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Valkyrie Rising Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 9, 2012
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From School Library Journal
Gr 6-10-Sixteen-year-old Ellie is used to being an outsider: she's blond, statuesque, and Graham Overholt's little sister-no guys dare get too friendly with her as long as the golden boy, high school sports star is watching. Normally her visits to her grandmother in Norway are different. She blends in with the locals and everyone is typically friendly. But not this summer. Instead, she is greeted with suspicion and even hostility. Young men have been disappearing at an alarming rate, and a ridiculous-sounding rumor has begun that these vanishings are the work of Valkyries: beautiful women from mythology who were seen around battlefields gathering the souls of young men for Odin's army of the undead in Valhalla. Ellie would think the rumor was ridiculous, too, except she's seen the strong, beautiful women who've appeared in the clubs just before some men have gone missing, and suddenly her grandmother is acting strange as well. To complicate matters, Graham's infuriating and irresistibly handsome best friend has also come to Norway. What Ellie doesn't know is that Tuck has a secret, and it might save or doom the young men of the village. With guest appearances from Odin, Loki, and even the Morrigan, the plot in this creatively imagined but incompletely executed book creeps along for the first half, then struggles to gain its footing as Ellie accepts who she is and what she is up against. If readers ignore the flat characters and stick with the book to the end, they will be rewarded with a thrilling climax where the mythological characters intersect and become better realized.-Heather M. Campbell, formerly at Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, COα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Elsa Overholt is 16 and has always been in her brother’s shadow. As the family golden boy, Graham could do no wrong, but Elsa is tired of his overprotective nature. Now that Graham is headed to college, she sees her chance to finally steer her own life. But first she has to get through the summer visiting her grandmother in Norway, which turns out to be more complicated than she thought. The village is frightened by a rash of missing young men, whispered to be connected to the mysterious and beautiful young women claiming to be the Valkyries of Norse myth. Elsa gets dragged into the intrigue, and by the time Graham arrives, the villagers are blaming her for the disappearances and she realizes that maybe her crush on Graham’s friend Tuck is a bit more complicated as well. While the story follows established teen fantasy tropes, new elements such as the isolated Norway backdrop and the coldly beautiful Valkyries add a fresh touch. Teen girls will empathize with Elsa’s feelings of unsure independence and courage. Grades 9-12. --Tina Coleman --This text refers to the Digital edition.
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I decided to take a chance on this book even though it had a small number of reviews (but the ratings were high). In retrospect, I wonder if I'd have given this book higher ratings had I not just read two really fantastic YAs back to back (Libba Bray's "The Diviners" and Kresley Cole's "Poison Princess"). But it is what it is.
What I Liked:
- With so many fairy tales and myths being mined for story content, I give this author big kudos for finding something fresh and relatively untapped to write about. As far as I'm aware, there just isn't much out there talking about Norse mythology and valkyries in particular. Take note future YA writers....Greek and Roman myths aren't the only ones out there! Why not try on something Northern European for size?
- Once Elsa (Ellie), the lead, hits her stride...she's a great role model. Loyal, honest, courageous....all things any young woman should be proud to emulate. But let's not forget all the other "girl power" (or is that grrrl power? I get so confused....) going on in this novel. There's Hilda, Ellie's grandmother, a woman who clearly didn't get the memo about how senior citizens are supposed to behave...Astrid and her gang...and a young village woman (names hidden to protect the innocent..) who more than shows her mettle when push comes to shove.
- Of all the relationships going on in this book, none struck me as so real as the one between Ellie and her brother, Graham. It was clear they loved each other deeply....and in spite of Graham's overbearing demeanor towards his sister, the reader knew all along he behaved that way out of protectiveness and respect. I like how the relationship was forced to change and how Graham takes it in stride.
Now...for the not-so-great....
- I never really felt that into Ellie. In the beginning, it seems like we're supposed to see her as a wall-flower, caught in her brother's shadow and resenting it. But then based on some early comments from Tucker, we are also left to conclude she's drop-dead gorgeous and alluring. Yet, as with almost 90% of YA heroines....she's totally clueless about her appearance and its effect on guys. Oh, and she does like to read...so I suspect we are supposed to gather she's a smart cookie. BIG SIGH. Just for once, how I'd love to come across a heroine who doesn't seem like a nincompoop when it comes to how she looks. I get this is all part living in Graham's shadow, etc....but girlfriend has a mirror!!! She can't be that oblivious. Also, there were a lot of very obvious hints thrown about Tucker's feelings for her as well as her place in the larger mythology of the book...but again, she comes across as either dense or not terribly engaged with what's happening around her. I did enjoy Ellie a lot more when she was able to embrace her family legacy....but to me, the transition from wallflower Ellie to butt-kicking Ellie wasn't a smooth one and, as a result, it made her seem a bit two-dimensional.
- Without giving anything away, the big reveal about one of the male leads fell flat to me...and a bit too contrived. I was disappointed at how it all unfolded.
- I felt like Ellie and Graham's back story was touched on only very briefly. I eventually figured out the dad had died and from what I can recall, we don't ever really get to meet their mom. It's the same for Tucker's parents (although I actually felt like I had more info about his parents than I did about Ellie's). This seems to be endemic of many YA novels...the parents are barely there, dead, or emotionally/physically distant and only thrown into the story to provide the bare bones about the lead characters. As a parent, I'd sure love to see more involved moms and dads...not these self-centered or preoccupied drips who barely make a dent on the reader's consciousness.
