It has been my pleasure once again to get a sneak preview of a Reluctant Hero novel. This third book in the trilogy brings together characters and themes from the earlier books for an exciting and satisfying conclusion.
The story is based around the idea of Ragnarok – the final destiny of the gods – from Norse mythology. As in the previous novels in the series, the Norse/Germanic gods play a central role, interacting with and supporting the action on the human plane. Among the human characters there are heroes and villains. The heroes, especially, are far from simplistic cardboard cutouts; some of the most endearing are also fatally flawed. And the gods themselves are mortal – limited in their knowledge and power; they are subject to their fates as are men.
While the story is based around tales and values from Germanic heathenry, its themes are relevant to other world-views as well. If you are familiar with the concept of karma, for example, you will see it played out in this story. Ideas and ideals that are common to many cultures – such as justice and loyalty – are portrayed. The chilling potential consequences of ignoring those ideals are also portrayed, sometimes graphically.
As with the previous books in the trilogy, this is a novel, a work of fiction. It is not a retelling of the Norse myth, and deviates from the pre-Christian lore at times. But the basic framework from the lore is there, fleshed out with the sort of how-it-might-happen detail that brings it to life. What would happen if there was an extended winter? How would men react?
There are subtle warnings about what could happen if the earth’s balance is lost, and there are observations on the dangers of complacency in happy, well adjusted societies, as well as about the consequences of overweening pride and greed.
Like the first and second novels in the trilogy, while Ragnarok has a moral point, explores philosophical themes, and brings in some interesting bits of real history, it is above all a lively and entertaining read.
Karen M. P. Carlson