Children is presented as a ‘grimdark’ retelling of the classic Norse myths. It’s an unflinching portrayal of how careless the Norse gods are with the lives of others, particularly their own children. The impact this has on them and those they meet is at the core of the book. The narrative structure is divided equally between Magni, the son of Thor, and Maya, adoptive daughter of Freya and Freyr. Both viewpoints are told in the first person, creating an intimate reading experience.
I have to admit there were times when I found this book difficult. There are some uncompromising passages of cruelty, the most horrific of these being the ones inflicted by the central characters on other innocent people. Whilst Larssen makes this clear in the introduction and is at pains to establish the reasons for the behaviour of his characters, there are some dark passages in this novel. There were also times when I was as confused as Magni and Maya as to what was happening to them and why. The story is lightened with a sprinkling of humour (offering welcome respite at times) and the various characters of the gods and the mortal races we encounter are well-drawn and distinctive. Larssen ensures you care about the fate of these people, even if the gods are indifferent.
Ultimately, I had to admire the scale and ambition of Larssen’s work. This isn’t a light read and the author expects you to be paying attention throughout. Larssen has taken tales many of us are familiar with and turned them on their head, defying expectations whilst still retaining the essence of the source material. I don’t think this book is for everyone but if you enjoy Nordic mythology and prefer your fantasy on the grimdark side, Larssen’s distinctive voice is likely to appeal to you.