The Millennium Trilogy: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson – Book Review [Bane of Kings]


Milo, aka “Bane of Kings”, reviews The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the bestselling Stieg Larsson thriller novel that is the opening chapter in the Millennium Trilogy. The book has seen two film adaptions – the 2009 movie directed by Niels Arden Oplev starring Naomi Rapace, and the 2011 film helmed by David Fincher with Daniel Craig as its biggest known star. You can find this book published by Quercus. 

“An excellent novel, this book’s hype is very much real. If you’re one of the few people yet to discover this thriller than you don’t know what you’re missing out on. It’s just that good.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields

It’s about the disappearance forty years ago of Harriet Vanger, a young scion of one of the wealthiest families in Sweden . . . and about her octogenarian uncle, determined to know the truth about what he believes was her murder.

It’s about Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently at the wrong end of a libel case, hired to get to the bottom of Harriet’s disappearance . . . and about Lisbeth Salander, a twenty-four-year-old pierced and tattooed genius hacker possessed of the hard-earned wisdom of someone twice her age–and a terrifying capacity for ruthlessness to go with it–who assists Blomkvist with the investigation. This unlikely team discovers a vein of nearly unfathomable iniquity running through the Vanger family, astonishing corruption in the highest echelons of Swedish industrialism–and an unexpected connection between themselves.

It’s a contagiously exciting, stunningly intelligent novel about society at its most hidden, and about the intimate lives of a brilliantly realized cast of characters, all of them forced to face the darker aspects of their world and of their own lives.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a book that I first encountered when I started hearing about the hype. I tried to get into it initially but just wasn’t in the mood at the time and never managed more than 80 pages. However, months later, after seeing the fantastic film adaption by David Fincher (who’s worked on the incredible House of Cards), I knew I had to revisit the book and my chance came earlier this year when I went to France on Holiday. It was a perfect summer read and one thing that I deeply regretted was not bringing along the sequel, because I finished this book over the course of almost one sitting and was ready to delve into the next novel as soon as possible, with the only thing that preventing me from jumping in was the fact that it happened to be in another country.

Girl-With-the-Dragon-TattooStieg Larsson’s novel is large, thick and one of the longest thrillers that I’ve read. However, that didn’t stop me from speeding through the pages, determined to find out what would happen next. It was that compelling, and that awesome, and whilst literally thrillers aren’t normally my preferred genre I couldn’t help but love it. The hype is very much real when it comes to this book, and if you haven’t gotten around to it yet, I strongly recommend that you check it out ASAP – because it’s just that good.

The two main protagonists in this book are unique, well developed and engaging. Due to the strength of Larsson’s writing you’ll quickly find yourself getting behind both of the main characters who are among the strongest that I’ve encountered in thrillers period, and can’t wait to return to their adventures in the sequel (which I plan on starting after I finish my current read, Felix Gilman’s The Revolutions), and it’s great to see that the book avoids falling into the trap of focusing too much time on the thriller part and thus harming character development. Stieg Larsson manages to handle both aspects very well with Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Slander being very impressive indeed. For an instant comparison that jumped to mind when I was reading this novel, Slander reminds me of Cameron Howe from AMC’s incredible Halt and Catch Fire, which is one of the best shows of this year so far. Slander however is arguably a more powerful and memorable character, and one of the strongest female characters in thriller fiction that I’ve read. Her development over the course of the book is very interesting to witness and I’m sure that Larsson will continue her growth in the next two books. The other main lead, Mikael Blomkvist, is almost as equally compelling even if he doesn’t quite match the uniqueness of Slander. As a disgraced journalist, he makes an interesting counterpart to Slander’s computer expert, and I couldn’t have asked for better characters to tell a compelling story.

The plot itself is smart, well paced and moved incredibly well over the course of the book. There’s an element of consistency that never leaves this title and it’s something that plays in the book’s favour, despite its length there are no boring sections as the book weaves along at a very fast pace indeed. It’s rare that you’ll find a book with both characters and plot done well, but it’s safe to say that Larsson gets both spot on, presenting an intriguing and unpredictable mystery that’s incredibly compelling set against a fascinating backdrop of Sweden, making it a refreshing change from the American thrillers from the likes of Patterson and Grisham that I normally read.

Every word of praise that has been heaped upon this book is justified. I really regret not reading the novel sooner and whilst I knew the outcome because of what happened in the movie, it didn’t diminish the reading experience. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo still blew me away and if you’re one of those people who hasn’t yet read the book yet because they’re worried that it won’t live up to the hype then I urge you to remedy this and pick it up ASAP. It’s simply that good. In fact, if it came out in 2014,  It would certainly get my award for best novel of the year, and therefore as a result I can offer my highest recommendation.

VERDICT: 9.75/10

Milo, aka Bane of Kings, is a SFF/Comic reader, and watches a lot of TV. His favourite authors are Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Jim Butcher, Brandon Sanderson & Iain M. Banks, whilst his favourite TV shows are Battlestar Galactica (2003), Person Of Interest, Firefly, Game of Thrones, & Buffy the Vampire Slayer