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The Strange Maid: Book 2 of United States of Asgard Hardcover – June 10, 2014
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From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—In this prequel to The Lost Sun (Random, 2013), Gratton brings readers back to a world that comingles Norse mythology, vengeful gods, and technology in a landscape that resembles the United States. Teens are introduced to a new character, Signy Valborn. She was in training to be the Valkyrie of the Tree but left her apprenticeship in shame because she is unable to solve the riddle. She sets off on a journey to find herself and meets Ned the Spiritless, who is a poet and a warrior. Through Ned's stories, she learns her destiny is to fight the troll mother, and the two head north to spend the winter training. Fans of the previous book are brought full circle, when Baldur, the god of the sun, does not rise from the dead, which was the focus of the first installment. Ned is taken by the troll mother, and Signy continues her journey alone until she meets Soren Bearskin, also a character from the previous entry, who is instrumental in finding Baldur and returning him to Odin, the lead deity. Eventually, the heroine is aided by Ned and Soren in her quest to reap the stone heart and become a true Valkyrie. It is not necessary to read the first book before diving into this one, but it would help in the understanding of the violent fantasy world that the author has meticulously created. This infinitely exciting tale's twist and turns highlight the characters' missions as they decide which identity to choose: hero, martyr, or villain. Readers looking for a sophisticated fantasy that shows a raw, rowdy, and rough side of life will be utterly satisfied. For fans of Robin LaFevers's "His Fair Assassins" series (Houghton Harcourt) and Sarah J. Maas's "Throne of Glass" books (Bloomsbury).—Elizabeth Kahn, Patrick F. Taylor Science & Technology Academy, Jefferson, LA
"With razor-sharp prose and bone-deep emotions, Tessa Gratton doesn't just tell a story. She invites readers into another world-- one we hate to leave when the last page is turned. The Strange Maid is no exception." ---Saundra Mitchell, author of Mistwalker and The Vespertine
"This infinitely exciting tale’s twist and turns highlight the characters’ missions as they decide which identity to choose: hero, martyr, or villain. Readers looking for a sophisticated fantasy that shows a raw, rowdy, and rough side of life will be utterly satisfied. For fans of Robin LaFevers’s His Fair Assassins series." ---SLJ
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Top Customer Reviews
But being a Valkyrie in training is not what she expected. The current Valkyries are tame compared to their history. They are the consultants to kings and presidents, and Signy longs for, burns for, the old ways.
The final insult comes when she wakes to find a riddle on the day she is supposed to become a fully realized Valkyrie. It's a question she must answer. One she cannot find a solution to. It keeps her from rising to the full position of Alfather's fierce servant, and it sets her on a dark, dark journey to find herself.
Dark, dark, dark. If you have read THE LOST SUN you will likely not be prepared for THE STRANGE MAID. This is a story about fate and death and longing. Its a story that explores 'the glory' of revenge and unlike the previous book, there is more truth to the world-building here. These people seem closer to what I would expect from those descended from Vikings, from those who live and worship the old gods. There are fewer Christian sensibilities in this book. We get new insight into the Berserker battle lust, and we get animal sacrifices.
I love this book because it's more adult (and possibly not YA any longer), and because there's less dancing around the violence.
I love this book because there's poetry in the writing. The use of words isn't frothy and light, but dense and evocative. And Tessa Gratton is afraid to let her characters take sex casually or lose themselves to what we might consider madness.
Signy Valborn is a girl on the verge of Odinist glory as a Valkyrie, and she embraces the dark things she believes that should include - blood and death and violence and chaotic, passionate things stirring inside her soul. I love that Gratton was willing to create a wild, out-of-control, and fearsome female character; in doing so, she affirms that madness, desire, and a longing for revenge can be felt by all, not just males. Signy, however, is not a one-note character: she also experiences fear, doubt, and love. The other characters who flank and support Signy are also well-developed, from Soren Bearstar of the first book to Ned the truth-teller who hides behind his poetry to the gods and other Valkyries themselves. I also so appreciated the themes conveyed in the story about loss and revenge, the balance between chaos and control, choice versus destiny, and the types of relationships that matter in our lives.
In addition, Gratton skillfully plays with and updates Norse mythology to create a modern tale that pays homage to the violence, strength, and madness that was celebrated in Old English works like BEOWULF. Because of this and the adept way the characters are portrayed, this book felt more mature than most other YA titles I've read. This is a complex and evocative tale that will be best appreciated by readers who aren't afraid to feel uncomfortable from time to time while reading. Reading the first book in the series or having a background in Norse tales isn't necessary to understand and appreciate the story, but it will likely help.
I have always been a fan of Gratton's work, but my appreciation for her craft and the intentionality of her writing has been taken to a new level after my reading of THE STRANGE MAID. I can't wait to see what the next book in the series brings, and I will definitely be recommending this title to my friends and older students alike.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Quick & Dirty: A Valkyrie, a mysterious man with an unholy sword, and berserker who serves a different a god are out to claim her...Read more
I feel as though The Lost Sun was a stronger book than this one since I was...Read more
I personally love The Lost Sun (Book 1) but I can understand (and...Read more
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