The Best Norse Fantasy in the Nine Worlds –
*This is a more detailed repeat of a talk on Norse Fantasy that I gave at the Nine Worlds Geek Conference, 2018.*
What is your poison?
Many readers will have their favourite or preferred genre when it comes to books. It may be a well established genre such as Crime, Romance, Horror. For me personally, it is what I guess you could call an ’emerging genre’.
An ’emerging genre’ in this instance is a genre that is relatively new to the scene, bends/ breaks the rules or even combines elements, genres or themes to create a whole new sub genre. For example the wave of Vampire Romances that invaded bookstores after Twilight took off. I shudder to suggest another example being that of the Fifty Shades of Grey which introduced highly sexual novels to the world.
The emerging genre which has captured my heart, money and dominated my bookshelves for many years, is what I refer to as Norse Fantasy. (Also closely related to Supernatural Fantasy genre).
Now what do I mean by Norse, I hear you ask? Do I mean Vikings?
Well, kind of. Vikings as a culture and historical civilisation DID exist, therefore they are quite rightly often found in the Historical Fiction genre. But you can find Vikings within a Norse Fantasy novel and one of the reasons is their faith system, the legends, the gods, the heroes, the villains and most importantly, the magic or seidr (the more accurate term) For it is the magic in the ‘What if the gods were real? Could you imagine if Thor really did come down and save New York? Picture Freya was a SuperStar Model? Or Loki running for President and WINNING!?’. The magic and these questions, these scenarios are what often form the backdrop and influence the type of setting and time of Norse Fantasy novels.
I have been passionate, near obsessed, with anything to do with the Vikings as a historical cultural people since discovering a love of historical fiction with Bernard Cornwell’s series The Last Kingdom. It was whilst exploring the historical world of the Vikings that I first encountered tales of; Odin, Thor, Freya, Loki, Giants and more. It left me wanting to know more. So, I started raiding my college library for books on Norse Mythology. And thus I discovered so many stories fell in love with them all.
Give me more!
So you can perhaps imagine my utter delight when I learned of ‘Runemarks’ by Joanne Harris – a fantasy featuring the Norse gods in a parallel world where Ragnarok had actually happened and only a few gods survived afterwards. I immediately bought it upon release, as a result I have been a Norse Fantasy addict ever since.
The thing you must understand is that for me, at least, Runemarks was the first book to really crack open the Norse Fantasy genre for the masses. There may well have been others out there but I wasn’t aware of them growing up and with Joanne Harris’s profile and her own clear passion for the Norse mythology, Runemarks was a hit with readers, both those familiar with the legends and those who weren’t. I am very pleased to say that more and more titles and authors have grown the Norse Fantasy genre ever since, and I have done my best to find and read as many of them as I can.
To date I have read 101 on my Goodreads shelf: befriend me at Soulchaserbecky.
If I was to provide you with a review of every single title this blog post would take a whole day to read! Here is the link to my Norse Fantasy shelf if you wish to skip ahead, dive straight in and pick on to add to your to-read list:
Let’s get down to Norse business
What if you want a story about Loki causing mischief? Or fancy a tale of Valkyries? Or fancy a book that introduces you to the whole pantheon?
Read on dear reader, read on.
I am going to give you a whistle-stop tour of the 7 key categories that I have found Norse Fantasy novels fall into.
- Their place Before/ After Ragnarok
- Time and Place – Blended, Fantastical or Alternative World setting
- The Pantheon
- Gods, Mortals and Demi-Gods
- Animals, Monsters and More
- Magic, Curses, and Seidr
- PG, YA and 18+ Rating
Over the series, I will give you a few recommendations and suggestions for those categories. Hopefully this will help get you started on your own Norse journey! If you have any suggestions on what we should include let us know!