Darkness Forged by Matt Larkin

SPFBO: Darkness Forged by Matt Larkin

As promised, we continue reviewing the SPFBO 6 Finalists. Our next one up is Darkness Forged by Matt Larkin, chosen by Kitty G.

About the Book
Series: Legends of the Ragnarok Era #1Genre: Grimdark Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Mythological Fantasy
Date of Publishing: August 1st 2017Publisher: self-published
Book Blurb
Darkness Forged by Matt Larkin

Vengeance is Wrought. Darkness is Forged.

The greatest crafts on Midgard come from the dvergar realm of Nidavellir. Volund, a gifted smith and once apprentice to the dvergar, escaped their dark realm to find solace in the arms of a valkyrie.

Nine years of respite.

And then she was gone.

Volund will do anything to get her back. But his reputation precedes him, and a cruel king knows the weapons Volund forges can win his wars. Imprisoned in the king’s forge, Volund’s only hope to escape is to find his wife. If he can’t, more than the forge’s darkness will overtake him.


Jen – 7.2/10

I was glad to see this author in the finals – not because I have read anything by him before but because I haven’t. I’ve been seeing his books around for awhile and have been curious about them. 


I loved the writing style right off. I thought the narration was well-suited to the story that it was telling; it gave me the impression I was reading a very dark folktale before I even knew it was based off one.

The story itself did take awhile for me to settle in to. It seemed like I was kind of waiting to see where it was going to go because it felt like a bigger story than the page count was going to allow. Maybe familiarity with the source (or Norse legends in general) would have helped with that too, I don’t know. As the tale unfolded and we started seeing some of the past events – especially Volund’s time with the Dverg, the story got a lot more interesting to me and I was hooked.

I actually really enjoyed Darkness Forged, despite how dark it was in places. I think though, I do tend to give a little leeway in my likes, to myth/folk retellings just because they are usually rather bleak. There’s a lesson to be taught in them and rarely does the lesson-learned have a good outcome for the characters.

I don’t know if that was an author’s choice or if the tale was originally that way, but in true to folktale fashion, this story gave us a look at every outcome of the brothers’ choices – which I thought was cool. 

I did wish that the other brothers’ POV were expanded on just to fill/balance out their POVs a little more-probably my only real gripe. Now I know this story was based on a folktale, I understand why they weren’t. 

Great storytelling – really enjoyed Darkness Forged.


Nick – 8/10

I had a whole lot of fun reading this entertaining fantasy from Matt Larkin.  I’ve read a few of his books in the past but I really felt like this one was a cut above those in both story, theme, and character development.  I am also a sucker for anything that is has a heavy Norse Mythology influence. So when I started reading Darkness Forged, it immediately sunk its hooks in me.

The stories of each individual brother as they return home from a hunting trip to find each of their wives missing was an intriguing mystery that kept the plot engaging right from the beginning.  I liked that each brother had a different personality and skill that they were proficient in and this becomes an important element to the story as they go on their individual journeys to discover what became of their disappeared loved ones.

The setting is dark and brutal, which I usually enjoy and did in this book as well.  The action is hot and heavy as they encounter all types of unsavory characters and mythical beasts (this is to be expected after all in a Norse-inspired tale).  The pace was fast and never let up for even the briefest of moments.  After reading a few books lately that involved a good deal of dialogue and rumination, it was really refreshing to just jump into a pedal to the metal dark adventure fantasy story.

So if you like your fantasy books with a lot of action and grit, then darkness Forged has that in copious amounts.  In the end I was left pretty awe struck at this fantastically dark book that left me wanting more almost immediately.  I am definitely a Matt Larkin fan and Darkness Forged was a delight to read for me in so many ways.  It reminded me of the Norse Myth books that I read and loved growing up.  Definitely a worthy finalist that I enjoyed on many levels.


