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Monday, October 28, 2013

Book Review: The Lost Sun (United States of Asgard #1)

Release Date: June 25, 2013
Author: Tessa Gratton
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Length: 368 pages

Fans of Neil Gaiman's "American Gods" and Holly Black's "The Curse Workers" will embrace this richly drawn, Norse-mythology-infused alternate world: the United States of Asgard. Seventeen-year-old Soren Bearskin is trying to escape the past. His father, a famed warrior, lost himself to the battle-frenzy and killed thirteen innocent people. Soren cannot deny that berserking is in his blood--the fevers, insomnia, and occasional feelings of uncontrollable rage haunt him. So he tries to remain calm and detached from everyone at Sanctus Sigurd's Academy. But that's hard to do when a popular, beautiful girl like Astrid Glyn tells Soren she dreams of him. That's not all Astrid dreams of--the daughter of a renowned prophetess, Astrid is coming into her own inherited abilities.
When Baldur, son of Odin and one of the most popular gods in the country, goes missing, Astrid sees where he is and convinces Soren to join her on a road trip that will take them to find not only a lost god, but also who they are beyond the legacy of their parents and everything they've been told they have to be.



Review:

Protagonist: I found Soren to be a great protagonist and narrator. While he, like everyone has his flaws, throughout the novel it's fairly easy to see that those around him and the circumstances surrounding their journey begin to change him. It's this easily seen character development that I loved so much, because even though it's clearly seen it's never unnatural. I don't know how many times I go through a book and can barely find any real character development until I go back and have to search for it. At the beginning of the book Soren is already a fairly likable character, but as the book progresses he becomes so much greater, there are a couple moments here and there that he's far from perfect, but for the most part he's a wonderful hero and narrator.

Romance: The romance of this book did bug me a bit. Astrid and Soren meet at the beginning of the book, and Soren is instantly taken with her. From their meeting on, they seem as if they're really good friends and we never see that side of their relationship develop, sure we get those moments that they share the less public aspects of their lives, but other than those times they seem as though they've known each other for a long time. From there the romance between the two builds slowly, though Soren clearly has deep feelings for her which results in jealousy, sometimes clearly unwarranted, from him which is a bit of a turn off for his character. I feel that if the characters already knew each other, were already friends, and Soren had a longtime crush on her when the book begins the things that happen and the evolution of their relationship would feel more natural.

World-Building: This was another thing I had some trouble with. When the book begins I felt like I was thrust into the middle of a series and that I had missed some crucial world-building details. I waited for explanations to the more confusing parts of the book. While I get that this is an alternate universe and for the narrator to explain things that are common knowledge to everyone in his world would be a bit out of place, but there are other ways to explain the changes made to this world, especially when the book begins in a school. Many of the confusing parts of the book are explained in time, but I feel as though, maybe to my imperfect knowledge of Norse legend and culture, there were still a few things that were confusing.

Predictability: This book does a great job of having a nearly perfect amount of predictability. While there are moments that I could easily read a mile away, other moments were a bit harder to predict. There were moments where I was begging for something to happen, and while not a prediction, it came true like I had hoped. Other moments never actual came, and while they may be explained in the next book, since it's shifting it's focus a bit, I'm not going to hold my breath. Finally, there were moments I really could not see coming at all, though this was usually do to lack of hints or really any evidence that it could be possible. There were the moments I loved most, as I'm sure everyone does. Those moments that blow your mind are just amazing and probably the best parts of any book.

Ending: The ending turned out to be rather satisfying, except for one thing. Near the end of the book there is a nearly impossible choice that needs to be made by one of the characters, while I saw a fairly easy way so that everyone would win, it was never really even discussed. I realized later that there may have been a reason that it wasn't a valid option, however I'm still fairly sure it could have worked. That being said there is still a compromise, though not a perfect one, made that began to tie things up. The actual ending is fairly plateaued  at first I thought that this was to dull the ache between this book and the next, but I realized I was probably wrong after reading description for the next installment.

Rating:


While I loved the majority of this book, the weirdly paced romance, sufficient lack parallel world knowledge, and possible plot hole left i lacking a bit. However, the amazing writing, brilliant mix of mythology into the modern world, and outstanding characters saved it from a lower rating.

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