What an unexpectedly amazing book! The title caught my eye, because I had just read some Norse mythology, so I picked it up hoping it would be a sillyWhat an unexpectedly amazing book! The title caught my eye, because I had just read some Norse mythology, so I picked it up hoping it would be a silly but fun read (and fearing it would be garbage). To my surprise, however, the story was epic, deep, moving, fascinating--and, yes, fun. The title, cover, and blurb on the back do not do any justice to the quality of the book, or accurately represent what it's about.
Ragnarok is approaching; the chain of events leading up to it were set in motion long ago. But Hermod, son of Odin, is worried that he's accidentally sped things up, and he doesn't really want that kind of responsibility. After all, he hasn't been to Asgard in thousands of years, and he hasn't kept in touch. Mist, meanwhile, has only been a Valkyrie for three months--since she and her sister were killed in a drive-by shooting--but she's already ready to take matters into her own hands and rescue her sister from Helheim and from Hel, the terrifying queen of the dead. Only one person has ever been to Helheim and back, and that's Hermod. Together, they just might be able to accomplish both goals...but destiny can be pretty hard to escape from.
They imagine the chain of events like a line of dominoes, and they want to figure out how to stop them all from being knocked over. So along with Mist's partner Grimnir and Hermod's dog Winston, and a few other people they meet along the way, they journey through Helheim and among the nine worlds that make up Yggdrasil, the world tree, looking for the piece to remove. But everything they do seems to topple yet another domino and bring them closer to Ragnarok.
The NorseCODE genome project is actually a great idea, and it might be fun to read a book or short story just about that, but it's only a very tiny part of this story. And that is not a complaint. The scope of this novel is so much greater than just a clever idea. Here we deal with destiny, with betrayal, with responsibility, with staying true to oneself, with love...Hel, there's a freaking apocalypse! There's also plenty of buttkicking and swords and even zombies, in the form of draugr, the shambling dead. There are also a lot of details and imagery from Norse mythology, which were done excellently. There are also some different and fascinating interpretations of aspects of some myths, which didn't detract from the originals in anyway, but made them more meaningful.
The characters in this story are mythic and legendary, but even though some of them are g-ds, they're so very human. There are many heroes, but there are also many characters that the heroes are fighting against, many of whom I would hesitate to call villians. After all, everyone already knows that Ragnarok will happen and what the result will be, and most know their own parts to play in it. If some are tired of waiting around for it, or have plans to make the best of it, does that really make them bad guys? This is one of the many interesting questions that this book raised in my mind.
I was really not expecting to like this much, but holy crap was it good. Great, actually. You have to get past the title--it's cute and clever, but it trivializes the book and it's almost completely unrelated to the plot--the cover, which is not a good representation of the epic-ness and the many heroes and POVs of the story, and the summary on the back, which is kind of misleading, and you'll find a real gem.
First line of the Prologue: "On the last true day of spring the nine world will ever know, my brother and I fly recon through the land of the g-ds. From this high up, Asgard shimmers. The shields that roof the timber halls glimmer like golden fish scales. It's all green grass and fluffy white sheep and fresh red blood. A very pretty scene." First line of Chapter One: "Only two hours into Mist's first job, things were already going badly. For one, the duct tape had come loose over the recruit's mouth, and he was screaming so loudly that Mist was sure he'd be heard through the walls of the van, even above the roar of Route 21 traffic."...more
I admit that I found this book to be entertaining enough that I wanted to finish it, and that--unfortunately--it's is definitely not the worst book I'I admit that I found this book to be entertaining enough that I wanted to finish it, and that--unfortunately--it's is definitely not the worst book I've read (although that's because I just read a truly awful book that was TERRIBLY written). I will also admit that there were items and ideas of definite interest in it. However, I cannot honestly say that it was at all good or that gave me any sort of satisfaction.
The writing in this book was not the best, but it wasn't the worst, and it wasn't the Dan Brown type of overly-simplistic prose--there was a style, it just wasn't particularly impressive. There were some typos and some misused words, but not so many that it made me angry. The world the author created was interesting, visually and in terms of the mythology, the history, and the way things were done, and in some ways it was well thought out. Unfortunately the workings of it and the magic in it it were unstructured and didn't seem to follow real rules. The teenage characters were, well, teenagers. They didn't have much depth and didn't behave very consistently, but they weren't too offensive, and their characterizations by the author weren't too bad. There were plenty of plot twists and huge reveals, but sadly there was not a single one that I didn't see coming from several hundred miles away. Usually I don't mind figuring something out before the characters, but this was too much. The dialogue was mostly interesting to read, although cliched, but was at times unnatural--sometimes I really felt like the author had set up a whole scene just to have a place for a line she thought up and wanted to use. Or a line she had heard somewhere else...in fact, the most problematic issue for me was how much of this story came from other stories; how much of it I recognized.
