You know you have a good story on your hands when the villain of the story is winning and you are loving it. When villains are so well written it doesn’t matter if they can’t seem to lose because we want to see their gloriously terrible reign end in a ball of flames. Those flames come this issue, but not at all like you’d expect!
Vinland Saga Book 4 (Kodansha Comics)
Game of Thrones fans have no excuse to not read this manga and the definitive proof occurs in this issue. Prince Canute is vying to keep himself alive as his very evil and bad intentioned council maneuvers decision making to keep him alive. Canute has one of the greatest warriors on his side in Thorkill and a wild young warrior in the making in Thorfinn, yet the odds are still against him. That’s because the king wants him dead, or at the very least far away from any power he may attain. The king is a bit mad, but Askeladd (that’s the villain I mentioned in the opening) is smart enough to know what to say and how to say it. He basically has the smarts of Tyrion but the fighting ability of Jaime plus the wicked backstory of [insert any messed up GoT character]. They must transverse the king’s obstacles in this intense book.
Mental chess at its best.
Why does this manga matter?
Historical fiction with mind games afoot, intense action with lots of gore and more character development than you can shake a stick at. Yes please.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
If you like surprises this book will not disappoint you. I’ll leave it at that. I was so thoroughly shocked by how this book ended I gasped out loud.
With that out of the way, this book is also intense with plenty of mind games going on as we traverse this very dangerous landscape. After reading three books of incredible violence and war this book goes very deeply into the psyche. We get inside Askeladd’s head as he plots and chooses his words wisely. It’s fun and exciting to be right there with him as he figures out how to keep himself and the prince alive. It reminds me of the fantastic logic problems Light went through in Death Note.
Speaking of Askeladd, writer and artist Makoto Yukimura reveals his entire backstory and it’s pretty epic. We got a taste of it back in book 3, but here we see it first hand in a flashback. It goes a long way in making Askeladd the hero of this entire series, even though he is the protagonist’s greatest enemy, but Yukimura fleshes out the tragedy of his life and makes you want him to win the day by stories end.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
What is the deal with giving Thorfinn second billing!? At this point I shouldn’t be surprised since he really hasn’t been the lead since book 1, but each book seems to follow him as if we’ll learn more soon and it never comes. Sure he gets another duel with Askeladd here and a powerful moment by story’s end, but it’s still shocking to see him skulk in the corners of scenes rather than get any focus at all.
Is It Good?
Amazing, jaw dropping, and exciting. Game of Thrones fans, do not hesitate to read this series and especially this book. I haven’t been shocked this much in a very long time.