complex, massive epic orchestrated by the gods and involving all out (and I mean ALL OUT) war between the Elves and their allies and the trolls and their allies Much of the book is taken up with the massive war between the elves and trolls and it is as good as it gets The battle scenes in this book, in my opinion, absolutely put Tolkien to shame and are epic, violent and loaded with the melodramatic prose so reminiscent of the ancient heroic sagas Swords flew in a blur that spouted blood The shock and crash of metal drowned wind and sea The elves stood in a ring, and around that circle was another of corpses Tall and terrible, his fair locks flying in the gale and his eyes ablaze with blue hellflames, Scafloc loomed over the struggle Never did his sword rest, and he ducked the clumsy troll thrusts and swipes with a flickering grace from which his own glaive darted like a snake’s tooth The trolls began to fall away from him, and his band cleared the bows.‘Now forward!’, he yelled The elves advanced sternward behind a curtain of flashing steel Mightily did the trolls fight Elves sank with crushed skulls or cloven bellies or transfixed hearts But the trolls went back and back, only their trampled dead holding fast I can not express how much this book resonated with me This is a standard bearer of epic fantasy and I can’t believe it isn’t held in the same esteem as LOTR.Now, I know it may seem that I am dumping a bit on old J.R.R., and I want to be clear that this is not my intention (well, except for the treehugging runts comment) I really do love Lord of the Rings and think it deserves its legion of followers However, I do think think this book is superior in almost every area and I enjoyed it farthan I ever enjoyed Tolkien If you prefer Moorcock, Mieville and Abercrombie to Jordan, Eddings and Brooks, than I think you may find yourself agreeing with me Regardless, you should definitely check it out 6.0 stars HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!!P.S I listened to the audio version of this book as read by Bronson Pinchot and it was INCREDIBLE and enhanced the reading experience substantially. Many ages ago, when majestic forests dominated our lands and little cottages of hay and wood were the only thing protecting the hairy humans from the elements, tales were not just tales The stories passed down from one generation to the next held Truth The stories read in those days were never forgotten They were carved in trees and stones, they were carried with the water and the wind, they were illuminated by the stars and the moon The tales were everywhere as mountains harboured dwarves and trolls, treetops were infested with fairies and the ground one walked upon held within it both the Depths of Darkness and the Source of Life A wizard sat by the fire, brooding He had many tales in his head, of love, of war, of passion, of hatred, of honor and of treachery He had whispered many of his wise accounts to the birds, to the blades of grass and to the clouds, but the ears that he was supposed to reach had stopped listening The metallic churning of machines and the clinging of dirty coins drowned out all other noise and Man had stopped listening to the wizard’s stories The wizard stood up and strolled pensively to his desk He had to get his stories out there without burdening busy Man’s brain, catch them with his wisdom unawares He glanced at his library and an idea struck him A book! Of course But it needed to be a special book One that did not scare away busy Man with many pages but carried an abundance of stories within it nonetheless And so he crafted a book as small as a mouse but as heavy as a mountain, a book as forethoughtful as an old man but as fast as an elfish horse A book black as tar but soft as a feather And so it is that “The Broken Sword” was crafted A magical book, both in what it tells and how it tells it It is a story carved in trees and stones and hearts, whispered in winds and memories Take heed of its warning Do not reforge the sword in the face of desperation, for it will show you much uglier things. Every young medium, if it wishes to be taken seriously as an art form, must find a way to present mature stories Movies began to take themselves seriously in the thirties, comic books began their struggle to elevate themselves in the late seventies, and videogames have been trying to achieve greater depth for the past few years.Yet, like any rise from adolescence to adulthood, this reaching for maturity is always an awkward period It is marked by overcompensation, by the striking of certain poses which are meant to seem mature, but which only make immaturity stand outWhether for child or art form, the signs of adolescence are the same: and obsession with darkness and death, violence, sexuality, swear words, and amorality If these were truly the signs of a mature work, then my most mature creation would be the back cover of my eighth grade notebook, resplendent as it was with with daggers, bloody eyes, fantasy babes, skulls, monsters, and anarchy symbols.We recognize that these are the signs of a naive child playing with the idea of being an adult, and yet these are the same things fans and creators of emerging