Fantasia Reviews Odinsmal: Rise of the Jotunheim

Odinsmal: Rise of the Jotunheim by Sammy Zakaria
Genre: Fantasy
Ages 12+
Published 3/30/2017 

About the Book – A Norse Fantasy

“Forced to flee from his home on the island of Algir Oya, young Odin finds that the evil he’d barely escaped is already causing death and destruction on mainland Midgard. In a bid for survival, the humans of Midgard have united and taken up arms in a battle which Odin unwillingly must join against the forces of Jotunheim whose ruthless ruler, Loki, is enslaving humans to mine for the precious metal, Blóstein.

Befallen by a lack of strength and resources necessary to stand against Loki’s army of savage footmen and bloodthirsty wolflike berserkers, Odin must venture with his friends Thedrick, Vili, and Ve beyond the boundaries of Midgard in search of an ally to stand with them against the Jotun invasion.

Follow young Odin’s adventure across the realms of the fascinating ancient Norse world where his search for an ally leads him to frightening discoveries about the truth of a forgotten past.” – Publisher Blurb

The Review – Rough Around the Edges

Odinsmal: Rise of the Jotunheim, henceforth called simply Odinsmal, is a reinterpretation of the early years of the Norse God Odin’s life. Here we see Odin as a young man on a journey to save his world. Honestly, the name and the blurb tell you enough about the story, so we won’t touch on that further, for now at least. Instead, let’s focus on Mister Zakaria’s style, which evolves over the course of the book.

Early on, the writing has some trouble finding its footing, and not just because of a handful of errors in the text. The narrator feels uncertain of their job. There is a lack of confidence in the writing that is apparent in reiterations and assurances that the narrator provides. Now, this doesn’t mar the experience in its entirety, but it does diminish the efficacy of the writing. Sentences that should be strong instead seem weak. Odinsmal is a long book, but not just in real length; it feels like it was written over an extended period.

Mister Zakaria improves his writing over the course of the novel, and by the end, he is quite good. Unfortunately, this causes Odinsmal to look like a first draft, written over time, but little rewriting seems to have been done. If Mister Zakaria had gone back and smoothed out his style, Odinsmal would have been one of the best books we have read this year; unfortunately, those early errors prevent that and could turn off some readers.

The Bright Side – A Vibrant Fantasy

One place where Mister Zakaria shines throughout the novel, though, is in his world building. It is some of the best we have seen. He is meticulous and careful, giving us a vibrant fantasy world to love without being heavy-handed. This is a hard feat to pull off, and there is little doubt in our minds that Mister Zakaria’s passion for Norse Mythology served him well in constructing his world and its inhabitants.
In addition to all of that, Mister Zakaria manages to keep the pacing up through the course of the 400+ page run of the book, which was no easy task. As well, he rarely feels rushed, delivering a rather consistent pace page after page, pushing the reader further, if they can look past the rough opening.

The Rating – Solid B

Now, though we seemed harsh in our review, we were asked to be honest. We don’t always discuss every shortcoming of a novel, but we wanted to offer Mister Zakaria a harsh critique of his work so that he can improve as a writer. We think we have done that above, so let us give him a bit more praise. Odinsmal is a fast-paced fantasy adventure that is fun to read. Once we were in the book, we were hooked.

While the pacing did a lot to help us along, Mister Zakaria’s comedic timing was on point as well, helping build his characters and his world. While his apparent love for the mythology was the starting point for this novel, the work does not feel derivative, instead adding to the richness of the existing myths and legends. All in all, it is a fun read if you love Norse Mythology or if you have never heard of Odin before.

Do you want to read Odinsmal: Rise of the Jotunheim? You can find it on Amazon.