In a future dystopian London, peopled with human-animal hybrids and organic machines that can grow their own flesh, 15-year-old Sigurd is determined to recreate the peaceful kingdom his father Sigmund originated, which was bombed out of existence with his father’s assassination. Now England is ruled by a patchwork of squabbling warlords, and to unite them, Sigurd must make a great show of power. He does so by forging a sword from the shattered remnants of a magic knife that was gifted to his father by the god Odin himself, and slaying the terrifying, half-machine dragon Fafnir. He bathes in the monster’s blood, which makes his skin impermeable to gun or sword, except for one small spot between his shoulder blades. Once gifted with this near-immortality, he sets about his Herculean task, braving Hel-fire, the pain of the grave (and rising from the dead) and horrific battles, while always radiating calm and good cheer. But eventually, his big heart spells his doom when three women become determined to possess him—dead or alive. Does even a demi-god stand a chance against not just one but three scorned women? This brutally violent stand-alone sequel to the equally powerful Bloodtide is based on a 13th century Icelandic legend called the Volsunga saga, and therefore brimming with the sorts of bloody battles and high body count you would expect from a Viking epic. I love the transformative power of this modernized classic (which was one of my 2007 Top Ten), but with an ending worthy of the Saw movies, this is not even PG-13 fare. If you love myth-mashes, but dismemberments make you hurl, try Chris Wooding’s Poison or Donna Jo Napoli’s Sirena instead.
Bloodsong by Melvin Burgess