Peter – 9/10

Well, Darkness Forged is a dark book and it is not a story that will work for everyone.  That being said Matt Larkin has a wonderful way with words and brings to life a time in Norse Myth that is brutal.  Set in the Fimbulvetr, the time before Ragnarok, I have to admit I was excited to read a Norse inspired story for this year’s SPFBO final.

The story follows three brothers, Volund, Agilaz and Slagfid,  as is quite common in Norse Sagas, they are married happily to three Valkyries. Only after a return from a hunt do things change when the brothers find the wives have disappeared to answer a calling.

They set off on their own journeys to find their wives, I found each brother’s story engaging but Volund’s was perhaps the best.  Snapshots of the past come to light in his story but his past is also mysterious and twisted.

Darkness Forged is a well paced story, action packed and is a great story as well.  A wonderful addition to this years SPFBO is waiting for you, you don’t need much familiarity with Norse Myth to enjoy this but be warned this is a dark story in places.

It is however a book I would recommend you read, easily getting my seal of approval and I am interested to explore more of Matt’s work soon.


Timy – 9.5/10

I was super happy when I saw that Darkness Forged advanced into the Finals – not just because that meant one less book to read, but because this is a book that had been with me for 4 years now and I still have a clear impression of it. I first read it in 2017, then reread it in 2018, and wrote a somewhat coherent review which I’m going to repurpose. I was planning to give it another read for the SPFBO Finals, but life had other plans for me.

A classic Hungarian fairy tale usually features three brothers, who each goes on their own journeys to try and find their luck and a wife along the way. In these stories we always mostly follow the youngest brother, who ends up being the hero. Darkness Forged’s setting reminded me a bit of this structure. Except this is no fairy tale, the brothers already have wives and have no desire to leave their home. This tale is dark and twisted and one is unable to stop reading it. Also, don’t read this to any child, unless you want them to have nightmares.

Slagfid, Agilaz and Volund live in peace in the wilderness accompanied by their wives and Agilaz’s little son, Hermod. Until one day the three women goes missing, leaving behind only their rings. The brothers decide to follow the lead of their rings and try and take back their wives, no matter what it takes. To achieve that, they have to find battle and prove their worth, because this is the only way to attract the Valkyries’ attention.

We learn the most about Volund, the youngest of the three brothers. His love and need for his wife drives him to the edge, the cruelty of the world throws him over it. And he learns through a hard lesson what it means to make one’s own choices.

Darkness Forged is the entry to both the Gods of the Ragnarok Era and Runeblade Saga series by Matt Larkin, thus sets the tone of the world. It’s brutal, ruthless, merciless and cold. Nevertheless, Larkin is able to picture this world in a way that keeps you totally engrossed. It’s not a long book and you can finish it one sitting, but you won’t be able to get it out of your head for a long time. It’s been a few years since I’ve read it first, and I still remember vividly how I felt while reading it: fascination, dread, disgust, sorrow. Larkin can easily play with these emotions while balancing between the three main characters to give them more or less equal time to get their personalities and story arcs through. Admittedly, we get more of Volund, learning about his past with the dvergar which highlights how this experience changed him during his formative years. Also, this is a past he can’t get away from. No matter how hard or how far you run, your past will catch up with you sooner or later. Just ask him.

Anyway, I really can’t criticize anything, maybe the only thing I can whine about is that this book is not at least twice as long and I have soooo many questions left. I sincerely hope the main series will give them to me.

In Darkness Forged you might find everything you’ve been looking for: heroic fights, vengeance, violence (in many forms), enveloped in Norse mythology. This book has an oddly satisfying ending on the bittersweet side. If you are into grimdark, Norse mythology, have a few hours to spare and don’t mind having a dark twist in your read, I definitely recommend this book!

Our Judgement
Jen: 7.2Nick: 8Peter: 9Timy: 9.5

Our overall rating for Darkness Forged: 8.5/10

Darkness Forged by Matt Larkin

For more SPFBO content, please visit my SPFBO 6 Finals page!