A Masterfully Crafted Dark Tale: Shadows of the Short Days by Alexander Dan Vilhjálmsson

A Masterfully Crafted Dark Tale: Shadows of the Short Days by Alexander Dan Vilhjálmsson

I’ve been trying to expand my reading diet recently, and I was drawn to the debut novel from Icelandic author Alexander Dan Vilhjálmsson, Shadows of the Short Days, when I read Rachel Cordasco’s review at Strange Horizons, in which she called it “a vibrant mix of urban fantasy, New Weird, and Icelandic folklore… Vilhjálmsson virtuosically weaves together Icelandic folklore and fantasy/cosmic horror… to create a unique reading experience.” That sounds like just what I’ve been looking for.

It was James Tivendale’s review at GrimDark Magazine that sealed the deal for me. Here’s the interesting bits.

Vilhjálmsson’s debut is a masterfully crafted dark tale that fuses elements of alternative history, steampunk, science fiction, urban fantasy, and grimdark. It is a strikingly original and often complex narrative that mainly follows two well-crafted protagonists. Sæmundur is a sorcerer who has recently been expelled from the magic university of Svartiskóli for being too ambitious, being intrigued by gaining absolute knowledge of the esoteric source of magic galdur which is forbidden and borderline heresy. He has been nicknamed Sæmundur the Mad, is now a drug and alcohol-fuelled reprobate in the eyes of the majority of his peers but he wishes to prove them wrong. The other major player is Garún who is a talented graffiti artist and she wears headphones which contain a noisefiend…

Shadows of the Short Days was a similar reading experience to the one that I enjoyed with The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Hanrahan. It takes certain fantasy tropes and turns them on their heads… This story is brimming with interesting original races, magic and monstrosities including the winged and intimidating Náskárar, the art of seiour, and a cloth-golem… [it] features parallel worlds, demons, jellyfish that aid breathing underwater, huge airships, rebellious factions, grotesque torture segments, mind-reading, complex incantations, and magical rituals, and a loveable pet cat…

It’s superbly well written, thrilling, and the pacing is exquisite… Vilhjálmsson has presented us with one of the most ambitious, intense, original and thrilling debuts that I’ve read in a long time… this is highly [recommended] and should be a big deal in the fantasy scene.

Shadows of the Short Days was published by Titan Books on October 20, 2020. It is 464 pages, priced at $14.95 in trade paperback and $9.99 in digital formats. Read the complete first chapter (8 pages) at Fantasy Book Reviews.

See all our recent coverage of the best new science fiction and fantasy here.

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