Storytellers by Bjørn Larssen #BookReview #BlogTour

In March 1920 Icelandic days are short and cold, but the nights are long. For most, on those nights, funny, sad, and dramatic stories are told around the fire. But there is nothing dramatic about Gunnar, a hermit blacksmith who barely manages to make ends meet. He knows nobody will remember him – they already don’t. All he wants is peace, the company of his animals, and a steady supply of his medication. Sometimes he wonders what it would feel like to have a story of his own. He’s about to find out.

Sigurd - a man with a plan, a broken ankle, and shocking amounts of money – won’t talk about himself, but is happy to tell a story that just might get Gunnar killed. The blacksmith's other “friends”are just as eager to write him into stories of their own – from Brynhildur who wants to fix Gunnar, then marry him, his doctor who is on the precipice of calling for an intervention, The Conservative Women of Iceland who want to rehabilitate Gunnar’s “heathen ways” – even the wretched elf has plans for the blacksmith.
As his defenses begin to crumble, Gunnar decides that perhaps his life is due for a change–on his own terms. But can he avoid the endings others have in mind for him, and forge his own?

It's my pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for Storytellers by Bjørn Larssen today. Many thanks to the author and to Rachel Gilbey from Rachel's Random Resources for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

Iceland's heritage is intrinsically linked to storytelling; the  renowned 13th Century Sagas, the kvöldvaka when families entertained themselves with stories and verses during the long winter evenings, and of course, the annual jólabókaflóð (Christmas book flood). Storytellers continues that rich tradition with its story within a story.
Reclusive blacksmith, Gunnar rescues Sigurd who has broken his ankle climbing the cliff near Gunnar's home and forge. He lives alone with just his dog, Ragnar and horse, Karl for company and although he doesn't initially welcome having a visitor, he agrees to let Sigurd stay after he offers him a huge amount of money. However, Gunnar remains suspicious of his guest and demands to be told something so Sigurd weaves a tale of love, jealousy and deception. He tells him the story of young Icelandic traveller, Arnar who emigrates to America but later returns to his homeland with the beautiful Juana who barely speaks the language and is shocked by her new living conditions. However, Sigurd has secrets of his own and it seems that he may have nefarious plans for Gunnar once his broken ankle has healed.
The first half of the book is slower paced as it switches between the 1920s present and the 1880's setting of Sigurd's story. Although I was transfixed by the vivid descriptions of the Icelandic climate and landscape, I didn't feel I truly knew the characters until some way into the novel. This isn't a criticism as Storytellers is a book which doesn't give up all its treasures at once but instead reveals them gradually, tantalising the reader into wanting to understand more about these complex, strange people.
Gunnar is undoubtedly the stand-out character and despite being irritable, dirty and an alcoholic, there is something inherently sympathetic about him. As the book progresses, it becomes obvious that he is tormented by what he believes are his past failures and is clearly suffering from depression, frequently hearing the darkness trying to tempt him into killing himself.
The pace of the second half of Storytellers is much faster and as the past and present finally come together, there are some shocking revelations. It's in the latter chapters where the reader finally discovers more about Sigurd and his reasons for coming to the village but this isn't all that's divulged. Although the story becomes increasingly dark, it never becomes too melancholy, mostly due to the black humour which features throughout the book.
The sharply imagined community evokes a rather claustrophic, unsettling feeling where people are quick to condemn sinners and nobody's business is ever just their own but hypocrisy is rampant. There is the sense, too that this book merely scratches the surface of the dark secrets that are held here. The combination of a twisted tale of revenge, a poignant look at loneliness and fear and a hint of magic with the inclusion of an elf and the suggestion of witchcraft ensures that Bjørn Larssen's debut novel is a captivating homage to the rich, folkloric tradition of Icelandic storytelling.

Storytellers is published by josephtailor and can be purchased from Amazon UK or Amazon US.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

Giveaway to win a copy of Iceland: Making Memories (five copies available, open internationally.}

Please note: This giveaway is courtesy of Rachel's Random Resources and in no way the responsibility of Hair Past A Freckle.

*Terms and Conditions–Worldwide entries welcome.Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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About the Author

Bjørn Larssen was made in Poland. He is mostly located in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, except for his heart which he lost in Iceland. Born in 1977, he self-published his first graphic novel at the age of seven in a limited edition of one. Since then his short stories and essays were published in Rita Baum Art Magazine, Writer Unboxed, Inaczej Magazine),,, and Holandia ExpatMagazine. He is a member of Alliance of Independent Authors and Writer Unboxed. Bjørn has a Master of Science degree in mathematics, worked as a graphic designer, a model, and a blacksmith. He used to speak eight languages (currently down to two and a half). His hobbies include sitting by open fires, dressing like an extra from Vikings, installing operating systems, and dreaming about living in a log cabin in the north of Iceland, even though he hates being cold. He has only met an elf once. So far.

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  1. So... what kept you reading were the descriptions of the landscape and only afterwards you got into the characters. That's one way to do it, and nothing wrong with it at all!

    1. Not exactly, I was intrigued by the characters but it took me a while to figure out what I felt about them. The descriptions are so evocative but weren't the only thing which kept me reading!


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