December 10, 2019

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Norse trilogy's final instalment a deliciously destructive Prairie romp

When we last left Ted Callan, he had just destroyed Winnipeg.

Well, technically he had saved Winnipeg, but was also complicit in its near-destruction through his battle with Norse gods set on laying waste to the CN Station.

And now he's heading for Edmonton.

Too Far Gone is the final instalment of the Thunder Road trilogy by Chadwick Ginther, a master fantasy/noir storyteller based in Winnipeg. Ginther is a familiar name and face to many fantasy fans across North America, and his fascination with Norse mythology has played a major role in the development of his writing style.

Thunder Road, the first book of the trilogy, began with anti-hero Ted Callan being accosted by elves in a hotel room in Winnipeg, leaving him permanently tattooed with odd runes and symbols over his entire body. Included among these are two ravens, Huginn and Muninn, who act as mystical messengers and can leave Ted's body to do his bidding.

Through his transformation, Ted has gained superhuman strength and other abilities, since his Norse protagonists chose him to lead a fight against the gods returning to Earth. Helping and also hindering him on his conscripted quest are three Norns (witches), who don't especially like Ted — with the exception of Tilda, who gets very intimate with him indeed.

Continuing Callan's challenges in Thunder Road and Tombstone Blues, the second book of the trilogy, Ginther chronicles Ted's battles with various monsters who aren't so mythical — from a sea serpent in Lake Winnipeg to trolls in underground mines in Flin Flon. And in Tombstone Blues, Callan travels to the depths of Hel itself, which just happens to be underneath The Forks in Winnipeg. The city doesn't look the same after Ted's fight against the denizens of the underworld.

But in Too Far Gone, having defeated the mighty Thor and acquiring his hammer, Callan has set out on a trip to Edmonton where he hopes to have a relatively quiet family reunion and attend his best friend's wedding. Unfortunately, the trickster god Loki is along for the ride, transformed into a stripper. Needless to say, Ted's family and friends are less than impressed.

Further complicating Ted's visit to Alberta is a layover in Saskatchewan where he encounters homicidal zombie bikers who are minions of Surtur, the fire god, who is bent on destroying the world. Of course. And Surtur's planning on making his last stand against Ted, armed with all the fantastic weapons at his beck and call. He is now stronger and more powerful than Ted ever was, and only a magical sword can help defeat him. If only Ted knew where it was.

Ted's hell-bent — literally — on keeping Edmonton, including his dearest friends and family, safe from the fate that Winnipeg suffered in Tombstone Blues.

Ginther thankfully includes a glossary in each volume, describing the various gods and worlds of Norse mythology and how they manifest on the Canadian Prairies, so that the reader has a better chance of following the story.

Too Far Gone is a gritty, whirlwind romp, designed to lead fantasy fans on a personalized tour as Norse mythology plows headlong into downtown Edmonton.

Will Ted save the High Level Bridge from certain destruction? Only a favourable cast of runes will tell.

 

Chris Rutkowski is president of the Manitoba Writers' Guild.

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