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text SPOILER ALERT! 2018-10-30 16:42
Bloodsong Trilogy by Asa Drake (aka C. Dean Andersson)

I’ve always been an avid reader; a quiet moment to me means a chance to get a chapter or two in.  Back in the 80s while I was in the Marine Corps we had lots of down time on weekends, and thankfully a lot of Marines were into AD&D, so there was that.  Heck- once we even brought our books with us on a week-long field deployment so we could finish a module featuring a vampire named Strahd von Zarovich.  Good times.

 

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I always wonder how much this one would be worth without all my notes marking it up...[/caption]

 

One slow Saturday I went to the PX to find something to read.  I’m a longtime fantasy fan (who isn’t these days, but I’m old so I can stake my claim!) who loves a good hack-n-slash featuring a female protagonist.  Back in the 80s that type of novel was in woefully short supply.  That day I came across two titles that seemed to fit the bill: The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon (also a former Marine- Semper Fi!) & Werebeasts of Hel by Asa Drake (aka C. Dean Andersson- a former Airman, but I won’t hold that against him).

 

Now, as much as I tried to like Moon’s book, I couldn’t.  The titular character was female practically in name only- she was asexual to the point of almost becoming her defining trait and the story plodded along like a broke down mule in knee deep mud.  Even back then I understood the issues with female leads in SF/F and making her a fully-fleshed person with loves, hates, needs & desires would’ve been tricky at best, but it didn’t even seem like there was an effort made there.

 

Then I read Werebeasts of Hel.  

 

Even though it was the third book of the trilogy, there was enough backstory involved so it wasn’t hard to follow.  Most importantly, I was now dying to read the first two.

Built from Norse mythology & history and billed as the “Heavy Metal of Fantasy” by Publisher’s Weekly, all three books even featured cover art by Boris Vallejo!  In the 80s that was pretty much the Seal of Approval!

 

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Starting with Warrior Witch of Hel, the story arc centers upon a woman named Freyadis whose village was raided by the evil sorcerer, King Nidhug, who served Hel, Goddess of Death.   With her husband and infant son killed & her daughter Guthrun taken captive, Freyadis was subjected to various abuses, bound to a tree and left to die, her infant son’s corpse tied to her breast.  Never passing up an opportunity, Hel offered Freyadis a chance to return as an undead Hel warrior if she would pray to her as she died. 

 

Nidhug, of course, has betrayed Hel by stealing a relic of her power called the War Skull for his own ends.  After enduring even more of Nidhug’s depravities- including in gladiatorial combat- and finding her daughter in Helheim, Freyadis- now known as Bloodsong from her arena fights- is tasked by Hel to recover the War Skull and bring Nidhug down in exchange for freedom.  Must’ve been a Tuesday.

 

Along the way Bloodsong finds allies like Huld- an elf-blooded witch in service to Freya, Jalna- a slave unfortunate enough to catch Nidhug’s attention & Tyrulf- the warrior in Nidhug’s army who’s attracted to Jalna.  Bloodsong also has a very nasty surprise waiting for her when she reaches Nidhug’s fortress.

 

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The second book, Death Riders of Hel, picks up a few years later: Guthrun is discovered to be a witch and studies with Huld while Bloodsong and her friends have forged a life in the aftermath.  A new threat arises from Thokk- a Hel-witch determined to both finish what Nidhug started and convert Guthrun to the dark side.  Thanks to her mistress, Thokk has a way of striking at Bloodsong where it’ll hurt her the most.  Bloodsong forms an alliance with a tribe of shapeshifting berserkers and is willing to pay any price to save Guthrun from becoming a Hel-witch.  But will the lure of darkness be too great for Gudrun to overcome, especially when being lured by a familiar presence?

 

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Werebeasts of Hel takes place years later, but unfolds much the same way.  Years of peace after defeating Hel, life goes on, friends & lovers… then, BOOM!  Third time’s the charm, eh?  An old adversary returns to lead Hel's armies- one who knows Bloodsong's weaknesses and she's hard pressed to stand against him alone.  This time Odin himself provides a little divine assistance and Bloodsong has to forge an alliance with an altogether new breed of creatures to help stop Hel from conquering them all.

 

The best thing about these books is they are what they are.  Nothing fancy or elaborate- it's all straightforward, fast-paced, in-your-face adventure: here's the situation, now let's do something about it!  It’s a gloriously grim & gory Nordic hack-n-slash with good doses of horror and a few splashes of romance tossed in for variety.  This is a bleak, icy world teetering on the edge of apocalypse.  Death lurks around every turn, defeat is all but certain, friends are lost, sacrifices appear pointless and at times it takes all the heroes have just to keep putting one foot in front of the other. 

