Not everything in this book is accurate to Norse mythology, of course, but Tiana Warner uses the backdrop of Norse mythology to create a rich, sprawling world full of interesting magic, creatures, and stories. The various races of the nine worlds are imagined in a new and fun way as well, I loved the night elves and Fisk. However, there is one aspect of Norse mythology I thought was weird to not include; Freyja is the leader of the Valkyries, and she is absent from this book. We know the gods are real because they’re mentioned, and for the most part I get why we don’t see them. But I would really liked to have seen Freyja.
One thing this book gets absolutely right, though, is its approach to fate. This book exemplifies the Norse idea of fate so beautifully. You have the choice to live your life however you want, and if you want to be a good person you have to actively work at it — fate will reflect your choices. Sigrid made her own choices, and it eventually led her to the image in her vision, even though it wasn’t exactly what she expected. Fate is tricky, but ultimately your choices are your own.
The character development was okay, though not super deep. Sigrid does the best that she can given her circumstances, but she makes frequent mistakes. The story always frames her mistakes as a learning experience and she grows from all of them, which I really liked. The other characters are interesting and do have some growth, but not nearly as much.
The plot was pretty good. It was a basic hero’s journey structure, and the emphasis seemed to be less on the endgame goal and more about Sigrid’s development. I didn’t mind this at all, but it did make me less interested during the final battle.
The queer representation is phenomenal. A huge part of this book is the romance between Sigrid and Mariam, and it is portrayed so beautifully. There’s also other, more minor, queer representation, but I still found it very nice to see. When going into how Valkyries are born, Warner tells us that “there were deviations. Some, like Edith, were born with the spirit of a Valkyrie and the body of a boy. Like others before her, Edith had followed the call of her spirit and become a Valkyrie instead of a stable hand.” I love this casual trans representation, it’s weaved into the story so well and makes it normal within the world.
Overall, fantastic book. It’s nothing special in terms of plot, but the intriguing world and amazing queer representation makes it so worth it. Definitely give this one a read!