Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Valkyrie Rising (Ingrid Paulson)

Valkyrie Rising
Ingrid Paulson
Fiction, YA Fantasy
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: Ellie lives her life in her older brother Graham's shadow... and, at sixteen, she's starting to chafe under his overprotective attention. At least she'll get away from him for a while this summer, when she visits her grandmother in Norway - him, and his best friend Tucker, whose good-natured teasing has taken on a peculiar edge lately. In Norway, she can just be herself, or so she hopes. But something strange is happening in her grandmother's little town. Boys are disappearing, sometimes in broad daylight. Locals mutter dark rumors about old myths, even going so far as to accuse her grandmother of witchcraft. But the strangest things seem to be happening not around Ellie, but inside her, as a mythic legacy wakes in her very blood. The old gods stir, and the Valkyries - immortal warrior women from the halls of Valhalla - walk the world again in search of worthy heroes. Ellie doesn't want to believe the stories, but she has no choice, as she discovers that she herself is a Valkyrie.

REVIEW: While admittedly not the most original tale, relying on a tried-and-true young adult fantasy formula, it's nevertheless a well-told story with a nice dash of Nordic flavor. Ellie's a typical insecure teen girl, unsure of herself as she crosses the line between girl and woman, a crossing made even more awkward by her peculiar ancestry. Once again, we have a grown-up who chose ignorance over information when raising a potential heroine, though at least in this case it was Ellie's grandmother, whom she only ever saw on holidays, and not the mother who lived with her for sixteen years: since the magic apparently skipped a generation, it's entirely plausible that Grandmother Hilda didn't even realize what Ellie was until the summer's events woke the old blood. The girl has to work out much of what being a Valkyrie is on her own, not helped by the interference of the god Loki or her own conflicting impulses. As for the other characters, they do their jobs, even if they aren't particularly unique. Graham's the golden boy who has to learn how to let his sister grow up, and his best friend Tucker, despite some late-breaking hidden secrets, is the boy next door whose affection takes Ellie (if not the audience) by complete surprise. Action, setbacks, and deceptions abound as the plot snakes its way through a land where myths run as deep as the fjords, winding up with a climax that practically promises a sequel without actually committing to anything. Once again, while I can't say the general story or the characters are anything new, I enjoyed reading it.

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