Reading/Interest Level: Intermediate
Author: Matt Smith
Publisher: Clarion Books
Unjustly stripped of his farm, the Barbarian Lord sets out on a quest to regain his home, his belongings and his honor. His journey takes him across the sea to the hall of a foreign king, where he proves his worth by retrieving an ancient sword from a troll. He defeats a skull adversary first at poetry and then in battle. The king gives him men and arms and he returns to claim his farm. A pair of crows who have followed his adventures discover the witch who is helping the skull lord against the Barbarian, and when the crows defeat her, the Barbarian easily defeats his enemy and begins to rebuild his lands and habitation.
Written in the tradition of viking folklore, this is a fun little tale that young readers will enjoy. There is a plethora of battles and adventure that will particularly appeal to boys. The hero is a hero, true to his gods and unwavering in his determination and valor. He does not shirk from the difficulties of life or the requirements of his honor. He successfully proves his worth and strength time and again, giving us a true hero of the old tales. In the same vein, evil is unambiguous in its scheming and destruction. Overcoming evil is a thrill of victory with no regret. Folklore seldom spends time on character development, but this is acceptable in the context of this book, where people are reduced simple themes of black and white (much like the illustrations). This is a very dependable read for boys especially, and is a good story, if not an especially deep one.
*Contains moderate violence.