Friday, January 9, 2015

By the Mountain Bound

As part of my goal of reading at least 50 List books this year, I decided I would start with some Elizabeth Bear.  I've had her Edda of Burdens series since it came out, but never got around to reading it.  That all changed earlier this week when I started By the Mountain Bound.

By the Mountain Bound is the story of three people: the Warrior, the Wolf, and the Historian.  All three are Children of the Light, beings who survived Ragnarok and sang the new world into being.  The Warrior, Strifbjorn, is an Einherjar and leader of the Children of the Light.  The Wolf is Mingan, the Fenris Wolf remade into an Einherjar.  And the Historian is Muire, least of the Valkyrie. 

I'm going to take a moment to say that the worldbuilding was awesome for this book.  The Children of the Light can take vengeance and share souls through a kiss.  So when a couple is married and they kiss, they share souls (and are sort of forged into one).  I really, really liked this.

So anyway, the Children of the Light have been doing their thing for centuries, waiting for the return of their Lady. What they didn't expect was that she might tear them apart.

That's exactly what happens when Heythe appears.  She is different than the Children of the Light - physically stronger than them, but weaker in other ways.  She claims to be escaping an army of giants and wants the Children of Light to use their gifts to take strength from the mortals.  But doing so is an abomination; it tarnishes their very souls.  And so Strifbjorn and those who still follow him resolve to fight her.

In the middle of all this is the story of Strifbjorn and Mingan.  The Children of the Light are few, and so it is their duty to marry in an effort to conceive children.  But Strifbjorn and Mingan have already shared the kiss.  Their story really made this book, particularly when Heythe enters the picture and wants Mingan for herself.

There was one particular moment in the book, involving Mingan's wolf pack, when my heart felt like it broke for him.  That moment alone showed the power of Bear's writing; I hope I can one day be half as good of a writer as her.

Hilariously, By the Mountain Bound is book 2 in the Edda of Burdens series (although it is a prequel).  I didn't realize it until after I finished reading it.  Luckily Bear assured me on Twitter that the series is meant to be read in any order so I don't have to worry.  With that in mind, I'll be starting book 1, All the Windwracked Stars, tomorrow.  :)

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