Hey everyone! So, I am so excited to announce that I am on the blog tour for Amanda Hocking’s Norse-themed fantasy, Between The Heart and the Blade! I was very excited to participate because, well, Valkyries! I thought this was a perfect book to go ahead and ease back into blogging, and to kick off my first review for 2018! See my review below, and there is a give away at the end! (Us only)
Between The Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking
Published by Wednesday Books on January 2nd, 2018
Genres: young adult, fantasy, urban fantasy
Source: Publisher, Netgalley
Buy on Amazon
Valkyries have one great responsibility: to return immortals to the afterlife by slaying them. As a Valkyrie, Malin has always known that the balance of the world rests on her ability to carry out orders. But when Malin discovers that her mother spared the life of an immortal who was destined to die, her world is thrown into chaos.
Malin not only wrestles with the knowledge that her mother might not be who she thought—she’s also thrust into the path of a gorgeous blue eyed guy named Asher who needs her help slaying the rogue immortal who destroyed his family. The balance of the world is at stake. And, as Asher competes with Malin’s ex for her love and loyalty, so is her heart.
It is no secret that I love all things Norse – so I was stoked to read a series titled “Valkyrie” when I was able to get my hands on it. Between the Blade and the Heart crafts Norse mythology, blending it with folklore from other cultures, and fuses them into an alternate urban fantasy realm. Valkyries are now a “protect and serve” arm to balance the universe via population control, aka government sanctioned mercenaries for immortals.
I enjoyed how the author used a modern setting to update a current trend. It gave the idea a fresh angle without feeling tired or “cashing in” on the Marvel Thor wave. Thanks to the Marvel movie universe, Norse is now seen as a modernized folklore franchise. Hocking’s world building is more included to use the more magical elements of the Norse era, bringing some of the overlooked factors into the spotlight, such as avoiding “Asgardians” and instead using the “Vanir” as the chosen name of the Norse gods. Odin and some other of the “background” gods, such as Tyr, are also more central to the plot, than other more famous and canonized gods (Thor, Loki and the twins).
As someone who has studied on Norse mythology and the attitudes towards certain aspects, I really enjoyed how Hocking approached the role of the Valkyries in the novel. Throughout history, Valkyries were exalted and at times, cursed and feared, and this same attitude is reflected in her work. Marlin, our main character narrating life as a citizen as a Valkyrie in society, touches on how her role sets her apart from the rest of her peers and fellow civilians. Marlin states that some welcome her, some fear her, but mostly, the attitude is resentment. As a person who exists to thin out the population, Marlin often weighs in on the morality of her purpose, but doesn’t beat the reader over the head with apologies and excuses for the actions of the league of Valkyries. There is even a discussion that some Valkyries cannot follow through with her job title and gives it up due to guilt and shame. To be fair, if the world was filled with immortals, then there is the entire issue of overpopulation and limited space. So I enjoyed that the book was bold with the subject.
Another theme of the book that I love about the novel is that the book addresses the LBGQIA spectrum by creating Marlin as a bisexual character, conflicted between an ex-girlfriend and a potential boyfriend. Romance does play a huge part of the book (but it isn’t the only motivation of the story) and I loved how we are starting to see a positive trend for bisexual characters in young adult novels. With each of the love interest, Quinn (ex-gf) and Asher (new love interest), real issues and decisions face Marlin as she has to overcome obstacles with each relationship. In fact, the entire novel addresses personal relationships, and doesn’t just limit itself to just romantic conflict. Marlin also battles her emotional damage with a detached mother, and slowly starts to bond with a rival at school. I’m always ecstatic when a book doesn’t limit relationship turmoil to just romance – there are so many other bonds that can be explored in a story.
The only few downfalls I saw was that I wish there had been more time spent at the academy (I just LOVE fictional schools and universities) and at times, the writing became clunky when there was a lot of “this creature right here came up. This creature was a such-and-such.” It felt like a lot of telling instead of showing.
Overall, I really enjoyed a Norse-themed book that ventured into urban fantasy, blending other cultures together and bringing something modern and imaginative into the fold while celebrating some of the girl kick-ass women in folklore.
Amanda Hocking is the author of over twenty young adult novels, including the New York Times bestselling Trylle Trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her love of pop culture and all things paranormal influence her writing. She spends her time in Minnesota, taking care of her menagerie of pets and working on her next book.
Prize: One finished paperback copy of BETWEEN THE BLADE AND THE HEART: U.S. entries only.