“Gods make lousy parents.”
Well, I finally get to write a review of one of the most highly touted fantasy books of 2020, “Children”, Book One of “The Ten Worlds” by the marvelous Bjorn Larssen.
I must admit, I had so much anticipation building to read this book, and it was so hyped to me by friends, I did have some mild concern of a potential letdown. But no!!! The book was even more spectacular than advertised.
You know a book is going to be great when, not ten pages from the front cover, you are laughing hysterically at the index! This index contains a ribald, hilarious character list that includes all the places in Larssen’s (Nine out of Ten) Worlds and denotes the various Gods with a brief description of their powers, roles, and lineage. Larssen’s droll wit is on full display here, and it was certainly a precursor of things to come.
That said, “Children” is by no means a comedic look at Norse mythology. While there is both light and grim humour aplenty in the book, it is overall a poignant and violently compelling read that is destined to haunt you, especially with some of the themes and concepts explored. “Children” is a book, for me, first and foremost about trauma, callousness, abandonment, and loss. It is those parts of the book that will cause the reader to grimace, weep, but ultimately be entirely satisfied with the read.
Reader beware: heed the author’s warning at the start of the book that “Children” may potentially induce some triggers, due to the representations of violence of a sexual, physical, and emotional nature displayed in the novel. Additionally, even the consensual sex is graphic, but not gratuitous in any way, and there are many very tender moments interspersed with the more explicit love scenes.
Yet, the book is by no means bereft of love, courage, and thankfully, hope for the future. Larssen is a master of initially punching the reader in the gut with sadness and futility in one scene then leaving us with the expectation of something much more positive and optimistic to come in the next.
The narrative of the book centres around the eponymous “Children”, of which there are two. One is the foster child Maya, who is a sorceress, born of mortal parents. Yet Maya is an orphan, and raised by the duo of the ravishing, calculating, and shallow Goddess Freya – Goddess of Love – and her lover-brother Freyr, God of sex and fertility. The second is the god-man-child Magni, who is the son of the legendary Thor, champion of Asgard and essentially chief general / battle-commander of the Gods.
Maya and Magni are very different characters, yet their commonality is plain. Both are compassionate, courageous, and determined to forge their own way in the world, and not be anything like their divine parents. Their story will touch the reader, and you cheer for them at every turn, even in the face of seemingly inescapable doom, wrought by the capricious gods, especially their own parents. They are amazing, memorable characters, extremely well fleshed out by Larssen, and the best part of the book for me, but there was so much more to absolutely adore about “Children”.
Fans of Norse / Slavic legend will love this book! All the familiar deities and heroes that will excite and mystify, populate the universe of “Children”. Loki, Odin, Frigg, Heimdall, Tyr, and more loom larger than life on the novel’s pages – they are gods, after all. Yet Larssen’s uncanny ability to depict the horrible foibles and sins of the gods, and their cruel disregard for humankind – even their own children, save when those children suit their objectives – really makes the story incredible. The gods as depicted by Larssen are just fallible super-beings who are often far less morally superior to their human offspring and subjects.
In the opening scenes, the famous magical war-hammer of Thor, called Mjolnir, is stolen. Maya is involved, and eventually she encounters Magni. Without spoiling things: trickery, chaos, and catastrophe ensues. Larssen’s beautifully emotive prose, perfect pacing, and jarring scenes make the book impossible to put down, and for days, when life forced interruptions on my reading time, all I could think of was getting back to “Children”.
In this case, words have failed me, and less is more when it comes to praising the masterpiece that is “Children.” I cannot say enough positive about this book. It is truly one of the best books I have read all year, amongst a lot of fantastic books. “Children” is sublime, and Larssen is an astounding author, one to watch as he ascends to glory in the ranks of those who pen fantasy fiction. Highly, highly recommended! Bjorn, please bring on “Land”, the next installment in the series, as fast as you can!!!