 

It’s fucking great!!!  My copies of these are lovingly well-worn for good reason.  I’m glad I found ebook copies to help save them even more wear and tear.

 

Now I’ll admit the omnibus edition doesn’t thrill me at all.  Though the alterations fleshed a lot of things out it was also watered down and a lot of things were added that just flat out confused me.  But it’ll probably do for you if you haven’t read the originals.  If you can find the originals or individual ebooks, get ‘em!  You won’t be sorry!

 

4.5/5 stars

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review 2016-09-09 15:10
Warrior Witch: Malediction Trilogy Book Three - Danielle L. Jensen

It's been a minute since I've binged an entire trilogy in one sitting. I'm glad it was this one. 

The snark, the complicated scheming, the wit, the war and the love and friendship. It draws you in, and you ride the adventure all the way to one of THE BEST ENDINGS I've ever had the pleasure of reading. 

With so many series having rushed ends or ends that simply fall flat of expectation, the final turn of the page in Warrior Witch, had me feeling nothing but complete comfort and having no regret of immersion in Trollus.

A great series.  

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review 2016-07-27 23:47
Warrior Witch (The Malediction Trilogy #3) by Danielle L. Jensen
Warrior Witch: Malediction Trilogy Book Three - Danielle L. Jensen

Warrior Witch is the final book in The Malediction Trilogy. With the witch Anushka dead and trolls finally freed, the isle is at war.  Tristan and Cécile, are finally together again after being separated but they have no time to celebrate. They quickly find themselves fighting a war on two fronts and if that were not enough, each of them owe a life debt to the fae.  Somehow, they must find away to stop Tristan's violently insane younger brother from claiming the throne, as they try to stay one step ahead of the fae, who clearly have been playing the long game.

Cécile has been through much since we were first introduced to her in Stolen Songbird. My first complaint with her character was the she turned out to be the typical spunky agent and this still has not changed.  I am well aware that this book YA and therefore a younger protagonist might make mistakes that a more mature one might not but I don't think it's unreasonable to expect some character growth, of which Cécile had absolutely none.  Cécile constantly vacillated between wallowing in self pity due to the consequences of her actions and in turn blaming others and shirking responsibility altogether.  What was perhaps must irritating about Cécile was her absolute refusal to listen to others. The trolls on her side of the war were experienced and trained and time after time, she ignored their advice to do things her own way which inevitably further complicated whatever situation she was trying to extricate herself from.

The thing that bothered me most about Cécile as a spunky agent is that her actions didn't even make sense.  Who exactly decides to sneak into the enemies lair in the middle of the night without bothering to inform friends and family of the risk they are taking? Cécile that's who.  She knew damn well that cooler heads would have forced her to think through her actions and so she ran off instead with a half formed idea.  When called upon her action, Cécile didn't even seem to want to acknowledge that her friends and family were terrified that she had died.  She's almost bitter about having to take her lumps for their rightful anger.

Warrior Witch is filled with action which for me is a bit of a turn off.  I don't enjoy reading battle scene after battle scene and the writing in these portions of the book was far from descriptive enough for me to be drawn in.  Instead, it felt like the action was drawing out the inevitable conclusion of the story.  There just wasn't enough meta holding Warrior Witch together for me, even with the introduction of the fae and an explanation as to how they become trolls and trapped on earth. The introduction of the fae should have added something special to this story and yet, I felt at least the Winter Queen was far too easily defeated to be of much interest.  If that were not enough, solving the mystery of how the Trolls became trapped on earth on the first place occurred in what felt like a blink of the eye. How is it that the Trolls and witches have been trying for centuries to deal with the iron poisoning which trapped the Trolls on earth and Cécile was able to put together a little spell in a New York minute? I understand that Cécile is the super special chosen one but watching her vacillate between an utter wreck and then completely competent threw off the flow of the story.


For all its faults, I read through Warrior Witch rather quickly.  I kept hoping that it would return to the former brilliance of Stolen Songbird, only to be bitterly disappointed.  At least part of the problem is that Tristan and Cécile spent so much time apart and on top of that, for a time, Tristan used magic to shut down his feelings so he wouldn't be tempted to rush to her aid.  This series really needed the banter between Cécile and Tristan to be at its best. I kept reading in spite of what was wrong because I wanted to see how Jensen ended this trilogy.