art often point to as proof of their grim, gritty, amoral maturity It's this obsession with an appearance of maturity which lacks all mature substance that I blame for the fact that today, sixty years later, I am not aware of any modern epic fantasies which can boast the tragedy, heartache, and moral conflicts of The Broken Sword Certainly there are many truly adult fantasies out there, but they lie in subgenres other than The Epic: Urban Fantasy, New Weird, Historical Fantasy.Once again, as with everything good or bad about the modern state of epic fantasy, it is the result of Tolkien's influence There are many readers and even some authors of fantasy today who think that the genre began with Tolkien Trying to understand fantasy solely through Tolkien and the authors he influenced is like trying to ride a horse with only one leg.Much has been made of the fact that The Broken Sword was released the same year as The Lord of the Rings, and it's true that the similarities between the two books do not end there: both have distant, tall elves, deepdelving dwarves, a broken sword which must be reforged, an epic war between armies of light and darkness, a central character who is trapped between that conflict, and an interweaving of the Christian and Mythical Pagan worldviews.Comparing the two works, it becomes increasingly clear how little of Tolkien's world was originaland how the original aspects tended to be the weakest If Tolkien's work represents an incomplete attempt to recreate Milton's Adam in Frodo and save the heroic Satan in the guise of Aragorn, Anderson's interplay is less daring, butsuccessful Taking a cue from Dunsany, he depicts a world where the old and new forms are at odds Through humanity, they come into conflict, but it is not possible for the utterly aloof Christian god to touch or be touched by the intensely personal, meddling heathen powers.While I found Dunsany's portrayal of that stark separation intriguing and mystical, it is less satisfying in Anderson's work Like Kipling, he shows us a world where gods and faiths intermingle, the old dying slowly in the face of the new, but Anderson never addresses why the new faith has this power I do not ask that he lay out the cosmology, but I would have appreciatedillustrations of the relationship which might have pointed at the intriguing depth Dunsany and Kipling portrayed.In a curious turn, Anderson returned to this book fifteen years later, making changes throughout to the tone and word use, but also altering a few scenes to change the portrayal of the Pagan/Christian conflict I read the original version, which haspowerful language and an unusual theological implication which, had it been explored, might have made this book very conceptually interesting.Another problem in this book was Anderson's portrayal of women, though it was nowhere near as bad as one gets from modern epic fantasies His women have character, wills, and power They kill, they wear armor, they defy and manipulate menAnderson clearly draws the women of his tragic epic from the tragedies of the Greeks and Shakespeare Yet they tend still to be emotionally reliant on men, and are often lead to act out of their desires for and relationships with those men More than that, every woman seems to be described at least once as wearing some clinging, formfitting thing which makes evident her curves, revealing that it's important for an author to describe what is relevant to the story, not merely what his own eye habitually lingers on.Strong women are not the only things Anderson takes from the great tragedieshis central story is a remarkably deep and sympathetic exploration of personal tragedy, full of purpose and pathos The deaths, trials, betrayals and selfdoubts are not thrown into the story haphazardly to feed a chaotic plot, like Martin's, they are vital and personal, each one built precisely to reveal some new aspect of a character's inner turmoil.Despite being laid out like a classical tragedy, so that the downfall is evident from the beginning, looming over us, I never felt that this knowledge hurt the reader's expectation, because Anderson was a good enough writer to make sure that it wasn't about what external events happened to the characters, but what their internal reactions would be There is no mystery about what event will tear apart Skafloc and Freda's love, what is vital to us is how it will impact them It just goes to show that cheap thrills and plot twists are nothing compared to a good character.Though Skafloc and Freda's struggles are poignantso as we near the conclusionfor much of the story, Skafloc's antagonistic counterpart Valgard presents arare picture: that of the unsure, selfsearching man who finds himself again and again on the side of darkness, without knowing what has brought him thereis it fate? his own true nature? mere bad luck? Like Tolkien's Gollum or Eddison's Lord Gro, I often feel drawn to these figures of personal crisis who demonstrate the vagueness of the line that separates heroism and villainy.Unfortunately, I was disappointed not to see Valgard's story grow as things progressed When he first asked himself whether he were truly born evila changeling childor had