Author: Ingrid Paulson
Format Acquired: Hardcover
Publication Date: October 9 2012
Publication House: HarperTeen
Source of Copy: Purchased from Fully Booked
Summary: 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-prefect 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 that something powerful and ancient will awaken in her and that strange whispers will urge Ellie to claim her place among mythological warriors. Instead of peace and quiet, suddenly there's 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 in one girl's unexpectedly epic coming-of-age.
(Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; summary lifted from actual book)
I was pleasantly surprised to find that I actually finished it in one sitting. At first, I was a bit worried that the mythology, or maybe the actual plot, would be on the backburner in this book. As with so many books, romance may undoubtedly take up all of the attention. I'm so glad that wasn't the case for this book.
The story is set in beautiful Norway. The Norse mythology woven into it was refreshing and new. For those who aren't familiar with the lore, you won't get lost or confused because enough information is provided to give you an understanding as to what Valkyries are and which Norse gods play what roles without seeming like an info-dump. (Plus points for that!)
I loved the brother-sister relationship in this book. It's always an added bonus, well for me anyway, that a book depicts a strong sibling relationship. Graham is Ellie's too-perfect, overprotective older brother. He sees Ellie as the baby sister he always has to coddle and shelter from the world. Unfortunately for him, she would eventually prove him wrong on that front. Then there's Ellie, she's a strong heroine, a fighter. Her reactions to the events that transpired in the book were realistic, I'd be plenty pissed too if someone abducted my brother. She's not spontaneous like other YA heroines and actually thinks before she acts, which is a plus. She starts out shy, hiding in her brother's shadow but gains confidence in herself as the story progresses. No more sulking in the shadows for our lovely Ellie.
Tuck is Graham's best friend and, obviously, Ellie's love interest. He's actually a bit like Graham, in the way that he's very protective of Ellie. I'm very pleased to say that there is no insta-lust/love here because Tuck and Ellie have known each other for a long time, so their relationship simply shifts from friendship into something more. He's funny, charming, and sarcastic, and I adored the way he teases and taunts Ellie, in an obvious bid for her attention. It was also interesting to find that Tuck wasn't just a pretty face and had some interesting facets to his personality making him all the more complex and definitely swoon-worthy.
The secondary characters played significant roles in the story, and were not, in any way, flat and boring. Each had their own distinct traits and personalities that influenced Ellie's reactions to certain situations, which made the story seem all the more believable. Her grandmother, the Valkyries, and even the pretty boy next door, all had a role to play and weren't merely cannon fodder.
But despite all the things I loved about this book, like the wonderful characters, the pacing, the setting, the mythology, the predictable and unpredictable twists and turns, the budding romance between the characters, I couldn't give this book one last rainbow. I believe that it was resolved well with no cliffhanger in sight but there were a few questions I wanted answered.
This book is altogether a very fun read. For those interested in Nordic mythology, Valkyries, ancient magic, or are just in the mood to try something new, give this book a go. I'm hoping that this turns out to be a series, I need more Elsa and Tuck. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!