Title: The Lost Sun
Author: Tessa Gratton
Series: The United States of Asgard #1
Soren Bearskin was born into a line with the berserker gift—a gift he would do anything to remove, after what it did to his father. He can’t afford to get close to anyone or anything that might set him off and wake the gift in him for good. But when Astrid, daughter of a great seer and seer herself, comes to his school, the calm he’s spent years cultivating threatens to crack. Then the unthinkable happens. Baldur’s fall pyre and spring resurrection are as regular a part of life as sunset and sunrise, until this year, when he doesn’t come back. Astrid is convinced she has a clue from her visions, and Soren feels drawn to help her. But can they find Baldur and return him? Can Soren keep control so close to someone who unbalances him?
The United States of Asgard has a lot of great worldbuilding, from the little details like days reverting to Tyrsday and Thorsday and bigger ones like disagreements being solved by lawyer or trial by combat. This is a blend of Norse myth and modern-day life, and it has a lot of great twists on the ordinary. I liked the roles played by the various gods. Some, like Odin, actually bother with human affairs, while others prefer to keep more distance. It was especially interesting to see Baldur, who is at the heart of the story. I was pleased at how the story showed how he could draw both men and women, without making it all about romantic relationships. Soren has particularly complicated ties, as he sees Baldur as a rival, a brother-in-arms, a god, and someone he needs to protect.
Soren’s struggles extend inward to his fear of his gift. I liked the whole struggle, but particularly the bit where he finally confesses what exactly happened with his father. I like what he doesn’t say. What’s there for the reader but not for Astrid. How much that one event has shaped his life and his determination to never, ever let the same thing happen to him. I liked that the berserk gift was something always present in him, something that affects how much he sleeps, and not just something that rouses when he’s angry. And I really liked that the world knows and expects the berserker gift, and has made various provisions around it—schools, jobs, tattoo, and the different rules Soren gets when he does a trial by combat, versus a more ordinary person like Astrid.
I was less fond of Soren’s instant attraction to Astrid (and her instant-like back, at least most of the time), but what balances it out is that the two actually do have a great deal in common, and a great deal holding them apart. And Baldur isn’t the only one causing the conflict.
All in all, this is a fascinating world, and I’m glad it’s the first book of a series so I know there will be more. It feels like this one only scratches the surface. The gods clearly have their own games going on, and I’d love to see more from both the human and the divine sides. I’m also curious how Soren’s allegiance at the end will play out—I would hope there are more consequences than just how one prays. I rate this book Recommended.