Clary Fray, a fifteen year old girl, discovers that she is not the mundane girl she'd always thought herself to be: she is a nephilim, has special abilities, and is part of a world with magic and creatures she never before knew existed, because her mother refused to acknowledge any existence of the supernatural. It turns out that within that world had been a dangerous group of people with the goal of trying to keep the world pure by wiping out all the Downworlders, the leader of whom was supposedly killed when Clary a baby, and her heritage was hidden from her for her protection. Unfortunately, it seems like Lord Valentine is back in the picture, and it's up to Clary and her new companions, other nephilim being trained to become Shadowhunters at the Institute (which is disguised from the sight of "mundanes"), to prevent him from getting what he needs to regain his power and complete his genocidal goal.
Hmmm, that sounds kind of familiar...a bit like Harry Potter. Wait, actually, it sounds exactly like Harry Potter. And amazingly, the similarities to Harry Potter don't end there: throw in a red-haired mother who sacrifices to protect her child, a flying motorcycle, a teacher who knew the protagonist's parents and their friends and a lot about "The Circle," parents turn out to have been with the bad guy but got off easy after his downfall, a conveyance that recklessly travels city streets--even driving right up and over cars--yet is bizarrely unnoticed, and a number of other things that are way to specifically spoilery to mention here. This basically IS Harry Potter, with a change of setting.
That's not to say that there aren't similarities in themes, ideas, characters, dialogue, and plot points to plenty of other books, movies, tv shows, et cetera. There are, and they are numerous and obvious. But the similarities to Harry Potter are too huge to go uncomplained about. It was ridiculous. I guess this shouldn't be too much of a surprise, since the author was a well known Harry Potter fan fiction writer before being published. I should admit that, having known that before reading this book, it's possible that I was actively looking for similarities to Harry Potter, but that doesn't change the fact that I found them--in, as you can see, spades....more
Lady Gruadh is born in 11th century Scotland into a royal (although not ruling) family, taught about--and proud of--her Celtic and Pictish heritage, gLady Gruadh is born in 11th century Scotland into a royal (although not ruling) family, taught about--and proud of--her Celtic and Pictish heritage, groomed to become Queen of the Scots. She is a woman of her times and her culture: familiar with death and danger at an early age, a believer both in Christianity and in the Gaelic goddess Brigid--and in magic--ambitious and strong, she understands marriage as a political alliance rather than a romantic commitment, and is gifted (she hopes) with visions of the future. Rue, as she is called, both embroiders tapestries AND wields a sword.
In Susan Fraser King's version of her story, Gruadh is highly sought-after for marriage because of her lineage, and is the focus of her father's hopes of ruling the Scots. As a teenager, she is married to a contender for the throne, but before she even bares his first child he is killed and, as per tradition, she is forced to marry his killer, Mac Bethad. Over time, Rue and Macbeth learn to respect and care for each other and, more importantly, recognize and work toward their shared ambition to become King and Queen and to restore peace and unity to Scotland.
A real historical figure, not much is actually known about Gruadh (not even her exact name for sure), but given what we know about the historical--as opposed to the theatrical--Macbeth, this version of her seems more likely than that presented to us by the Bard. After all, his patron and ruler was the descendant of Macbeth's murderer.
Like good historical fiction, this novel is full of period details that are hidden in the daily lives of the characters and which, whether they are historically accurate or not (I suspect they are), FEEL genuine, and therefore make the reader feel like he or she is experiencing the time. The story is very interesting, and the first person narrative has an almost poetic quality that I enjoyed. The characters, although somewhat cold by modern values, are realistic and well defined and not, in my opinion, easily confusable. Unfortunately, because the characters are so cold, I wasn't really able to sympathize or empathize with them, and never felt like I was emotionally invested or a part of the story, even though Gruadh was telling it to me herself.
I love Scotland, love Shakespeare's Macbeth (I played Lady Macbeth once), love historical fiction, love re-imaginings and reinterpretations of well-known stories..and yet I didn't love this book. I found it interesting and enjoyable, and thought it was very good, but I unfortunately didn't really feel anything about it....more
This volume of Sandman almost seems like a second attempt at a beginning for the series. We meet the Endless and learn a lot about them, and Dream inThis volume of Sandman almost seems like a second attempt at a beginning for the series. We meet the Endless and learn a lot about them, and Dream in particular. We get to see another battle of sorts with Lucifer. We're introduced to a whole bunch of characters and ideas, the stories of which aren't completely played out yet. And of course the ending sets the stage for more stories to come.
Since I wasn't a huge fan of the actual beginning, I think this is a great new jumping off point. Plus, I loved seeing all the various pantheons and the interesting ways they were depicted....more