some control over his fate, I eagerly anticipated his attempts to prove the fact, one way or the other Yet, perhaps realistically, he ultimately found himself spitted on the question, unable in the end to test it I wish that, even if Anderson chose not to explore the full range of this question, he might have had Valgard confront it in different ways, instead of returning always to the same view and phrasing In the end, it was Skafloc who explored the fuller range of moral values in his quest to determine what truly separated a swordwielding hero from a powerhungry killer.Though this book is largely unknown to any outside of devoted fantasy fans, it is notable for being one of the books which inspired Michael Moorcock, especially in his Elric series, through which many of its tropes have trickled into modern fantasy In Moorcock's opinion, it was this book, and not Tolkien's, which should have become the epic fantasy classic It certainly would have sent the genre off in a different direction Perhaps now, instead of a mirthless grasp at maturity, we might have recognized that since epic fantasy has already had great tragic depictions, modern authors are entirely free to write new and interesting stories free of the hollow pretensions that come with the label of 'serious author'.Epic Fantasy is not, like some others, a young genre, finding itself, but a very old one that has lost its way I can only hope that soon, we'll start to see the other side of this midlife crisis, and that books like The Broken Sword may be written again.My List of Suggested Fantasy Books The Broken Sword is an essential work of heroic fantasy, as important to the development of the genre as Eddison and Tolkien, Howard and Leiber If it is neglected today, that is partly because it is unique: it stands alone, not part of a multivolume saga or the trilogies that are fashionable today But it is also neglected, I believe, because it is a cold book, literally cold in its setting (most of it takes place in winter), but metaphorically cold as well It is a grim tale, full of hardship and scant of pity, worthy of the old Scandinavian sagas that inspired it.It tells of the struggle between Skafloc, a human child raised by elves, and of the changeling Valgard (half elf, half troll) left behind in his place The two are destined to battle each other in the great war between the elves and the trolls, and the Broken Sword—a god’s gift to the infant Skafloc—is fated to determine the course of their dark destiny.Michael Moorcock loved his book as a boy, and considered it superior to Tolkien His elfKing Elric of Melnibone, and his fateful sword Stormbringer, would never have existed—at least not in their present form—without the influence of Poul Anderson’s Skafloc and The Broken Sword.Please don’t let my comment about how cold this book is dissuade you from reading it I enjoyed this book, and—although its overall impression is a cold one—it contains much variety Its three most prominent worlds—of the humans, the elves, and the trolls—are each distinctively realized, with their own pleasures and dangers, and the gods, the goblins, the devils and the witches add much to the mix In addition, the doomed love between Skafloc and Freda is frankly sensual and tender (and heat up the whole novel—even in the dead of winter—just a bit). Thor broke the sword Tyrfing to save the roots of Yggdrasil, the tree that binds earth, heaven and hell Now the elves need the weapon for their war against the trolls Only Scafloc, a human kidnapped and raised by elves, can hope to persuade Bolverk the icegiant to make Tyrfing whole again But Scafloc must also confront his shadow self, Valgard, the changeling in his place among men 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 scifi 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 Glory Road is still very Heinlein in style.The Broken Sword is one of Anderson's comparatively few fantasy novels, this book and Three Hearts and Three Lions are his two most popular fantasy titles 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 pseudoarchaic 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 a 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.I usually prefer theon the nose coversThis 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 heebieBeeGees!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 scifi 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 TL;DR: Very good old school fantasy, well worth a read Anyway, 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. It was a cool spring dark with the moon nearly full, rime glittering on the grass and the stars still hard and bright as in winter The night was very quiet save for the sighing of wind in budding branches, and the world was all sliding shadows and cold white light.Published in 1954, Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword is one of the forgotten giants of early modern fantasy The book remains an astounding influence of several important writers in the genre.Set in medieval England, the book features a vast combination of cultural and religious influences The focus is on the various peoples and creatures of Norse mythology, and as such, this