In March 1920 Icelandic days are short and cold, but the nights are long.
Welcome to one of the January 30th stops on the blog tour for Storytellers by Bjørn Larssen with Rachel’s Random Resources. Be sure to follow the rest of the tour for more reviews and exclusive content from the author!
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About the Book
by Bjørn Larssen
Published 28 March 2019
Genre: Historical Fiction, Suspense
Page Count: 292
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In March 1920 Icelandic days are short and cold, but the nights are long. For most, on those nights, funny, sad, and dramatic stories are told around the fire. But there is nothing dramatic about Gunnar, a hermit blacksmith who barely manages to make ends meet. He knows nobody will remember his existence – they already don’t. All he wants is peace, the company of his animals, and a steady supply of his medication. Sometimes he wonders what it would feel like to have a story of his own. He’s about to find out.
Sigurd – a man with a plan, a broken ankle, and shocking amounts of money – won’t talk about himself, but is happy to tell a story that just might get Gunnar killed. The blacksmith’s other “friends” are just as eager to write him into stories of their own – from Brynhildur who wants to fix Gunnar, then marry him, his doctor who is on the precipice of calling for an intervention, The Conservative Women of Iceland who want to rehabilitate Gunnar’s “heathen ways” – even that wicked elf has plans for the blacksmith.
As his defenses begin to crumble, Gunnar decides that perhaps his life is due for a change – on his own terms. But can he avoid the endings others have in mind for him, and forge his own?
My Rating: 5 Stars
Consider liking my review on Goodreads.
I was granted complimentary access to Storytellers as part of my participation in a blog tour for this title with Rachel’s Radom Resources. Thank you to all involved in affording me this opportunity! My thoughts are my own and my review is honest.
I’m going to lay all my cards on the table here at the beginning. I don’t normally read Saga. I’m sure in every other multiverse out there this book hasn’t shown up on my radar yet. The cover (first edition cover with the green northern lights above a cabin at night, for reference in case it gets a redesign) is gorgeous and might have drawn my eyes to linger a second longer while browsing shelves but it would not have compelled me to pick it up. It looks like a memoir cover. I do have a soft spot for Nordic theming in fiction but this title and cover don’t give me any strong hints of that (this cover could be Nunavut, Canada.) With all of that said, I read Bjørn’s more recent title Creation (Why Odin Drinks #1) during its premiere tour last year and I’ve chatted with Bjørn here and there on various bookish Discords we both frequent, so when a tour opportunity came up for another of his titles I didn’t even need to know what the synopsis said. I had to read it. There’s something to be said about an author whose writing you connect with in a way that makes you pick up anything else they write without any information other than their name on the cover, and there aren’t many names on that list for me. I can think of big-name favourites of mine with decades-long publishing careers whose catalogue I’ve only scratched the surface of because I only seek out a particular series. That’s not the case here. Why Odin Drinks will probably be the jump on it right this second series, but I can confidently say I want to pick up every title with Bjørn’s name on the byline.
Storytellers is beautifully written. Boiled down to its essence, it’s about people running from, defying, and conforming to the society they live in. It’s slow, it covers a lengthy period of time, and most scenes bleed one into the next without a great deal of exciting action, and yet it’s absolutely captivating. It features a bit of unreliable narrator flavouring, a rather dramatic narrative shift part way through, and two initially separate plotlines that become intertwined. This feels like Fitzgerald (Gatsby) storytelling, but more subtle and delicate. I’m glad this didn’t exist and come across my desk a decade ago because I wouldn’t have appreciated it yet. Unless Saga and/or classics have always been your thing, I think this is the sort of book you have to have a bit of life experience to really understand and respect how good it is. Bjørn understand what it is to be so utterly, imperfectly human in a world that wants to break you, and to struggle until you find the strength and reason to live in a way that makes you truly happy even if you have to break the rules, and he has turned that understanding into a novel that needs to be on every 30+ adult’s reading list at some point.
I realize I haven’t said much in the way of specifics on characters or plot but I think the official synopsis paired with the top reviews suggested on Goodreads do a good enough job of that. This is one of those titles that made me sit in front of my laptop and procrastinate for hours when it was time to write the review because I was truly at a loss for words in a good way. If this is your pet genre then absolutely pick this book up right now, but even if it isn’t, give it a try.
About the Author
Bjørn Larssen is a Norse heathen made in Poland, but mostly located in a Dutch suburb, except for his heart which he lost in Iceland. Born in 1977, he self-published his first graphic novel at the age of seven in a limited edition of one, following this achievement several decades later with his first book containing multiple sentences and winning awards he didn’t design himself. His writing is described as ‘dark’ and ‘literary’, but he remains incapable of taking anything seriously for more than 60 seconds.
Bjørn has a degree in mathematics and has worked as a graphic designer, a model, a bartender, and a blacksmith (not all at the same time). His hobbies include sitting by open fires, dressing like an extra from Vikings, installing operating systems, and dreaming about living in a log cabin in the north of Iceland. He owns one (1) husband and is owned by one (1) neighbourhood cat.
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