Bryn is a Valkyrie, leader of her sisters especially now they had broken away from Odin. But despite the rift, she is the key to Odin’s immortality
And Loki is loose – and looking for vengeance
Korvain also hunts Bryn, seeking to bring down Odin in revenge for his lost people and at the commands of his clan leader – but shortly after meeting Brynn his resolve crumbles and he soon finds himself in the role of protector, not assassin.
I have to say I hate the way that women are depicted in this book. All of them. Now, there are possibly some women in this book who I may have appreciated if they were separate, but collectively it’s just one mass of badness
Most of them are victims. And not just victims, but pretty much helpless victims. Frigg, powerful goddess, is thoroughly demonised before becoming a victim; we never see one scrap, one iota of power or capability from her. The Valkyries – VALKYRIES! Warrior women, dressed in mail with blood stained weapons – exist to be a collection of damsels to be saved. We never see any real fight or power from them – they’re just hunted down one by one, put up no fight and are easily brought down. The whole book revolves around rescuing and protecting these utterly helpless figures.
Even their leader and our supposed protagonist, Bryn, is an immensely frustrating figure. She never actually does anything. She constantly talks a good game but we never see her fight or actually show any toughness or even make a good decision. Or make a decision at all. When her sisters are targeted she has a tantrum, falls apart and asks a man to go check on them. She doesn’t even all them and ask them all to gather up – she sends a man round to help. Her one and only attempted plan is to sacrifice herself and hope that Loki, the big bad, doesn’t hurt anyone else and can be trusted
Her master plan is to trust Loki. No, really.
At least there’s a big strong man to rescue her!
As well as victimisation there’s some severely dubious sexual issues going on here. Firstly the Valkyries are all virgins – thousand year old virgins by the command of Odin. This could have been used to present Odin’s oppressive patriarchy- but no-one treats his demand as unreasonable, only his harsh punishment of Kara, a Valkyrie who broke it – as wrong. The other Valkyries MAINTAIN their virginity after they have left his side. On top of this Kara, that one Valykrie who broke the taboo, is continually sex shamed, throws herself relentlessly at Korvain and is generally cringe worthy in her utter desperation to get laid. This is also the totality of her character. And Frigg, villainous lady that she is, is of course an adulteress who tries to seduce, well, every man she sees and, again, is lacking anything else in terms of characterisation – she hates Odin (because she’s jealous of the oh-so-chaste valykries) and wants to have sex with any and all men. She is slut shamed pretty horrendously for this including the line:
“She was the one who ushered people in between her legs like it was a movie theatre about to close its doors for the screening”
Demonised or pitiable sexual woman cast against virginal protagonists of purity? That’s a trope
Then there’s Taer, the sister of Korvain’s best friend. Why does she exist? To have a crush on Korvain (like all women everywhere it seems) and to be extra angst and leverage as bad guys force menfolk’s co-operation by threatening her with rape and murder. That’s pretty much the entire point of her.
I’ve opened with these problems because they consume the book – and kind of define the book. While this book throws around a lot of names from Norse Mythology (and was what made me so intrigued in the first place) it does very little to use Norse Mythology, develop the mythology or make it relevant beyond names.