isthan anything a Scandinavian fantasy story, easily explained by Anderson’s Danish blood.To a modern eye, the writing style is archaic, but unfortunately not poetic In other words, it’s old but not gold It’s hardly difficult to read in any way, but the writing is in no way outstanding or impressive.Michael Moorcock praised The Broken Sword as superior to Tolkien Moorcock, with his class grievances and petty jealousy, is rarely to be taken seriously, but since using something to lash out against Tolkien is simply his way of saying that something is good, the endorsement is worth something.For this is definitely a great book More of a historicalmythological fiction novel than a proper fantasy, The Broken Sword still deserves a place of honour in the sacred halls of the fantasy genre. There is a broken sword and there is a broken thing, a changeling, the story's villain There is a man and a woman and both shall be broken as well; love shall bind them and love shall break them There are elves that rape their prisoners and trolls that mourn their lost daughters; Odin disguised as Lucifer and Lucifer coming to mock and offer no succor, even to those who swear fealty There is a White God, bringing change: all shall fear Him There is a wintry saga, cold and bleak: The Broken Sword.A witch smiles in joy at her rat familiar, gleeful at the breaking they have wrought A woman mourns the devastation of her family, longing for death and finding it A story brings together all the legends and myths and races and gods, and breaks them, binds them, breaks them again An author writes of grim destiny in words calm and clear and remorseless, finding the poetry in broken things and the breaking then reshaping of the world A reader read a broken paperback, and marveled at the sublime despair A book sang, from tattered pages came such sad and terrible songs Alas! The Broken Sword: A dark fantasy classic of Norse mythologyOriginally posted at Fantasy LiteraturePoul Anderson’s The Broken Sword (1954) was selected by David Pringle in his Modern Fantasy: The 100 Best Novels, and is highly praised by Michael Moorcock, whose character Elric of Melnibone and his demonpossessed sword Stormbringer are directly inspired by The Broken Sword The audio version is narrated by Bronson Pinchot, who has an amazing vocal range and narrates with passion.To get right to the point, this book is amazing and deserves a much wider readership It’s one of the most powerful, tightlywritten and relentlesslydark high fantasies I’ve ever read It’s chock full of Norse gods, demigods, Vikings, elves, trolls, goblins, sea serpents, evil witches, dark magic, mighty heroes, beautiful maidens, and above all tragedy, doomed love, and implacable fate It taps into the same rich vein of Nordic lore that J.R.R Tolkien did with The Lord of the Rings, but hews much closer to the dark and violent but heroic tone of those earlier sagas.There are no jolly and peaceloving Hobbits smoking pipes here Characters both mortal and otherwise are often cruel, passionate, and ruthless Yet they storyline itself harks back to the most basic and fundamental heroic stories people have told throughout history As such, it feels very mythic and archetypal, and the writing of Anderson is muscular, rich, gritty, and evocative to a degree rarely seen in the bland Tolkienclone fantasy megaseries that have clogged the shelves for many decades In fact, the recent popularity of grimdark fantasy penned by writers like George R.R Martin, Joe Abercrombie, Glen Cook, etc can be seen as readers tiring of the same old formula and wanting a darker,realistic take on fantasy adventure.I see this as part of a broader shift in popular entertainment that coincides with the power of the Internet and online media distribution In the past just a few TV networks and film studios controlled the types of TV programs and movies that were available to the public, but the advent of online film distribution caused an explosion of content, both good and bad, that has allowed for greater creative activity than ever before Perhaps this isapparent in the world of TV, where in the last decade the best writing and programs are drama series like The Sopranos, The Wire, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, House of Cards, Mad Men, Homeland, etc These programs share a common thread of gritty realism, reinventing tired old genres, and a healthy cynicism and dark humor that was lacking in the stale offerings of the traditional networks.The world of The Broken Sword is very complex, and Anderson throws in hundreds of exotic names of ancient tribes, lands, peoples, and faerie creatures that populated Europe many centuries past The effect is to blur the boundaries between the actual Norse, Dane, AngloSaxon, Germanic, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, and English peoples and ancient places with their rich mythology The Aesir (Norse) gods Odin, Thor, Loki make appearances, as do Irish demigods, and there is mention of a fearful new white god, Christ, who is a threat to the elder gods Such is the skill of Anderson that it is impossible to distinguish which elements are fantasy and which are historical He also provides a sense