Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Book Review: "Campaign of the Gods" by Mike Evers

I somewhat recently finished reading The Hopfield Tales: Campaign of the Gods by Mike Evers, having picked it up alongside several other (digital) books during a SmashWords promotion, so I thought I'd use the opportunity to write a quick review of it to share on my blog (in its core, I also put it on the book's SW page; this one is a bit more elaborate, but may contain minor spoilers). Though listed as children's Fantasy, the book promises time-travelling vikings and a battle against the forces of Hel, but can it live up to the expectations inspired by such concepts?

To a degree, it certainly can. While perhaps not the most epic of Fantasy stories, Campaign of the Gods is definitely one of a kind. Using wit, humour and action (as far as one can get away with it in a children's book and perhaps a little bit further), the author forges a unique blend of a viking myth and mundane modern Britain that does not take itself too seriously. The characters are likable enough and opportunities for portraying the absurdity of vikings in the modern day "Kingdom of York" are cheerfully seized, and the interactions of the Norse deities in the frame story were a welcome addition (but could have come into play a bit more). Sadly, I felt that the initially very promising plot began to stagger towards the end - not to the point of becoming entirely unenjoyable, but a slight decline in quality was apparent and the action seemed to lose focus a bit. Once the premise is set up, the book does not offer many new surprises, further hampered by an ending that feels like not much was really accomplished. Another thing that bothers me is the wolf Fenrir, who, after his dramatic introduction, seems to spend the entirety of the book not really doing much. More could and should have been done with the setup at the end, but I felt that the book ran out of steam towards the climax, which is a shame.

Something to be noted is the book's educational aspect; every chapter begins with one or two appropriately concise paragraphs about a historical or mythical concept or personage related to vikings, and a few other things are explained in the text itself. While there isn't much new to learn for someone moderately versed in viking lore and some liberties were taken with the in-story norsemen (notably the infamous horned helmets, which are popularly connected with vikings, but were probably never worn by them; it's a shame because the book could have taken the opportunity to clear up this common misconception), it does make for an interesting gateway to the viking world.

(If you missed the initial link and don't want to scroll up, this book can be found on SmashWords here.)

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