Norse Mythology

by Neil Gaiman
First sentence: “Many gods and goddesses are named in Norse mythology.”
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Content: There’s some odd situations, and a bit of violence. It’s with the other mythology books in the bookstore, but I’d give it to anyone who likes Norse mythology (like K, who wants to read this next).

This is exactly what it says it is: retellings of old Norse myths. Gaiman goes basically chronologically, beginning with with the creation of the nine words and the gods and the creation of Yggdrasil, the world-tree, and goes through to Ragnarock, and what that will be. There are stories about Thor and Loki and Frey and Freya and the giants.

It’s a good retelling, as far as retellings go — Gaiman is a talented writer, and it shows in this — though to be honest, I’m not fond of reading the myths in their original form. It’s kind of like reading short stories; I want something longer, something more cohesive. That said, I’m glad I read them, if only because I could see how Rick Riordan worked the myths into the Magnus Chase series.

I picked this up for book group, which is probably the only way I would have read it. It’s just not something I’m interested in reading. But, that said, I’m glad I read this.

The Boneless Mercies

by April Genevieve Tucholke
First sentence: “They say dying makes you thirsty, so we always gave our marks one last drink.”
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Content: There is a lot of death and some drinking. It’s in the Teen sectiong (grades 9+) but it’d be appropriate for younger kids as well.

Frey and her companions — Ovie, Runa, Juniper — are Boneless Mercies: women who roam the country performing mercy killings for payment, such as it is. They’re shunned by society, even while they’re treated with respect. But the girls — and they are all girls, ranging from 15 to 19(ish) — are tired of the death trade. Frey, especially, longs for something More out of life. So, when they here of a monster — a giant — who is terrorizing the Blue Vee area of Vorseland, they head out to perform that impossible task.

There’s more to it, of course. And it’s very much an Epic Tale in the tradition of the Odyssey, or (more accurately) one of the Norse myths. In fact, it’s deliberately Norse (without being explicitly so): the Boneless Mercies worship the goddess Valkree, and others follow Obin. It’s Vorse and Finnmark and Dennish. Warriors die and go to Holholla, and they believe in Hel. This bugged me, at first, because why be Norse without really being Norse? But, eventually, I settled in and it didn’t bother me as much.

It’s a very feminist book, without hitting the reader over her head: it’s female-centric (there are about five male characters in the whole book), it’s a world where while females don’t have power (there are references to the way women and girls are kept down), they search out the power they do have and wield it to the full extent, while working for change. But, mostly, it’s beautifully written. Tucholke has a gift for words in the same way Laini Taylor and Maggie Stiefvater do: she keeps the story going, while painting beautiful word pictures.

It’s a lovely epic story, and one I’m very glad I read.

The Sword of Summer

swordofsummerby Rick Riordan
First sentence: “Yeah, I know.”
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Content: There’s really nothing objectionable. Some violence (lots of death, mostly) and some more serious underlying issues. I’d give it to a 4/5th grader. I’m undecided about where it should go. It’s currently in middle grade (grades 3-5) with the Percy Jackson series, but I’m thinking about moving it to YA (grades 6-8).

Magnus Chase is a 16-year-old homeless kid (he’s been homeless for the past two years since his mom was murdered) when he discovers that he’s not who he thought he was. He is, in fact, the son of the Norse god, Frey, and he’s been targeted by all of Frey’s enemies. In fact, he loses his first battle and ends up dead, in Valhalla. From there he realizes that he can’t let something as insignificant as death stop him: he needs to find the sword of summer and stop the evil forces from rising. The question is, though, can he do it?

First off, plot and everything else aside, I am SO happy the sassy chapter titles are back! Seriously, I have missed those.

In fact, Magnus’s voice is eerily similar to that of Percy in the first series. No, it’s not as good as PJ and the Olympians, but it’s the closest thing to it since Riordan wrote The Last Olympian. It’s sprawling and meandering and I think that Riordan’s cramming way too much in there (but then again, doesn’t he always?). But the characters are fascinating and aside from the “deaf and dumb” moniker (which Abby called him out on) for one of the characters who was deaf, it was wonderfully, naturally diverse. Sam, the Muslim Valkyrie, is one of my favorite characters. It’s nice to see Riordan being inclusive.

Oh, and Annabeth is in it! (Yes, that Annabeth.) You don’t have to read any of Riordan’s other books to enjoy this one, but there’s always some nice asides (like how a pen turning into a sword is lame) for those of us who have.