This is one of the few Magnusson and Morris Icelandic Saga translations which has yet to be converted to etext as of 2003. I like this translation much better than the 1914 Hight translation, (available in etext as the Online Medieval and Classical Library release #9). Morris is one of the great stylists of the fantasy field, and his pseudo-archaic language just feels right for this meaty story of revenge served up hot and cold. In addition, there is a gorgeous map of North-west Iceland which, although it isn't signed, was probably drawn by Morris.

The protagonist, Grettir Asmudson, is a bad seed, a loner, a thief, a grave-robber, and a murderer. On the plus side, he has an incredible tolerance for pain and an uncanny ability to extemporize poetry. Grettir's poor anger management starts a cycle of revenge. In spite of some heroic deeds (particularly an almost cinematic confrontation with some berserkers), Grettir gets a bad reputation which he is never able to shake off. Grettir has several encounters with supernatural beings: ghosts, trolls and liches. The pivot of the story is a particularly bloodthirsty ghost who fortells Grettir's doom when he vanquishes it.

This is a tragic story told from a perspective that is just outside our modern conventions of storytelling. Grettir lived just on the cusp of the introduction of Christianity in Iceland, at a time when the ancient customs of blood-money and vendetta still held. There is no redemption for Grettir, even though his character evolves over the course of the story arc. Grettir is banished from society for most of his life. Towards the end almost everyone he comes in contact with eventually tries to betray him. In the end, it takes dire witchcraft and a small army of men to bring Grettir down.

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