‘Keystone Bone: The Complete Trilogy’ (Amazon link here) is a vivid tale which brings something new to the genre of fantasy which is based on Norse/Nordic mythology and popularised by Tolkien. This is so exciting for me that I have found it most helpful to compare this trilogy from Jesper Schmidt, a Dane, with more familiar fantasy books from J R R Tolkien and Terry Pratchett, who are English. Schmidt’s descriptions of dragons and elves (who he calls ‘Duian’) are fascinating, as is his focus on certain aspects of his female characters and his clever and unique treatment of their matriarchal religious practices in their patriarchal societies. His pacing, in which he somehow manages to balance his characters’ stories with building up their worlds, helped me to devour ‘Desolation’ even faster than I did Tolkien’s ‘Fellowship of the Ring’.
They do say ‘never judge a book by its cover’, and as a female reader (and this is something I do not think about normally, I have to admit), I did initially have reservations about reading books with female protagonists entitled ‘Degradation’ and ‘Damnation’, and I did wonder what route these would take, but rest assured, these titles do not match the content of these two books.
‘Degradation’ and ‘Damnation’ need to be read more than once, and each reading cannot be quick. They actually delve into unusual, extreme forms of ritual, magic, self-discovery and self-redemption in a PG-12, maybe ’15 rated’ way. The most arresting part of ‘Degradation’ is the exploration of ‘willpower’ and ‘arrogance’ (which I do not normally see in many books I read), while ‘Damnation’ introduces something I have never seen before in fantasy: what I can only call ‘red herring protagonists’ and ‘red herring antagonists’ (as opposed to scene-stealers like Greebo in Pratchett’s books). It does take time to work out who is who, and does feel anticlimactic at times, but this does mean that the plot/storyline to ‘The Keystone Bone Trilogy’ stays constant throughout.
‘The Keystone Bone Trilogy’ contains far more action and much less dialogue and humour (humour is in the eye of the reader, so I am willing to be corrected on this) than Pratchett, and holds back where Tolkien would have gone overboard. There are, for example, no appendices describing languages, and no drinking songs. This does speed up the pace of the trilogy, and introduces a certain moodiness without sacrificing too much detail of the worlds that have been built.
The conclusion of the trilogy and fates of many of the characters are unexpected, and the ending might close off the possibility of sequels but certainly not spin-offs, which I would really welcome as there is still a lot left to explore. I do hope Schmidt will continue with the worlds he has created, and look forward eagerly to any new tales he might have.