Saga

I just finished this fantastic book by Jeff Janoda who took one of the Icelandic Sagas (specifically the Eyrbyggja Saga) and fleshed out the characters and plot to make it more palatable for us 21st century types.  The story reminded me a great deal of a tragedy in the Shakesperean tradition where you have people of power to think they can shape their own destiny yet find that fate takes them down paths they could never have imagined (usually to terrible consequences).

He tackles the difficult problem of explaining the numerous traditions and beliefs that ruled 10th century Iceland without drowning the reader in exposition or watering down the concepts to the point where the setting becomes generic.  Most of the concepts are placed in a glossary in the back with the list of the dramatis personae in the front.  In no time even the most unfamiliar names and similar sounding characters distinguish themselves as separate entities (not easy when you’ve got characters named Thorfinn, Thorgils, Thorleif, Thormod, Thorodd, and Thorolf).

Usually, books I finish either are given away because I know I’ll never crack them open again or they might go back on the shelf with the intention to enjoy them again after the passage of time erases all but the general flow of the story.  Rarely, I’ll finish one and want to start right back at the beginning because I enjoyed the story so much and Saga easily fell into that category.

I’m not sure what (if anything) the author is working on next (his website is maddeningly out of date) but a sequel or retelling of another one of the stories would certainly worth while.  Unfortunately, too many examples of literature that are cornerstones of our (or other) civilizations are being lost because they just aren’t accessible to the general population  (the Iliad, Odessey, Aeneid, Beowulf, Canterbury Tales, etc., etc. etc.) but work like this can really help to make such works relevant to new audiences.

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