of immensely long history and ancient godlike figures who only rarely venture into the temporal realms of men, yet have active interest in their doings The mix of such a plethora of mythologies in The Broken Sword can be a bit confusing, but the tight focus of the main story always prevents Anderson from getting lost in the infinite potential sidestories that he might have examined if he were writing a multivolume epic to ensure a steady stream of royalties as most epic fantasy writers of recent years have resorted to.The Broken Sword is the story of Skafloc, the human son of Orm the Strong but raised by elves, and the dark changeling Valgard, a halfelf and halftroll substituted for the infant Skafloc as a baby by a capricious elf named Imric This sets in motion a series of tragic events that culminate in massive battle between an army of elves led by Skafloc and an army of trolls led by Valgard There are other mythical creatures and gods involved in the conflict, but the most intimate battles rage in the hearts of Skafloc, who discovers too late that he has unknowingly fallen in love with his sister Freda, and Valgard, who is beguiled by an evil witch into slaying his brothers and parents, which drives him from human society and into the hands of the trolls, with whom he shares blood ties The two become enormously powerful warriors, but at the same time are torn with feelings of guilt, selfloathing, and the inability to take joy in anything other than killing and vengeance After discovering his love for Freda was incestuous, Skafloc seeks a weapon capable of opposing the vast troll armies led by Valgard and his powerful battleaxe nicknamed Brother Slayer Skafloc takes a broken sword embedded with dark and evil magic, which is reforged by the giant who made it It imparts incredible strength and killing ability to the wielder, but must drink blood once it has been drawn, which had tragic consequences.The Broken Sword is one of the few books I’ve read where any page you turn to will yield incredibly vivid images and descriptions, but to give you an idea of the dramatic tone and writing style, here is just one example in the climactic final battle between Skafloc and Valgard:Like a blind man Valgard turned away, wrenching the arrow from his hand He howled, gnawed the rim of his shield, froth at his mouth His axe began to shriek and thunder, striking at all before it He was mad with killing lust Skafloc fought with a bitter flame of cold murder within him, the giant sword was a living fire in his hands Blood and brains spurted, heads rolled on the ground, guts were slippery under his horse’s hooves He fought, he fought in a timeless whirlpool of death, where only the icy lightning workings of his brain were real He scattered death as a sower scatters grain, and wherever he went the troll lines broke Swords blazed under the moon, spears flew, axes smote, metal and men cried their pain The horses reared, trampling, whinnying, their bloodclotted manes flying Elves and trolls died in a storm of weapons and were crushed under the swaying struggle.The Broken Sword made me want to go right back for a second listen, and that’s pretty rare for someone with 400 books on his TBR list It also made me muchcurious to explore the incredibly rich body of classic fantasy tales that inspired it, including the works of E.R Eddison, Lord Dunsany, William Morris, H Rider Haggard, and earlier heroic tales like the Iliad or Beowulf, not to mention the almost limitless mythology and folklore of preChristian Europe So you might consider this book a “gateway drug” that could easily get you hooked on ancient fantastic tales of heroism and adventure Proceed at your own peril, brave warriors. Imric the Elf Earl steals a human baby and leaves a changeling, Valgard, in his place Little does he know the changeling will start the worst war the elves have ever seen But what of Skafloc, the child that was taken, and the broken sword given to him as a baby by the Aesir?I originally picked this up because Michael Moorcock frequently cites it as an influence on his Elric saga Upon reading it, I can see what he means The Broken Sword has a lot of the epic feel of the Elric saga, complete with a huge war at the end, a sword with a mind of its own, and some tragedy.The characters were interesting but not developed all that well You knew from the beginning that Valgard would turn out bad and Skafloc would have to put him down at some point While a lot of the story was predictable, the ending was a surprise.One aspect of the book that I really liked was Anderson's elven culture, muchlike Moorcock's Melniboneans than Tolkien's elves The elves are almost amoral and don't just act like humans with pointy ears They'relike the beautiful yet cruel faeries of some tales.Anderson draws from Norse myth, as well as Irish and English stories, to craft his saga He manages an epic feel that many writers don't achieve in several phonebook sized volumes The two major campaigns both had an end of the world kind of feel to them I'd say that while this isn't the best fantasy I've ever read, it's a must read for fantasy fans due to the influence it's had on the books that have come afterward.