Tag Archives: Norse

City of Gods II: Horsemen (City of Gods #2)

Title: City of Gods II: Horsemen

Author: Jonathan Maas

Series: City of Gods #2

The Horsemen have learned much during their time at the Academy, but now they have to face final exams. True to form, the exams aren’t easy—and some of them require involving themselves in the outside world. And after, everyone is split up as they’re sent on their first real missions . . .

I still think this is better as “kids with powers” than Horsemen specifically, the little nod to a vision of horses notwithstanding. That said, it’s still an interesting world, and each of the kids gets a lot of opportunity to develop.

In some ways this feels like a novella about the final exams, followed by the first half of a book about their first missions. That’s not a bad thing—both stories rotate between all four Horsemen and the split means things can go in several directions. One of the missions, for example, is directly built on an exam.

I like that Gunnar’s challenge is more about leadership, because he’s not really used to working with others still, much less the people who actually end up by his side. And I liked that Rowan isn’t quite as one-dimensional as he’s seemed (I usually love berserkers, but Rowan being an arrogant bully cancelled that out). I liked that Saoirse picked up the biggest incongruity about the minotaurs and is clever in playing to her strengths. I liked that Kayana gets challenged over her sociopathic tendencies, because Tommy and Cassander show her she may be extremely intelligent but she’s operating from a bad set of assumptions about humanity. And Tommy not only has a chance to be more of a leader himself, he’s got hints about the shape of his destiny that intrigue me.

Some of the characters felt a bit weaker, though. Cassander sometimes comes across as less of a character and more of a mouthpiece, and I dearly hope Kayana’s “overpopulation is the problem” confronts the reality that people can be jerks just fine even if they have all their material needs met.

Overall, though, this is still a really unique setting that I’m enjoying a lot. It’s fun to see Apaches and Celts and Spartans and Amazons and so much more all vying for attention. There’s enough tech to be a light sci-fi while of course the gods provide a lot of magic. I rate this book Recommended.

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Valkyrie (Valkyrie #1)

Title: Valkyrie

Author: Kate O’Hearn

Series: Valkyrie #1

Freya is the youngest Valkyrie, finally come of age. But she’s never felt right about taking her place among the rest of the Valkyries. She hates the evils of war, and the thought of rewarding those who fight well in them, and the pointlessness of the eternal lives those warriors enjoy in Asgard. But when a promise to a dying soldier and a conversation with Loki leads to her exploring the human world, she quickly becomes embroiled in an entirely foreign set of circumstances. War she understands, but human school?

I liked how this played out. Freya’s immaturity and insecurity make her a very relatable Valkyrie, yet she’s got a full set of equipment, skills, and magic to make her every bit the deadly warrior her kind is supposed to be. I adored the scenes with flying. As the cover image shows, Freya has wings, and she also has a winged horse that she’s supposed to ride into battle. I also liked the way her unrelenting hatred of humans starts softening once she sees that there really are more dimensions to people than what she’s seen in war. She’s just never had exposure to anything like a normal human life before.

The myths and everyday life mix well at first, and although I do very much like some things about the ending, the blend felt off-balance at the end. Odin is far too willing to trust Loki, who has betrayed him numerous times by now, and calls up forces mighty enough that he really ought to think twice. (Not that I’m objecting to Chicago getting wrecked for once instead of certain other cities that are always featured in books.) I don’t suppose Odin needs to worry about cameras and evidence, but there is a certain level of care taken early on by everyone to remain hidden from humanity, that the ending just doesn’t care about. What about the consequences? One lone Valkyrie moonlighting as a force of justice can be somewhat explained away to the public consciousness, but given the wreckage caused by that last battle, the world would have a tremendous shift towards believing the old Norse legends again.

Anyway, overall it was still a fun story, and even if the end gives Freya a little bit more leeway than she probably ought to have, it’s better to have a happy ending. I rate this book Recommended.

The Lost Sun (The United States of Asgard #1)

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.