First off, I want to apologize for being a week late with this. Life and classes got a bit crazy, and unfortunately the blog kind of fell by the wayside. This will also be the first review where I give it a rating out of five. Here’s hoping that that works out. I’m also going to admit here and now that I haven’t read the first two books in this series. My original plan was to read and review this one and then see if I could dig up the other two someplace. That plan’s been canceled now in favor of some thrillers that I picked up last Tuesday. Anyone who’s interested in my review copy of Ship of the Dead can check Goodreads in the next few days, I’ll be posting it there probably Monday.
There are a very few books that I just don’t want to keep reading after the first chapter. Ruin Warriors: Ship of the Dead by James Jennewein and Tom S. Parker is one of those few books. I really wanted to like this book, but there were just too many problems for it to work for me.
Ship of the Dead tells the story of Dane the Defiant as he drags his friends across the country side to save his one true love from being a valkyrie forever after. In order to accomplish this, Dane makes a deal with Skuld, one of the goddesses of fate, to destroy the revived villain Thidrek the Terrifying to give Astrid the choice of being human again. Trouble strikes the band quickly when Lur the Bent, also known as stock mentor figure number one, decides that he needs to eat the magic apple that they need in order to convince a dwarven smith to make them the magical weapon of zombie killing. From there on, we are treated to lot’s of posturing, second guessing of Dane by his supposedly trusting companions, and the kind of feel good bull pocky that would make Saturday morning cartoons ashamed of themselves.
I found much more to complain about with this book than things to like. It read as though the authors had done little to no research on Vikings or Norse mythology or the time period. The feel good that I mentioned earlier is one of the non-research related things that got to me. Why are there Vikings in the happy good times kids’ book? Why are they bastardizing Norse mythology to say that one can get into Valhalla by being true to oneself and everyday noble rather than dying on a bloody battle field surrounded by the other guys’ dead bodies? Oh, right, kids’ book can’t have anything the good guys do requiring a violent death. What about the part where Dane’s theoretically trusting and faithful companions keep second guessing him at every turn? These guys have been with him for two books before this one, and they still don’t seem to trust him in anything. Or the part where Lur never gets anything but praise for eating the apple of youth? The Ruin Warriors, other than Dane who is always wrong, love Lur for eating the apple and being a young twenty something again. Or the part where apparently everyone over the Bifrost bridge, who isn’t Astrid or Mist or Skuld, is holding a massive idiot ball? The names used for the characters also bothered me a bit, there was no Dane Voldarson no it was “the Defiant”, and it went that way for all of the characters. It was almost like the writers picked one major trait for each of them and then named them after it. Is this something that changes over the character’s lives? Will Dane eventually be changed to “the Second-guessed” or “the Untrusted” or “the Standard Childish Hero”? This is never shown, so I’m forced to assume that his parents just up and decided that he was going to be a little snot and called him “Defiant.”
There’s still more, not much though, there’s still the lack of research. I know that Norse mythology isn’t as widely read as Greek, but this is a kids’ book at least bother to get it right. Hel is not a dragon or whatever scaly monstrosity they decided to make her, she’s half of a beautiful woman and half of a horrifying rotting corpse. I can’t find any record of a “queen of the valkyries”, which feels like a tacked on bit of modern day bureaucracy to make the writers more comfortable. There were an absolute ton of those little bits of the modern that, had they been handled well, could have been funny. Instead of being humorous bit of non sequitur, the pieces of modern life just served to make the authors look more incompetent. Why would there be “attached outhouses” when the idea of an indoor toilet was still considered gross less than a century ago? Why is the bad guy demanding a signed memo rather than going for the kill? This isn’t funny, it’s sad and it makes me sad that I read all two hundred and ninty-four pages of this drivel. I cannot suggest this book to anyone. One out of five and a request for my time back.