Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Creative fantasy an excellent first novel
THIS raucous fantasy is not your average novel set in Manitoba.
True, it features many recognizable places and names. From Osborne Village to Gimli, and from the Bay Parkade to Flin Flon, we know we've been along these roads and walked under those trees before.
But we haven't usually encountered rock trolls and Scandinavian witches.
Local author Chadwick Ginther has grafted Norse mythology onto Manitoba's Interlake culture in a wild romp that is the first volume in a planned trilogy.
The reader quickly is beset by various Norse gods and otherworldly denizens who have plans to destroy the world -- starting, of course, in Manitoba.
Forget about the Bruce Springsteen song. Imagine True Blood crossed with Thor and Beowulf.
When unlikely hero Ted Callan encounters Surtur, the fire god, in the destruction of an oil sands refinery in northern Alberta, his world quickly begins to go awry.
Seeking to find some comfort from friends and family in Winnipeg, and putting distance between himself and his ex-wife, Ted hits the road but is drawn to a series of bizarre characters, the most normal of which is Tilda, a seductive fortune teller.
Tilda warns him about impending doom, but Ted can't seem to escape his destiny, especially when he is accosted and maimed by mysterious strangers in his room in an Osborne Village motor hotel.
Ted wakes up to find himself tattooed over his entire body with strange symbols and images. When he is attacked again, he acquires superhuman powers, such as strength and the ability to control the weather.
Understandably, Ted wants his life to get back to normal, although that begins to look less likely as he continues to encounter bizarre entities in downtown Winnipeg, not the least of which is the trickster god Loki.
Reasonably, Ted finds what has been happening to him hard to believe, even with two tattooed crows whispering wisdom in his ears. Disfigured by dwarves? Cursed by witches? Betrayed by his lover?
But, as Loki appeals to him: "Would you find it harder to believe that a Norse god is living in Winnipeg?"
Ted, Loki and Tilda find themselves on an epic quest that takes them first to Lake Winnipeg to meet Jormungandur, the fearsome serpent god who just happens also to be Manipogo, our province's version of the Loch Ness monster.
Then it's off to Flin Flon, which turns out to be ruled by dwarves who are hoping to restore some order to the enchanted world by unleashing their weapon of destruction on Odin's children.
Ginther's chronicle of Ted's "bogus journey" delivers fast-paced action and witty dialogue as our heroic trio battle unnatural and vulgar forces.
The gods and demigods cast spells, invoke magical runes and do everything they can to stop Ted from fulfilling his destiny.
An excellent first novel, Thunder Road is ultimately a creative fantasy about a human thrust into the role of a peacemaker between mythological forces.
Ted even seems to have a romantic destiny that will no doubt get explored in future instalments.
Chris Rutkowski is a Winnipeg writer and reviewer.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 15, 2012 J8