Elizabeth Boyer,
The Elves & the Otterskin
(Del Rey, 1981)

Elizabeth Boyer returns to the world of the Alfar with The Elves & the Otterskin, another novel drawing heavily on the lore of Norse mythology. Set in the same world as The Sword & the Satchel, Elves is a stand-alone book with only a passing reference to a minor character or two from the previous novel.

In this tale, Ivarr -- an apprentice healer -- is torn from his world after the murder of his teacher, Brina, and hurled into the strife-ridden world of elves, dwarves, wizards and dragons.

The story borrows from the related Norse myths of the shapeshifter Ottar, the greedy dwarf Andvari and the hoard-guarding dragon Fafnir. Five Alfar misfits are on the run after killing Ottar, the son of the dwarven king Svartarr, while he was in the shape of a river otter. Now they must pay a hefty weregild for the boy's death or risk a devastating war between dwarves and elves. And the only way to pay the weregild is to raid the treasure cave of Andvari, whose vast hoard is guarded by a fiery dragon. Prophecies suggest that Ivarr is the only one who can retrieve a magic sword from a haunted barrow, slay the dragon and free the gold.

Boyer seasons her version of the story with plenty of magic -- besides Brina, a witch, there's Gizur, a red-bearded wizard who has vowed to aid the Alfar in their quest; Lorimer, a powerful sorcerer who is manipulating events in his favor and for whom death is only a momentary inconvenience; and Regin, a tattered necromancer whose loyalties are questionable. The five Alfar, too, have magic of varying degrees, although it comes to them gradually and in stuttering spurts along the route of their adventure.

The Alfar, by the way, are endlessly entertaining -- hapless and mostly incompetent, bickering and often buffoonish, they provide a whimsical backdrop to dire events surrounding Ivarr's search for the sword.

book review by
Tom Knapp

29 April 2017

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new