But first... this just in. The Historical Novel Society has just posted their review of The Saga of Beowulf, and so I pass it along here to you. I may have missed a few reviews while I was gone, but this is one I had been looking forward to with some anticipation, as I expended a fair amount of effort working out the historical aspects of the story. While Beowulf must be considered a fantasy through and through, still it is set in a real time and place, and does include several historical personages and datable events. I made no effort to gloss over the fantasy, but likewise I didn't shy away from reality either.
Sales continue to trickle in at a slow, but steady pace, which is nice and quite surprising, considering I've done no promotion on the novel now for over four months. Reviews such as this have helped a lot in that respect, since it will likely bring in at least a few new readers and help to spread the word. Book promotion, as it turns out, is a slow and steady build over a lengthy course of time. Like melting snow that starts as just a single droplet sparkling in the dawning sun, yet one day will help to carve a path through rocky canyons to become one with the ocean, so every word from each new reader to another functions as a tributary of that mighty river. And so I thank you all.
The Historical Novel Society
Book Review by Steve Donoghue
In The Saga of Beowulf, R. Scot Johns tackles a story as old as English literature itself: the saga of the Geatish strongman Beowulf and his many adventures—especially his battle with Grendel, the monster terrorizing Heorot, the great hall of the Danish King Hrothgar. Many others have dramatically shaped this material, from the Beowulf poet himself to John Gardner in his 1971 novel Grendel to director Robert Zemeckis in his 2007 special effects extravaganza, and even in such varied and powerful company, Johns acquits himself well.
His big, engrossing novel is Beowulf’s story from beginning to end, thickly populated with engaging characters, from warrior-women to evil kings (foremost of which is Hygelac, King of the Geats and Beowulf’s uncle, who’s here presented as a great snarling, monk-skewering bad guy) to Beowulf and his valiant men, seeking glory and a bit of international diplomacy by standing guard to face the monster haunting Heorot.
Johns is in great earnest while telling his epic story, and he’s done an impressive amount of research into 6th-century Scandinavia, but even above these things, the saving grace of his book is its sly sense of humor, which hums along in the background of virtually every scene, such as when he identifies some bad guys: “For these were Stone-Trolls of the highland hills that ate great bowls of rocks for breakfast—when they couldn’t get a decent fill of human flesh (which was not often enough these days to their way of thinking).” In this Johns remembers what many previous dramatizers have forgotten: if the saga of Beowulf hadn’t been just plain entertaining, it wouldn’t have survived all these centuries.
That dramatic legacy is in good hands with Johns. The Saga of Beowulf is highly recommended.