- Things got a bit muddled once the action started to heat up. I felt as if there were almost too many things happening...and too many characters flitting in and out. I found myself skimming a lot and not really feeling as engaged as I would have liked. Truth be told, while the setting and inspiration for the story were definitely unique, the way things unfolded and the characters themselves (aside from grandma and Loki), were pretty predictable and fairly stock for a YA supernatural.
My overall take on this book: It had its moments, especially due to the use of Norse mythology, but overall...it didn't stick with me, nor was able to engage with the book as much as I would have liked. It's clear this is the first in a series and I have noted many series start off with a whimper but end with a bang. My hope is this will be the case with Valkyrie Rising and the author needs some time to hit her stride.
PS Reason for a 4 Star? Just the beginning of the book, could use some work. But I'm certain her next will be a solid Five!!
What Ellie doesn’t anticipate is Graham’s infuriating best friend, Tuck, tagging along for the trip. Nor did she imagine boys going missing amid rumors of impossible kidnappings. Least of all does she expect something powerful and ancient to awaken in her and that strange whispers would urge Ellie to claim her place among mythological warriors. Instead of peace and quiet, there’s suddenly a lot for a girl from L.A. to handle on a summer sojourn in Norway! And when Graham vanishes, it’s up to Ellie—and the ever-sarcastic, if undeniably alluring Tuck—to uncover the truth about all the disappearances and thwart the nefarious plan behind them.
Deadly legends, hidden identities, and tentative romance swirl together in one girl’s unexpectedly-epic coming of age.
Style: Although at the beginning of the novel I must admit that I was a little worried about the writing level of Ingrid Paulson, as the story progressed my worries left, and I was able to thoroughly enjoy the story. I was interested from the start in this novel because it incorporated Norse mythology into the modern day world and I was curious as to how Paulson would carry this out. Although she may have played with the roles of some of the gods to further her plot, she did very well overall and I was impressed.
Although there were a few times when the first person narrative was a little off, overall Paulson did a very good job of sticking to her chosen point of view and writing with out too many coma errors or run on sentences.
Content: The novel begins at a rather raucous teenage party with little supervision. Most of the teens are drunk, and Ellie is the only one above the influence of alcohol. The point of this scene is to illustrate a day in the normal life of Ellie Overholt and show the overpowering influence that her brother and Tuck have in her life. However, once the teens get to Norway things simmer down a little in the teen alcohol area. But, there is still a little bit of swearing and one questionable scene between Tuck and Ellie.
Elsa (Ellie Ells) Overholt - Ellie is sixteen, tall, blond and staying the summer at her Grandmother's home in Norway with her older brother Graham and his best friend Tucker. Ellie is strong willed but never acts on it, instead she lets her brother dictate her life as much as she hates him doing it. While in Norway Ellie discovers who she truly is and her courage, bravery, love, and compassion come out. She becomes a seriously kick-butt character, while still keeping her wits and compassion about her.
Graham Overholt - Graham is Ellie's big brother and although only a few years older has adopted the role of father towards her, since their dad died when she was little. He is the most popular boy in their school, smart, quick thinking, brave, athletic and good looking. As such he often overshadows his younger sister. He is also overly protective of her, as well as down right fierce. When upset he is a force to be reckoned with.
Tucker Halloway - Tucker is Graham's best friend, as well as a perpetual teaser of Ellie. He is brave and loving as well as a player, flirt, good looking, sarcastic and strong. He is every bit the athlete and just as protective of Ellie as Graham is. When Graham disappears however, his playfulness leaves, and the real Tucker Halloway comes out, ready to do anything to save Graham and protect Ellie.
Hilda Overholt - The grandmother of Ellie and Graham, Hilda is a strong, tall and confident woman whom the town fears. She has unearthly power about her and when she gives a command it must be obeyed. She will do anything to protect Ellie and Graham.
Astrid - Astrid is the leader of the Valkyrie, she is fast, strong and cunning. She knows her job and does it well, almost too well. On the outside she is cold, fierce and cruel, it is not until Ellie questions her that we as the readers learn what really is going on inside her head.
Loki - Loki is the god of mischief, pranks, and misdemeanors. Although he may appear to be on the side of Ellie, he always has his own intentions at heart and will stop at nothing to achieve them. His ultimate goal is to humiliate Odin.
What did I think?
I really enjoyed Valkyrie Rising and hope that there are more books to come in the future. I think that it is one book that lovers of Norse mythology should definitely read, because of the interesting light that it sheds upon Odin and his Valkyrie and halls of Valhalla. My favorite characters were Ellie and Tuck. I loved how they came through their conflict stronger than how they went in. I also loved the mythology surrounding the character of Tuck and how that played into the story. Everything about Tuck drew me to him, at first he seemed to be one way and then another until his character was a complete contradiction it was not until we learned the real truth about him that his whole character made sense. I liked the tender moments between him and Ellie and the loyalty which he willingly gives to her and Graham. Ellie was awesome. I really loved the intense loyalty and love she felt for her family and Tuck. I sometimes feel that the element of family is often missing in YA books today, but it was clearly present in Valkyrie Rising.