Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Strange Maid: The United States of Asgard, by Tessa Gratton- Review

From Goodreads:
Signy Valborn was seven years old when she climbed the New World Tree and met Odin Alfather, who declared that if she could solve a single riddle, he would make her one of his Valkyrie. For ten years Signy has trained in the arts of war, politics, and leadership, never dreaming that a Greater Mountain Troll might hold the answer to the riddle, but that’s exactly what Ned the Spiritless promises her. A mysterious troll hunter who talks in riddles and ancient poetry, Ned is a hard man to trust. Unfortunately, Signy is running out of time. Accompanied by an outcast berserker named Soren Bearstar, she and Ned take off across the ice sheets of Canadia to hunt the mother of trolls and claim Signy’s destiny.

It's hard to know where to begin without quickly devolving into a raving mess of fangirl rhapsodizing. I mean, trolls, kick-ass heroines, riddles, bloody battles filled with crazy Odin rage, these are things that turn me into a puddle of love-sick goo even without weaving it into a spectacularly complex story. I mean honestly, it was as close to reading Valhalla as I'm going to get, at least until I get my hands on the final part of this series.

First off I have to say, Signy is one of the most complicated, truly crazy heroines I've ever had the pleasure of reading about. It is not even remotely shocking to me that Gratton struggled with writing her story. The challenges of making a character who embodies so many unlikeable things, into a truly lovable person a reader can cheer on, not by taking away or softening her edges so much as having her discover herself along the way- well I hardly need to impress upon you how difficult that must be. Just picturing Gratton sitting down to put this into words is something I find daunting. But she pulled it off in a spectacular way, where I felt like I was on a journey of discovery with this young girl who was shocking and strange but also so alive and so very impassioned, it was impossible not to love her. Also, did I mention Kick-ass? Because so, so much of this! Seriously. One of my favourite bits was her response to the guy she loves when he takes the trite I don't deserve you stance. No wishy washy, mushy romance here:
"Make yourself deserve it; rise up to meet me if you want me."

Leading me into my next point, which is the complexity and layering of this entire story was a bit mind boggling. So much of the story is topically about untangling various riddles to get to their meaning, yet the actual narrative is every bit as much a brain teaser as the riddles themselves.  I took this book much slower then even my usual savouring pace, but I never felt like I lost the rhythm of it or that I needed to immerse myself in it more, because I was constantly thinking about it and playing with theories and ideas in the back of my head when I wasn't actually reading it. The timing of events wasn't what I thought it would be in relation to the first book, and even that had me rethinking things when I realized it. I constantly felt like I was unravelling little nuggets of information and then trying to place them against other little reveals to see the greater picture. But all while feeling very much satisfied by the actual moment-to-moment dialogue and events, meaning the complexity was never taken so far that I felt lost or confused by what was going on.

And then for every minute I wasn't puzzling over something in the story I was thinking TROLLS! like some kind of battle cry in my head and smiling the smile of the satisfied blood thirsty reader. Because Gratton doesn't just have trolls, she has loads of varieties of trolls, and levels of dangerousness and small attacks and HUGE BIG ATTACKS, and all sorts of mysteries surrounding them. Honestly I'm salivating just thinking about it, and now I kind of want to double back for like the 5th time and re-read some of the troll fight scenes. 

I truly loved the first book in this series, but The Strange Maid had wholly swept me off my feet and made me at least three times more in love with the world then I was in the first book. If it wasn't for my staggering pile of reading commitments I would gladly double back and re-read Lost Sun immediately, just to glean some more of those hidden tidbits out of it. 

A fantastic book in a series that is quickly turning epic, it would be a terrible book lovers crime to miss out on this series.

The Strange Maid, by Tessa Gratton
Published by Random House, June 10th, 2014
Buy The Strange Maid on Amazon


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