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The Hammer and the Horn by Michael Jan Friedman
Review by Drew Bittner
Crazy 8 Press  ISBN/ITEM#: B00ED0J2PC
Date: 02 September 2013

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Vidar Volund is an artist in New York City. Unfortunately, some old enemies of his family come to call, and Vidar must plunge back into a world he left long ago: the world of the Norse gods. Because Vidar is kin to Thor...and some enemies never forget.

During a showing of his artwork, in an effort to revive his flagging career, Vidar Volund has a chance encounter with an old flame that doesn't go all that well. That night, he's tormented by a dream of his half-brother Thor, only to wake to a phone call begging for his help.

Thus is Vidar dragged into a struggle involving his nephew Modi, the missing hammer of Thor and a blind god whose disgrace triggered a cataclysmic war. Vidar is armed with a few relics of his own, but even so, he is reluctant to put his trust in any of his kinfolk. Traveling to Asgard produces nothing but frustration, so he must return to Midgard (that is, Earth) in order to find the answers he needs.

As he delves into the affairs of the Aesir (that is, the Norse gods) more deeply, however, he learns that this is anything but a trifling problem. If events are allowed to unfold as they stand, there could be a true Ragnarok that will erase the gods--and mankind--from the world forever.

And it might be Vidar, largely forgotten by humanity, who keeps that from happening...if he can figure out who to trust, who to champion, and who to battle to the death.

Michael Jan Friedman's first novel, released in 1985, was in many ways a precursor to what we call urban fantasy today. More than a story of "ordinary person falls into magical world", Vidar is a god living among humans in contemporary New York, pursuing a non-godly career and suffering the same problems as many of us: professional troubles, a lost love, and so on. That he is drawn once more into the affairs of immortals is a gateway to the fantastic, but he is largely regaining familiarity with his divinity, not discovering it for the first time. That slight difference sends this story down a path that was unusual for 1985, and yet Friedman's writing is such that the story is just as strong today.

His Norse gods, from Vali to Hod to Hoenir and more, are larger than life in some ways, but have the same family conflicts mortals know all too well. With Odin gone, the Asgardians are somewhat rudderless, but nevertheless rally when confronted with what seems to be yet another threat to their golden realm. In reality, Vidar has to delve deep into family lore and learn more about the players if he wants to get to the bottom of a mystery.

In his foreword, Friedman shares the story of how this book came to be, along with its unexpected sequels. Here's hoping that he has the opportunity to continue this story. You can find it available on Kindle. It's good to see works like these returning to a new audience.


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