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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.



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!




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.




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?




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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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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