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Sunday, March 28, 2021

SPFBO Finalist: Darkness Forged by Matt Larkin review

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AUTHOR INFORMATION: Along with his wife and daughter, Matt lives as a digital nomad, traveling the world while researching for his novels. He read approximately a bazillion books a year, loves video games, and relaxes by binge watching Netflix with his wife.

Matt writes retellings of mythology as dark, gritty fantasy. His passions of myths, philosophy, and history inform his series. He strives to combine gut-wrenching action with thought-provoking ideas and culturally resonant stories.

As a child, Matt read The Lord of the Rings with his parents. This sparked a lifelong obsession with fantasy and started him on a path of discovering the roots of fantasy through mythology. In exploration of these ideas, the Eschaton Cycle was born--a universe of dark fantasy where all myths and legends play out.

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CLASSIFICATION: Dark Fantasy, Nordic Mythology Retelling

FORMAT: Self-published by the author on August 01, 2017, Darkness Forged is the first book in Legends of the Ragnarok Era series. It works as a standalone. It's available in ebook and paperback format through Amazon. The book is 226 pages long. Cover by Yocla Designs.


I’m not a huge mythology geek, and I rarely read retellings. In theory, my preferences work against Darkness Forged, a retelling of the Völundarkviða, an old Norse poem about Völundr. I haven’t read the source text, and I can’t say if the book remains faithful to it. I can say, however, it’s a bleak, brutal story of abuse and revenge

Plot & Structure

Darkness Forged relates the story of the artisan Wolund, his capture by Níðuðr, and his brutal revenge and escape. Larkin kept things focused and condensed, with little embellishments and unnecessary minutiae. The story focuses on three brothers: Wolund, Agilaz, and Slagfid. Each of them walks a hard path, each of them ends in a different place. Larkin tied up and more-or-less resolved all arcs in less than 300 pages. Impressive.


Each of three brothers follows a different path. Wolund’s one is tragic, the other two bitter-sweet. If you know the source material, you probably won’t approach the story hoping for happy-ending. And yet, you’ll probably admire Wolund’s determination in finding his beloved one and hope they’ll get together. Even though I didn’t like Wolund, his development and his path to becoming a legend impressed me. I found Larkin’s characters distant but interesting - I didn’t really care for anyone, but they didn’t lack depth. 

Point of view

Larkin uses a deep 3rd person limited POV that works well for this story. Each protagonist perceives world differently and their POV reflects it. No issues here.


If you crave for bleak settings, psychotic dwarves, and Norse themes, Darkness Forged will fit your needs. Larkin introduced the world in small doses, enough to get the feel of it and move the plot forward. As the title and the cover suggest, it’s a bleak world. 

Voice / tone

Prepare some prozac. Wolund’s tragic fate will get to you. Larkin doesn’t shy away from visceral descriptions of violence, and the story remains more bitter than sweet throughout. 


Darkness Forged stays focused and tight. It’s short, full of twists and developments that maintain the reader’s attention and immersion in the story.

In closing

I’m not the right reader for this kind of story. I found it bleak and depressive, but I have no other issues with it. Larkin impressed me with vigorous and concise writing. He focused on a gut-wrenching story of abuse and revenge, and it paid-off. Fans of Norse mythology should get a copy and try it.




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