The Skald’s Black Verse by Jordan Loyal Short

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This was an audiobook gifted to me by the author — yes I do accept audiobooks and it pushes your book to the top of the list since it’s what I’ve got time for at the moment.

There are multiple POVs, but this story arguably revolves around a main character known as Brohr. He’s lived a life as an “other”, not accepted by his village, or the people who conquered them. He’s the result of a rape by the conquerors, and his mother died in the process of giving birth to him. He’s been mistreated and hated by the majority of those around him. He has some rage issues, which he later figures out aren’t entirely his fault. He’s inhabited by a spirit that can take over, or meld with him to give him extra strength in a fight, but he can also black out in a fit of rage and lose all control over himself — that never ends up well. Even his own grandfather treats him like shit, but he still feels like he’s a member of their society and argues with the townfolk that he was born and raised with them, and should be accepted by them. That doesn’t do any good.

Anyhow, because Brohr is known for having a temper and getting into fights; when a dude ends up dead after getting the snot kicked out of him by Brohr, he gets blamed for his death. What actually had happened though is much more terrifying than two drunks going too far in a fight. A shadowed figure appeared out of no where and strangled the man to death, then disappeared as mysteriously as he came. The other two witnesses did not want to come forward with this information, fearing they’d be thought of as insane or lying.

One of those witnesses was the mayor’s son, Henrick. So anyways, Henrick lies to the detective and frames Brohr even though he knows he’s innocent — again, Henrick is not my favorite at first. So, now Brohr has to figure shit out, or he’s going to hang.

I found Brohr an interesting character, but as is typical with me, I struggle to connect with super angry characters, even if there’s a reason out of their control for it. I just find reading about a character who’s angry all the time to be as exhausting as it is dealing with a person in real life who’s angry all the time. However, I felt like he had a fair amount of depth and appeal for other readers who might connect with him more.

I didn’t like Henrick at first, he’s whiny, he doesn’t take his future job as mayor seriously, he drinks a lot and is pretty self centered. He’s rude and condescending towards his father who is just trying his best, and he’s actually kind of endearing as a character. Of all the characters, I think Henrick had one of the more drastic changes in personality by the end of the book, which kept my attention on him even though he wasn’t really the focus of the story.

Lyssa was the easiest character to like, she means well and does try and help Brohr and others when shit starts going down. She sort of lacked the depth and character development that Henrick and Borhr received, though. Her character was more or less the same from when we met her to when the story ended. That’s fine, not everyone has to come out the other side a different person, but a little bit more depth to her background and inner motivations could have made up for a more static personality and provided more texture and layers.

Anders is by far the most interesting person as far as what he knows about the world, the fact that he knows how to use magic, he knows The Hidden and has made pacts with them. He’s also an asshole that I thoroughly did not like, so it made reading his chapters a love/hate experience for me. I wanted to know more about teh world, the magic system, what’s going on with Borhr and his spirit possessing him, but I also wanted to punch Anders in the face.

This story had a multilayered plot, so not only is there tension at the personal level since Brohr might hang, but with the shadowy figure and more signs of end times, there’s a bigger world-changing development slowly unraveling in the background.

I adored the mix of science fiction and fantasy. There’s another POV from the persepctive of the conquerors who uses a Void Ship to get around the star system. Humanity is just a cog on a wheel in a galactic system, and that’s so up my alley. To talk much more about that could get spoilery though.

The writing as far as the prose was pretty good. The dialogue felt natural and fluid, different characters had different ‘voices’ without it falling into caricature territory. The pacing could use a little evening out, however. It had a start stop feel to it at times where there was a lot of action and tension followed by a lull.

This is a very dark book, there’s a lot of death, betrayal, people being dicks to each other, references to rape, catastrophic natural disasters etc. If you want something cheery, this is not that. Sometimes darker books are paired with sarcastic or funny characters, or characters who lighten the mood and world around them making it a balance of light and dark. This is not that. This is like double chocolate chip cookies — this is dark on dark.

All in all, this was a really neat debut, and I’ll definitely be interested to see where this is going, the world is so intriguing and full of potential.


  • Plot: 11/15
  • Characters: 10/15
  • World Building: 12/15
  • Writing: 11/15
  • Pacing: 10/15
  • Originality: 13/15
  • Enjoyment: 7/10

Final Score: 74/100