Review of Svavelvinter (2004)
Erik Granström (writer).
Read in 2017.
Before reading this I knew Granström mainly from his appearance at ConCeive/Swecon 2005, not having read Äventyrsspel: bland mutanter, drakar och demoner (2015) or much of his work for Drakar och demoner itself 10-20 years earlier.
For the most part, it’s the same baroque pseudo-early-modern fantasy as Perdido Street Station (2000), but compared to Miéville, Granström is light on steampunk and heavy on a specific strain of comedy. This is a meandering, Pratchett-like picaresque depiction of Trakorien (Trakoria) as something akin to the Roman empire renewed in Renaissance Italy’s city states, but technologically advanced to somewhere around the 17th century—except with more limited use of gunpowder—and openly centred on the worship of a capitalist goddess, suggesting something still more recent. This tone, more than anything else, gave me a sense of the strong TRPG influence. Direct real-world correspondences such as Biblical quotes and a transparent name-mangled stand-in for Niccolò Machiavelli are kept to a tolerably low level.
The pacing occasionally suffers under the weight of too many developed characters, with Perrima, Brådfot and the RhabdoRana possibly being the worst offenders in this regard. I read it without knowing that Brådfot and Brummare were the guides to the realm in Trakorien (1988). Without nostalgia they seem a bit flat. Shagul makes for an interesting villain, the heroes are appropriately flawed, and I wanted more of the giants. Granström’s writing occasionally sizzles, but a few of the deliberate archaisms and neologisms do more to hinder than to entertain.