With Thee I Do Brawl

ThorIn the prelude to Dueling With Giants, Thor and Loki are teenagers who are hoping one day to wield All-Father Odin’s magickal uru hammer. Even at a young age, the two quarrelsome brothers exhibit personality traits that will define them in popular myths, comics, and movies. Loki invests his time with paltry schemes and misdirection, and Thor is kind of an arrogant knucklehead. For her part, Frigga is trying to raise her sons with a pinch of humility, compassion, and moral character. But she’s not having much luck. No one ever said raising two boys to become heirs to the throne of Asgard would be easy.

The story then skips ahead two millennia. How time doth swiftly fly! Thor is now the God of Thunder and the proud owner of Mjolnir. He is also the sworn protector of Asgard and Midgard. Loki, on the other hand, still can’t believe his adoptive father would favor Thor over him. “You would think a leader such as Odin would value brains and cunning over brute force,” says the disgruntled trickster god.

Because he hates living in Thor’s shadow, Loki is Hel-bent on destroying his brother in any way possible. He’s not very happy with Odin either. He’d like to banish old One-Eye from the Realm Eternal as well. To accomplish these two things, Loki starts hanging out with trolls, rime giants, wolf gods, Ulfrin the Dragon, and even the Norn Hag. Nobody it seems can mute Mjolnir’s thunder and lightning powers.

Nobody, that is, except a frost giant named Hrungnir, otherwise known as Hrungnir the Mighty, Hrungnir the Brawler, and Hrungnir the conqueror of all he meets and conquers. The guy’s got a bad reputation and a nasty temper. Once Loki gives him an impenetrable suit of stone, the giant is ready to mix it up with Thor and his pals, Balder the Brave, Lady Sif, and the Warriors Three.

For the remainder of the novel, Thor and Hrungnir go at it like Superman and Doomsday (paired with an undercard featuring the Hulk and the Thing). For nearly 50 pages, the two combatants pummel each other with their fists and their indefatigable braggadocio. Rising to the occasion, author Keith DeCandido lets loose with a flurry of purple prose perfectly in line with Thor’s early comic book adventures in Journey into Mystery. If you’re like us, you’ll have a smile on your face the entire time.

In the end, Loki is busted for his bad behavior. But what do you expect? “I am the god of mischief,” he says with a shrug. “Tormenting my fellows is my very purpose. I could no more cease to ‘play this game’ than Thor could stop producing thunder and lightning.” So be it.

[Thor: Dueling With Giants / By Keith R.A. DeCandido / First Printing: March 2016 / ISBN: 9781772751970]

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