One of the things I am starting to appreciate as a reviewer and connoisseur of fine literary fare is the wide variety of foods that I find sent to my doorstep. Today’s meal is one of those outliers beyond my normal meals and I appreciate it having shown up on my dinner plate. Now, as always, let’s get the ground rules out of the way:
- I attempt to rate every book from the perspective of a fan of the genre.
- I attempt to make every review as spoiler-free as possible.
Number 1 I find vitally important to reiterate for Warrior Lore. Look, if you don’t have an interest in Scandinavian folk ballads, you won’t even be looking to read this book, even on a wild lark. HOWEVER, that is not how I judge my literary repasts. So, putting myself into the shoes of a someone who has an interest in mythology and folk ballads (I actually AM quite a mythology fan!), how did Warrior Lore go down my throat, good, bad, or meh?
Well, to be quite plain, Mr. Cumpstey has whipped up a fluffy, light confection of a book. It is a quick read, at least on the surface, and that isn’t a bad thing. Warrior Lore focuses almost entirely on the translated folk ballads themselves. Each one is prefaced by a short but detailed explanation of the main bits of information an unfamiliar reader would need to know to understand the tale, then plunges straight into the verses themselves. I found this to be a tasty and effective bit of pacing, letting each verse stand on its own, even when dealing with ballads with common characters or interconnections. You’re never distracted by excessive author analysis but you’re not left without a menu wondering just what the heck this thing is on your plate.
There could be, however, a valid argument that at times Mr. Cumpstey could add a little more detailed analysis after each ballad, once the reader has had a chance to make their own decisions on theme and meeting. There is a little of this in each introduction, but overall there is little analysis, especially of theme, and that’s something I would have enjoyed seeing. I feel we read mythology and ancient tales not just for entertainment but to gain insights on our past and the cultures of old and I felt a little empty at the end not having the author’s much more educated insights on these things.
And … that’s really it. It isn’t that this wasn’t a fulfilling meal, it’s just that it is, well, a small course. I would guess maybe 60 to 70 pages on my reader, including the foreword and table of contents. In the end, there isn’t much to say that is non-spoilerish simply because of the size and the more academic format of the book itself.
Now, with that being said, how did I rate the meal? Well, again, looking at it from the viewpoint of a lover of mythology, I have to give Warrior Lore a solid rating. It does its job well and presents the warrior ballads inside with excellent translations and introductions but it falls just a bit short of perfection to me with its lack of in-depth analysis. Still, if you are a lover of mythology and folk tales, I’d recommend picking up this tasty morsel for an afternoon meal.
FINAL VERDICT – **** (Light, fluffy, and flavorful but lacking a little weighty input to be perfect)