Published by HarperTeen on October 9, 2012
Genres: YA, YA Paranormal
Nothing ever happens in Norway. But at least Ellie knows what to expect when she visits her grandmother: a tranquil fishing village and long, slow summer days. And maybe she’ll finally get out from under the shadow of her way-too-perfect big brother, Graham, while she’s there.
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.
Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?
Once in a supermoon, HarperCollins will take an older YA novel of theirs that’s seemingly chosen at random and temporarily make it free free (previous titles have included The Ivy and Sweet Venom). That’s exactly how I ended up with Valkyrie Rising, which has been languishing on both my Kindle and my Nook for what feels like centuries in publishing years. I think that was two or three years ago? It’s been a while and the TBR Jar chose it, so that was that. Nice choice, TBR Jar.
Calling Ellie your average teenage girl at the beginning of the novel would be trite and overdone, but Paulson does nail how your typical teenage girl would react in the situations Ellie finds herself involved in. She’s disbelieving at first, she wants no part in any of it, and she’d prefer to kiss Norway goodbye as she leaves the country to its mythical problem, but she can’t. Because she’s stuck there and needs to get back all the young men the valkyries took away, she rises to the occasion and becomes a leader who would be right at home with the valkyries if she decided she was done living as a human.
Really, Ellie’s allegorical struggle with growing up and her sexuality is fantastic. I’ve got a problem with one element of this, though: the talk Ellie’s grandmother gives her about controlling her blooming valkyrie powers. As those powers come with heavy influence over men and are a clear allegory for sexuality, it skeeved me out a bit. Paranormal stories have always been about allegory and symbolism and I really don’t like what that talk represents.
Anyway, Ellie’s growth as a character is believable and is paced just as well as the novel in its entirety is–and let me tell you, the pacing of the plot was strong enough that I read the book in a single day. Even the romance hooked me because the dynamic between Tuck and Ellie is excellent. Flirtation from him and banter from them both made it for me and UGH, THEY’RE SO CUTE I WANT TO PUKE. I’m not complaining about an imbalance of power between them as a result of Ellie’s valkyrie powers because the novel satisfactorily handles it. A little convenient, but it gets the job done.
One other disappointment: how long it takes for the lacking portrayals of non-Ellie girls in the novel to improve. For most of the book, other girls are positioned as Ellie’s adversaries because they’re the super sexy, man-stealing valkyries or they’re local girls who simply don’t like Ellie. Thankfully, this does improve in the end and the valkyries in particular are given more nuance, but I prefer not going on the journey from “other girls are bad” to “hey, other girls rock” if possible.
But does Valkyrie Rising do Norse mythology, legends, and gods like Odin and Loki justice? Well, I have no idea due to a lack of familiarity. Someone else would have to critique that element for it to have weight and meaning. It could be royally screwing up everything to do with valkyries and I’d know no better!
If you miss the heyday of YA paranormal novels like me, Valkyrie Rising will hit the spot just right. Though it’s not a standout novel, it’s entertaining and it’s worth a read on a lazy day when you want something fast-paced.