The Strange Maid

416p. (The United States of Asgard: Bk. 2). Random. Jun. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780307977519; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780307977526; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780307977533. LC 2013039568.
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
In this series installment, Signy Valborn is a lost Valkyrie. Accompanied by Ned Unferth, the spiritless troll hunter, and Soren Bearstar, the berserker who forsook his god, Signy quests to answer the riddle Odin posed to her. Gratton wraps readers in a believable alternate world where Valkyries sit next to the Senate, and modern technology coexists with prayer trees to Norse gods.

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