Going through my bookshelves to see what I wanted to drop off at Goodwill, I came across what I can only classify as some old friends.
Back in 1986 I was chillin’ in the book section of the PX at the Naval Air Station in Millington TN, looking for something to read. Hadn’t done Lord of the Rings yet, thought the Hobbit was slow and Interview with the Vampire was really fucking boring. Thankfully I stumbled across what was dubbed at the time as ‘the Heavy Metal of Fantasy’.
Written by C. Dean Andersson under the pen name Asa Drake, the trilogy chronicles the tale of a norse woman, Freyadis, whose entire village was slain by a warlord in the service of Nidhug, a mad sorcerer king devoted to the goddess Hel. At least until he started trying to usurp Hel’s power. At Hel’s insistance, Freyadis spent her last moments praying to the death goddess, which helped her return to the world as a Hel-warrior, now named Bloodsong, to strike back at Nidhug and free her friends and loved ones, especially her daughter. Freyadis was pregnant when she was killed and her child was actually born in Hel’s domain, making her rather attuned to the magics of the Underworld. Unbeknownst to Freyadis- now called Bloodsong- her firstborn toddler, Thorbjorn, who’d been killed in the raid, had been resurrected and matured by an evil Hel-witch (is there any other kind?) named Thokk to further the plans that Nidhug had disrupted. Now called Lokith, he’s a Hel-witch in his own right and possesses vampiric tendencies. Thokk also seeks to corrupt Bloodsong’s daughter, Guthrun, whose unusual birth could make her a very powerful Hel-witch as well. The finale wraps up with Lokith’s return to once again strike back at his mother and her allies in an attempt to secure Hel’s power. This time Bloodsong receives a bit of divine assistance from a god who likes to keep an eye out.
Along the way Bloodsong assembles the usual band of allies, including a Freya-witch named Huld; Jalna the swordswoman; Tyrulf, a sellsword who used to work for Nidhug and a band of berserker/lycanthropes led by Ulfhild- baddest bitch of the bunch. Tack on some amazing cover art by the incomparable Boris Vallejo, and what else do ya need?
By no means is this any kind of introspective, angsty, soul-searching literature. It’s a light, gory romp to amuse and engage your imagination- and damn if’n it don’t! What also makes it work is the way nordic mythology is so well incorporated into the tale; if you’ve any familiarity with the topic you’ve already recognized some of the names used. The depictions of frost giants, the dark despair of the Underworld, Bloodsong’s trials with the shapeshifters, all come together to shape an icy world teetering on the verge of apocalypse. My copies of these are very lovingly well-worn for a reason.
It’s times like these that I truly appreciate growing up when I did. 🙂 While you can find pretty cheap copies of these on Amazon, a casual glance at eBay shows them going at a premium: one seller wanted $120 for a copy of one of these! The late 70s/80s was the Golden Age for Fantasy/Sci-Fi, a true renaissance. Batman, X-Men, Spiderman, Superman, Sword of Shannara, the Belgariad, the Avengers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Judge Dredd, D&D and other RPGs- it all started coming together right then. It was when geekdom became firmly established as a viable sub-culture and gave rise to everything considered cool and mainstream now. And I firmly believe that this series is one of the foundation stones that helped it along.