Book Reviews

Book review: Bloodtide

As the winter nights get longer and colder, people throughout history have gathered to tell stories. Bloodtide (EXPRESS FICTION 823.910) is a retelling of the bloodthirsty Volsunga Saga, which was written in Iceland sometime in the 13th century. Melvin Burgess has transported its heroine, Signy Volson, to a futuristic London where gangs maintain a shaky peace with the animal soldiers that live outside the walls.


Signy’s father is the current King of London, and rules from a crumbling tower block with Signy and her twin brother Siggy. King Volson orders Signy to marry Conor, a rival leader who has a large army stationed close to the walls. Signy is more cunning than her brothers, and her father is the first to admit she would make the strongest leader. But she is his only bargaining chip, and though she is unwilling at first, she finds herself falling in love with Conor and the suburb where she is treated like a princess. The people of London have tanks, cars and guns but still believe in the old Norse gods like Odin and his sons Thor and Baldur. When the body of a criminal sacrificed to Odin comes alive at Signy’s wedding, the men compete to disarm it and earn Odin’s favour, much like in the English story ‘The Sword In The Stone’. Siggy, Signy’s twin, removes the knife from a wall of glass but refuses to hand it to Conor. Signy can feel the power contained in the knife and believes that she would be its owner if she’d only taken it first. Conor and Signy leave for the army encampment but neither can forget the insult or the lure of the knife. The betrayal that follows brings about the downfall of the Volson clan, and when both twins are terribly injured, they must call upon both the old gods and new human technology to keep the wasted London on its feet.

volsung family tree

This pairing of old and new is what makes Bloodtide uniquely compelling. Signy befriends a kitten who may be a child of Loki the trickster God; Siggy is nursed back to health by one of the enemy creatures, half-woman half-pig. Siggy wields Odin’s knife and becomes a fearsome warrior; Signy uses the army’s technology to rebuild herself stronger than ever. Bloodtide explores what it means to stay strong when you are grieving, injured and angry, but it does not glamorise vengeance or war- though both twins think they have lost everything, they sacrifice more in their single-minded pursuits.

The story is narrated by both Siggy and Signy- their similar names are confusing at first but as the twins are flung across the city it is easy to tell them apart! The reader is constantly asked to re-think which twin is the bravest, cleverest or cruellest, and which twin- male or female- has the hardest life! Signy and Siggy have rehearsed for different roles, and learnt the rules well enough to appear like a good wife or hostage while secretly plotting revenge. As the bonds between sister and brother are stretched to breaking point, you may think they’re more villain than hero.

Bloodtide contains scenes of violence as well as sexual scenes. For this reason, we recommend it to readers over 16.

Read Viking: the Norse Warrior’s (unofficial) Manual (BOOK ZONE 948.02) and learn how to survive in the 13th century.

City of God (DVD LOBBY 791.4309469) is an award-winning Brazilian film based partly on true events. Rival gangs commit acts of violence that endanger a whole community- much like London consumed by the feud between Conor and Volson. The film is rated 18 for its realistic portrayals of crime and drug use.

city of god

The Odyssey (BOOK ZONE 883.01) is thousands of years older than the Volsunga Saga and has been retold in many different forms. It tells the story of Odysseus, who is trying to return to his family after a ten-year war, and is full of Gods and mythical monsters


Melvin Burgess has written many books for young adults including the novel adaptation of the movie Billy Elliot. These are all over the Book Zone, so ask a member of staff to help you search the catalogue.


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