The Broken Sword
Dark gritty fantasy the way it's meant to be: violent, brutal, mythical, and supremely well written. Much has been made about the recent grimdark movement, with much credit being given to authors like Martin and Cook for their role in it. But Poul Anderson is one of the original gritty fantasy works, before such was even acknowledged as an artistic and literary movement. Poul Anderson, an established author in the genre, has never received the modern acclaim her rightfully deserved. Anderson's best work was The Broken Sword, a book that draws very heavily on Norse myth along with western myths and Greek myth. Here, you see a mixing of Vikings-like cultures, trolls, capricious Viking gods, and elves. There's a hell of a lot to like here: action and adventure, love and betrayal, sorrow and joy and all packed into a short novel that moves at supersonic speed. The whole premise is itself one big tragedy a human and an elf are switched at birth, each growing up in the other's stead, living a different life, and finding they don't at all fit in and longing for what's been missing. Of course, things go sour for everyone involved. This story at its core one grand tragedy from the start to end. One of the more interesting and, beneath it all, complex reads in the genre and a book that few people seem to know about. The villains, particularly, are complex and flawed their actions dastardly but completely understandable. They do bad, but you empathize with the why. If you love Nordic myth, you can't do better than this fantasy classic it's really some of the best Nordic-inspired fantasy in the genre. The key elements of Norse legend are all here in this book: super human heroes who are fated to die tragically; mythical creatures such as dwarves; elves, trolls, and gods all who clash with humans and each other who populate a harsh, icy world; heroes and villains who all motivated by hatred and love; and capricious gods manipulating events and humanity for their own oblique reasoning.