Very cool book. I'm glad I read this one, as it gives me an entirely new appreciation for the skills and vision of Poul Anderson. The only book of his I'd read previously was Three Hearts And Three Lions, and while that was a good book and surely deserves its place amongst the classics of the fantasy genre, it lacks the viciousness, the sense of brooding despair, the palpable darkness of this tale. Anderson pulls no punches with this story, and one can see how this directly inspired later practitioners of dark fantasy like Moorcock.
A dark homage to the Norse sagas of yore, Anderson sets himself drastically apart from Tolkien right away when one of the main Elven characters rapes a prisoner and impregnates her with a changeling, all as part of a sorcerous ritual in a plot to kidnap a newborn human child. Fucked up! The plot actually stays just as twisted after this, if you can believe that. Really, for such a short book, Anderson packs quite a lot of plot into The Broken Sword, and even though you see the end coming a mile away, that's sort of the point. It all plays out like a Greek tragedy, with nary a happy ending in sight. It tickled my black little heart.
Anderson's use of language was wonderful, a real joy to read. I wasn't super impressed with the constant Norse poetry, but I understand that he stayed very true to a specific and technical style of Norse poem, so good on him for that, I suppose. The characters were a little thin, with the exception of Valgard, the main villain, who was portrayed in a very intriguing manner.
All in all, a great book. I want to check out his SF stuff now.