Letters from Midgard
"The Lost Sun": A Book Review
In this version of the U.S.A., every city, town, and village is equipped for holmgang, and the use of that equipment is, if not commonplace, not very unusual, either. As a result, one is careful about what one says, and how one says it. One of the things I admired about this book was the effort the author put into understanding the consequences of her world's morality. If she had aimed at a more mature audience, she could have carried this aspect much further.
We occasionally meet "biblist" characters. These are a minority, and seen as odd. Their language implies that Baldur is their One God, but no one quite believes them. One or two other characters show some bigotry toward them, illustrating the concept of Dominant Privilege from a different angle.
The mythical content will raise eyebrows now and then. For example, Fenris is female in this story, spending most of her time in the form of a buxom and horny young woman. She talks about the nature of her constraints and her relationship with Tyr, neither of which follow any traditional understanding. The author has a degree in Gender Studies, so I was not surprised by this kind of legerdemain. What did surprise me was her conflation of Freya and Hela. It might be polite for me to say that I couldn't find any way to make that work for me. It would be more accurate to say that it made me want to throw things. And at least one aspect of the ending will probably give traditional Heathens some heartburn, too.
I do hope that this book is not any young person's introduction to Heathen myths, just as I hope that Marvel comics are not. When I hear a piece of music, the first version I hear always seems to be the "right" one to me forever after. I was (mostly) able to enjoy the alternative aspects of this book, because I know what the real material has to say, and I can grant an author some license. I don't have to rewind my understanding later to repair damage done by that author.
Otherwise, I thought the mythical content was well done for where the author needed it to go. I started this book expecting not to like it, not to finish it. Now that I am done with it, I have to say that, if you can get past the Sturm-und-Drang of the main character, it projects a good Heathen atmosphere. Among other things, the word honor comes up more than once, and it is taken seriously.
A recent issue of Hillsdale College's Imprimis newsletter has an article entitled "The Case for Good Taste in Children's Books," by Meghan Cox Gurdon. It is more about Young Adult books than books for children. I suggest that you read it. If you also read The Lost Sun, you will better understand why.
I am not saying The Lost Sun is a bad book, or that you should not read it. If you know the Norse myths and you are in the book's target audience, you may like it very much. Of more interest to me is what you may get out of it.
Sturm-und-Drang came up a few paragraphs back. This term was introduced to me by my History of Theater professor in college. He said this was the name of a genre of German drama that was popular "for about six weeks back around 1879 or so. The name means Storm and Stress. The typical S&D playwright was a seventeen-year-old male. The usual topic was patricide." The genre may have been popular for about six weeks, but its name lives on, and is useful.
Steven Thor Abell is a storyteller and the author of Days in Midgard: A Thousand Years On, a collection of original modern stories based on Heathen myths. As of 2013, he is also Steersman of the High Rede of The Troth.
Abell's column, "Letters from Midgard," is published on occasional Thursdays on the Pagan channel. Subscribe via email or RSS.