Hammer of the Gods
A surprisingly deep medieval Bildungsroman, comprising a lot of gruesome deaths but also mental thrashings: disappointment, grief, betrayal. Moving from defeat to defeat, until the final “victory”.
An old king (not Lear) is dying. His protagonist son is a wet-behind-the-ears crown prince, with many people gunning for the post. He goes on a quest to move the bloodline horizontally, seeking a banished brother to return and lead them into battle.
What he finds instead is a forsaken land, filled with nothingness and bad hombres. Representing the light conquering the darkness, one of which is Christianity, that light he carries gets more weak as he advances. Most of his party are lost to external enemies or even by his own hand. The only worthwhile addition is a ray of sunshine within a dark dark world.
His quest reaches the pinnacle near a Kurtz-like, leading a ragtag bunch of cannibals. To add that sick twist in the rusting knife already in his heart, his who has abandoned him as a child, rules as the top concubine to her own son.
Only with unbroken resolve can he defeat the Kurtz, to return to his farther ready to take the crown as intended. It’s the journey, not the destination.
I don’t know about others, but anmeets meets , set in Viking Saxony? Sign me up. The main character is playing his version of Christian Bale, a good example that’s a good thing.