Aug 152019

SFX Magazine: Shadows Of The Short Days offers something old and something new. Set in an alternative Iceland, it follows Smundur and Garün, former lovers turned dissidents against a repressive regime. Smundur’s experiments with magic have outraged the respectable magic institutions, but he’s determined to push ever further. Garün, meanwhile, is taking the law into her own hands. Part human, part-huldufólk (a race of extradimensional beings), she’s using magic to sow sedition in the city.

The urban setting, focus on politics and gritty tone are more than a little redolent of China Miéville’s breakout, Perdido Street Station. Like that book, Vilhjálmsson’s prose is full of a vibrant, punk energy But there’s also a sense of history, the book rooted in the myth and folklore of Iceland. His fantasy creatures feel convincingly ancient and strange—we particularly liked the Náskári, a race of jabbering ravenfolk.

Some will be put off by the reliance on Icelandic words. There is a glossary at the back, but they come so thick and fast that you’re probably best off just diving in and letting them wash over you. That could be said for the book as a whole. It’s complex, occasionally opaque, but vividly imagined and compelling.