 

 

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Source: www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2016/07/warrior-witch-malediction-trilogy-3-by.html
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text 2015-07-08 04:58
An Update on the Frozen World of C. Dean Andersson

(Reblogged from Illuminite Caliginosus)

 

My previous post was about one of my all-time favorite fantasy series- the Hel Trilogy- written by C. Dean Andersson under the pen name Asa Drake.  I was very happy to find out that Mr. Andersson has just released an omnibus edition of the trilogy called Bloodsong! Hel x3- newly revised and expanded with new chapters- as well as working on a new installment to the series: Valkyries of Hel. Terry Ervin interviewed him about everything he's been up to in recent years, which you can find here.

 

A review of the omnibus is at this site, and includes links to two anthologies which include crossover appearances by Bloodsong one of which is with, of all characters, Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion (not Elric).

 

Feel free to check out Andersson's webpage for more info on this, his other works and links to his previous blogs.

 

Bloodsong on Facebook

 

Hel x3 on Goodreads

 

Hel x3 on Amazon

 

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text 2015-07-08 04:52
Bloodsong & Freedom!- The Heavy Metal of Fantasy

(Repost from Illuminite Caliginosus)

 

Going through my bookshelves to see what I wanted to drop off at Goodwill, I came across what I can only classify as some old friends. Back in 1986 I was chillin' in the book section of the PX at the Naval Air Station in Millington TN, looking for something to read. Hadn't done Lord of the Rings yet, thought the Hobbit was slow and Interview with the Vampire was really fucking boring. Thankfully I stumbled across what was dubbed at the time as 'the Heavy Metal of Fantasy'.

 

 

Bloodsong and Freedom! Bloodsong and Freedom!

 

Written by C. Dean Andersson under the pen name Asa Drake, the trilogy chronicles the tale of a norse woman, Freyadis, whose entire village was slain by a warlord in the service of Nidhug, a mad sorcerer king devoted to the goddess Hel. At least until he started trying to usurp Hel's power.

 

At Hel's insistance, Freyadis spent her last moments praying to the death goddess, which helped her return to the world as a Hel-warrior, now named Bloodsong, to strike back at Nidhug and free her friends and loved ones, especially her daughter. You see, Freyadis was pregnant when she was killed and her daughter was actually born in Hel's domain, making her rather attuned to the magics of the Underworld.

 

Unbeknownst to Freyadis- now called Bloodsong- her firstborn toddler, Thorbjorn, who'd been killed in the raid, had been resurrected and matured by an evil Hel-witch (is there any other kind?) named Thokk to further the plans that Nidhug had disrupted. Now called Lokith, he's a Hel-witch in his own right and possesses vampiric tendencies. Thokk also seeks to corrupt Bloodsong's daughter, Guthrun, whose unusual birth could make her a very powerful Hel-witch as well.

 

The finale wraps up with Lokith's return to once again strike back at his mother and her allies in an attempt to secure Hel's power. This time Bloodsong receives a bit of divine assistance from a god who likes to keep an eye out.

 

Along the way Bloodsong assembles the usual band of allies, including a Freya-witch named Huld; Jalna the swordswoman; Tyrulf, a sellsword who used to work for Nidhug and a band of berserker/lycanthropes led by Ulfhild- baddest bitch of the bunch. Tack on some amazing cover art by the incomparable Boris Vallejo, and what else do ya need?

 

By no means is this any kind of introspective, angsty, soul-searching literature. It's a light, gory romp to amuse and engage your imagination- and damn if'n it don't! What also makes it work is the way Norse Mythology is so well incorporated into the tale; if you've any familiarity with the topic you've already recognized some of the names used. The depictions of frost giants, the dark despair of the Underworld, Bloodsong's trials with the shapeshifters, all come together to shape an icy world teetering on the verge of apocalypse. My copies of these are very lovingly well-worn for a reason.

 

It's times like these that I truly appreciate growing up when I did. :) While you can find pretty cheap copies of these on Amazon, a casual glance at eBay shows them going at a premium: one seller wanted $120 for a copy of one of these! The late 70s/80s was the Golden Age for Fantasy/Sci-Fi, a true renaissance. Batman, X-Men, Spiderman, Superman, Sword of Shannara, the Belgariad, the Avengers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Judge Dredd, D&D and other RPGs- it all started coming together right then. It was when geekdom became firmly established as a viable sub-culture and gave rise to everything considered cool and mainstream now. And I firmly believe that this series is one of the foundation stones that helped it along.

 

Amazon: Warrior Witch of Hel

 

Amazon: Death Riders of Hel

 

Amazon: Werebeasts of Hel

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