Harbinger by Ian H. McKinley
Welcome to the North, where the cold kills as often than the raiders.
This fantasy is not one of the traditional sorts, instead relying on depth of character, subtlety not limited to original poetry, and magical realism that brings home a very Nordic feel without going the Skyrim route.
Indeed, it's the depth of the characters, the complex storytelling, the tragedy, pathos, and the realistic bloodshed that drew me in. No massive magics but plenty of mysticism. More adventure rather than a reliance on the "four children of destiny" setup.
I had a great time reading this. The text picks up and flies with all kinds of naturalistic twists after a head-first plunge into an almost traditional Epic Poem listing of the names of gods and people in the first parts of the novel.
I'll be honest, it almost knocked me senseless. Fortunately, it lets up and tells the story soon enough and, after the fact, I like the way it DID freak me out. At the time, however, I was almost overwhelmed with the strange names and the richness of the world-building information. No worries, though. :)
I'm going to head on over to the next novel in the Northern Fire right away. :)
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