Sunday, January 19, 2014

Bloodsong Hel x 3 by Dean Andersson (Asa Drake) - review by S.E.

Bloodsong - Hel X 3Bloodsong - Hel X 3 by C. Dean Andersson
S.E.Lindberg rating: 4 of 5 stars

An entertaining gateway to Hell, and toward darker fiction

History and Style: The three books combined in Bloodsong! — Hel X 3 were written within ~1.5 yrs (1985-86). C. Dean Andersson (aka Asa Drake) was motivated to make a fun horror series on quick timing. The result was easily digestible horror / fantasy, all rooted in Viking lore. The trilogy includes: 1) Warrior Witch of Hell; 2) Death Riders of Hell; and 3) Werebeasts of Hel.

The concepts and setting really carry the story: a reanimated mother is out to save her unborn daughter from the Goddess Hel. This more than compensates for the dialogue which relies heavily on characters broadcasting their intentions. Its simplistic tone and fast pace is appropriate for young-adult novels, but its abundance of mature scenes makes it more suitable for adults (there are many heroines who continually find themselves stripped naked, chained, and tortured). This is highly recommended for epic/high fantasy readers looking for darker fiction. It would work well as a "gateway drug" for those introduced to fantasy via Tolkien, but are now looking for gritty fare.

Bloodsong and Freedom: The conflict centers on the female warrior Bloodsong who is pitted against Hel Queen of Darkness, Death Goddess. It begins with Bloodsong coming back from Hel's domain, resurrected and sworn to serve the Goddess. Hel is holding Bloodsong's daughter, hostage (she had died in Bloodsong's womb, but was raised in Helheim). The conflict over freedom/domination is persistent and explicitly echoed in the protagonist's war cry & call to action "Bloodsong and Freedom!" The subsequent books fill in many details about Bloodsong's husband and her son, who had died during the same raid as she; they are, of course, plagued past their natural deaths.

Fun Horror: The variety and abundance of undead creatures makes this most fun, and their titles speak to their coolness: Flesh Demons (skeletons who steal skin), Skull Slaves (humans possessed by ghosts), Death Riders (undead warriors mounted on skeletal Hel-Horses who ride the wind), Corpse Beasts (humanoids who eat their kill), Hel-Witch (sorceress who draw upon Her powers), etc. There are of course Viking inspired monsters (i.e. Frost Giants, Invisible Dwarves), but the series is really about Hel's incarnations, as the three titles communicate, so expect lots of necromancy.

New vs. Old: The 2013 Helx3 eBook release has a lengthened first book (in the omnibus, the first book "Warrior Witch from Hel" has 24 chapters versus the original 18). The remaining books have the same number of chapters, but their content is altered to accommodate some character development , mostly regarding the secondary character Jalna. The additions are fine, but the paperback originals are just as enjoyable.

Coverart:The illustrations for the paperbacks and eBook are from Boris Vallejo. They are incredible and accurately portray the characters and books' tone:
Warrior Witch of Hell Death Riders of Hell Werebeasts of Hel

More Bloodsong Adventures:

2014...: A new novel, The Valkyries of Hel, is in progress now.

1996: Eternal Champion cross-over: In the Pawn of Chaos: Tales of the Eternal Champion anthology, Bloodsong interacts with Michael Moorcock's eternal champion (the Urlik Skarsol incarnation) in the short story: "The Warskull of Hel" (which was the title for the first book in the trilogy according to the author). This continues the saga in a solid way, even if a short story.

2006: R.E.Howard and Texas: For the World Fantasy Convention in Austin, Texas, there was a R. E. Howard centenary tribute anthology called Cross Plains Universe - Texans Celebrate Robert E. Howard. Therein there is a fun, Bloodsong short "Slim and Swede and the Damned Dead Horse."

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