All the Windwracked Stars: Norse mythology + apocalyptic SF

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Elizabeth Bear All the Windwracked StarsAll the Windwracked Stars by Elizabeth Bear

All the Windwracked Stars is the first book in the EDDA OF BURDENS trilogy by fantasy and SF author Elizabeth Bear. The novel is a very original blend of fantasy, science fiction, steampunk and mythology, and while it has some weaknesses, its originality sets it apart in a genre that’s all too often filled with cookie-cutter material.

Surprisingly, All the Windwracked Stars actually begins with Ragnarok, the final battle between the Children of the Light and the Tarnished. Muire, a waelcyrge (valkyrie) is one of the only survivors, together with Kasimir, another valkyrie’s wounded valraven, who (in a sign of things to come) is transformed from his old two-headed, winged horse form into a more steampunk-ish guise.

Fast forward more than two millennia, to a post-apocalyptic world in which humanity only has one semi-viable city left. Eiledon is ruled by the Technomancer, who lives in a university/fortress floating above the city, and enforces her rule over the general population with a force of “unmans” (animal/human hybrids). Early in the novel, Muire learns that Mingan the Wolf is still stalking the world, and that the Technomancer’s goals may not be entirely benevolent.

All the Windwracked Stars is a challenging but ultimately rewarding novel — challenging, because it takes a good 200 pages before the plot really emerges. Until that happens, you’re reading a novel set in a world that’s so unique it can be confusing, populated by characters that are extremely hard to connect with, especially in the first handful of chapters. The original setting, combined with Elizabeth Bear‘s beautiful prose, will carry patient readers to the point where the story really takes off, but it’s hard not to feel that this novel could have been more accessible.

Regardless of this, All the Windwracked Stars is amazingly successful at combining mythology and science fiction in an intriguing and unique way. If you are interested in Norse mythology, and your tolerance for challenging reads is high, this book will deliver for you in spades.

~Stefan Raets


fantasy book reviews Elizabeth Bear All the Windwracked StarsWhen the battle (Ragnarok) is over, only three immortals are left alive: Muire, the smallest waelcyrge, the valraven, Kasmir, a two-headed, winged war-mount, and the one whose betrayal damned them all. Together they live through the coming ages to play their roles in the very last days of the world.

I needed something really different and All the Windwracked Stars was just what the doctor ordered and more. Elizabeth Bear combines Norse mythology and apocalyptic science fiction to create a dark dreamscape, and also invents a very intriguing concept: angels whose god is either dead or has gone missing.

The desperately savage combat at the beginning of All the Windwracked Stars drew me right in and I soon found myself liking characters that I normally would not. The prose is somewhat surreal, and this story has a rather strange flow which, at times, made it a little difficult for me to follow. Usually I’d find that a little irritating, but for the Edda of Burdens series, this wistful style works perfectly because the characters themselves are lost souls struggling to understand their own destinies.

I was once a big fan of Apocalyptic Sci-fi, so it was a refreshing thrill to lose myself in Elizabeth Bear’s dying world. The outcome of doomsday comes down to a handful of unique misfits in a truly original story. I especially liked the conclusion and I was so gloomily fascinated that I immediately downloaded the Kindle version of the next book, By the Mountain Bound.

I almost never jump into the next book in a series without a break between, but By the Mountain Bound is the story leading up to the battle of Ragnarok — the beginning of All the Windwracked Starsand I just had to know the answers to some of the wonderfully tantalizing mysteries left unexplained in this book.

~Greg Hersom

The Edda of Burdens — (2008.-2010) Steampunk alternate future. Publisher: In the beginning was the end of the world. The children of the Light and the fallen Tarnished met at the edge of the great ice, and there they warred and died. Brother fought brother; lover slew lover. And when it was done, and the snow drifted over the blood, three were left: “the one who fled, the one who stood, and the one who walked away.” Muire is a waelcyrge, an immortal maiden of the shield, sworn to defend the Light and to hold a place in the world for the return of the All-Father. But the All-Father never came. And Muire was not like her sisters — she was a historian and a poet, a sculptor and a thinker, littlest and least of her kind. A sparrow among falcons. From afar and quietly, she loved the greatest and brightest of the einherjar, the chosen warriors: Strifbjorn. But her courage failed her, and on the Last Day she fled the armies of the Tarnished, and did not die with her love. Kasimir is a valraven, war-steed of the choosers of the slain. Two-headed, great-hearted, winged and horned for battle. On the Last Day, his rider was killed, and he wounded unto death. But that great heart remains indomitable in defeat as it was in victory, even as it pumps his life-blood into the snow. And Mingan — Mingan is the Grey Wolf, last child of a dead god, grandson of giants. Mingan is old, older than the fallen children, older than the young and dying world. This is not his first apocalypse. He would prefer it to be his last.

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STEFAN RAETS (on FanLit's staff August 2009 — February 2012) reads and reviews science fiction and fantasy whenever he isn’t distracted by less important things like eating and sleeping. In February 2012, he retired from FanLit to focus on his blog Far Beyond Reality.

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GREG HERSOM’S (on FanLit's staff January 2008 -- September 2012) addiction began with his first Superboy comic at age four. He moved on to the hard-stuff in his early teens after acquiring all of Burroughs’s Tarzan books and the controversial L. Sprague de Camp & Carter edited Conan series. His favorite all time author is Robert E. Howard. Greg also admits that he’s a sucker for a well-illustrated cover — the likes of a Frazetta or a Royo. Greg live with his wife, son, and daughter in a small house owned by a dog and two cats in a Charlotte, NC suburb. He retired from FanLit in Septermber 2012 after 4.5 years of faithful service but he still sends us a review every once in a while.

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One comment

  1. This is a really cool review. Thanks.

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