Sometimes, it kind of seems like authors have purchased dictionaries of mythological and paranormal creatures, flipping through and arbitrarily choosing one to write about, because they know it will make them money. Actually, that's what my friend suggested when I tried to explain the plot of Valkyrie Rising to her. I'll admit that she does have a point, but, hey, I prefer some well-done variation to consistent repetition of vampires, werewolves, witches, etc.
NGL, I hardly know anything about Norse mythology. My childhood mythology obsession only stretched as far as Greek and Roman, so do not expect this review to critique the accuracy of Paulson's take on Odin and Valkyries. I can't tell you that. What I can tell you is that this book was just so fun, and that I loved the Valkyries. I mean, who doesn't love a group of hot girls who can destroy anyone with their physical prowess and mind powers? Sure, some of them are a little bit evil, but they're still really interesting, which is clearly the most important thing.
I completely loved the first half of this novel, before the paranormal elements really entered the scene, not that I didn't like those but they weren't my favorite part. What I loved was the dynamic between Ellie and Tuck. They have this snarky back-and-forth banter, a mutual loathing/attraction, that I find incredibly compelling. Basically, they remind me a whole lot of Benedick and Beatrice (couple name: Beatrick) from Much Ado About Nothing. Given that they are perhaps my OTP, that's seriously high praise from me. The best moments are when Ellie and Tuck really get the insults flying thick and fast.
Ellie comes across as a real teenage girl to me, awkward and rebellious and lonely and without an accurate sense of herself. Graham, Ellie's perfect older brother, basically runs her life, keeping guys from dating her, because of an uncomfortable instance one time, and making sure she sticks to curfew. Ellie resents this, but cannot find the will to act out, because she basically hero-worships Graham. Their relationship reminded me a lot of Lugh and Saba in Blood Red Road, especially in the later discovery that the younger sister turns out to be much stronger.
I bonded with Ellie almost immediately, alone at a party, unsure whether to join or to hide. She feels uncomfortable in her own skin and no longer knows if she's a social pariah because of herself or her brother. When she goes to stay with her grandmother in Norway, she arrives before her brother and Tuck. She meets a really hot guy, cuter even than Tuck and older too, Kjell, and he asks her out. She agrees to go in a fit of rebellion. Though he's gorgeous, she does not trust him one bit, and has little to no interest in him. This made me want to fistbump Ingrid Paulson for letting a heroine care more about personality than looks.
I will say, though, that aside from Tuck and Ellie who I loved, the rest of the characters did not seem particularly well-developed. I really don't have a sense of any of them as people, even Graham, which might be part of why I dislike him so much. This dovetails with my other complaint: this should be a series. The story does wrap up, but it's open-ended. So far as I know, a sequel isn't in the works, but it should be, and then we could see the other characters grow more.
Valkyrie Rising is just a heck of a lot of fun, with the added bonus of a unique setting in small town Norway. I loved reading it and will be keeping an eye on Paulson's career from here on out.