four: the legacy of odin by ben julien
The Legacy of Odin (The Runes Saga II) by Ben Julien
John Wiley and Sons, 2007
review published in VATE Newsletter, no. 3, June 2007
All warriors seek glory and riches, but The Legacy of Odin is not such a prize. The seeress foresaw Lena and Calum as ‘Odin’s legacy to the Norse’. The young protagonists join the Jarl in the battle against chaos. Chaos, in this saga, reveals itself as goblins, thug trolls and Ymir the frost giant slaughtering all in their path. This gripping fantasy combines Norse history and mythology layered with runes magic.
Legacy’s setting is the arctic Norselands where men are warriors. Jarl Björn Burrison returns after waging brutal war on foreign shores in The Runes of Odin. Sympathies quickly shift from the outmanoeuvred Isles people to embrace the heroic Jarl’s quest. Lena encapsulates this feeling: ‘A part of her thought she should hate him, for his killing … (but) the Jarl was impossible to dislike. He was a terrible enemy, and a loyal friend.’
Readers are pulled swiftly along on warships heading north-west. Legacy’s action-packed narrative bestows more depth on its characters and invokes more lyrical language than its predecessor; lending itself to slightly more mature readers. Our duelva and vala realise that runes are more than rudimentary carvings. Their power can be felt and shared. Healing Svein the Lucky’s knee, their rune connection could be a metaphor for their growing personal connection. Although separated for a third of the book, when Lena smiles at Calum with ‘that beautiful smile she had’, Calum knows that she is the one person he would not live without. This simmering undercurrent coincides with Calum’s discovery of his origins and of himself as a young man. A narrative balance between the two servants of Odin ensures appeal to both genders.
With our culture of celebrity, readers can relate to the Norse warriors’ obsession with word-fame. Svein initially wants ‘to carve his own name into the sagas’ as Stuttering Arne’s does for Björn in his history-songs. Svein eventually becomes a Hauldr, a leader, feeling blessed then because he finds something greater than himself. Calum is an anomaly; a Norseman who ‘gets seasick and doesn’t like fighting’, nor the fame trailing his power as a duelva. His self-depreciating humour, inner strength and gallantry ensure he will have an eager real-world following.
The Runes Saga will appeal to advanced middle and secondary school readers. It will enhance studies in Viking culture, north European history, myths and legends. Strong themes emerge, including friendship, loyalty, identity, celebrity, fortitude and cultural conflict. Jacaranda Online provides accompanying English/SOSE worksheets for educators. Each book includes a map and glossary, adding to its appeal. What further quests will Lena and Calum face, and where will their relationship head, in the final story The Iron Throne?