Hey everyone! Welcome to my first, very own book review on my blog! This is very exciting for me. Now that I have my own blog, I can share my love of books with all of you and I hope that you will join me in one of my most favorite pastimes of all.

While I always loved to read, for a long time, I could never get myself motivated enough to read through a whole book (at least, not within a reasonable time frame). I’d start a book today and it’ll be like October before I would finish it. Okay, maybe not that long. But still, it would take me forever it seemed to finish a book, not because I’m a slow reader, but because I simply always had something else to do. I could never keep my focus. Sad but true…

But then one day, I came across Salazar’s blog, 14 Shades of Grey and found that we had a lot of common interests, including reading! I saw that she posted book reviews every month and I thought what a great idea that was. And I liked the idea that it was sort of a free for all kind of thing as we could pick and choose what books that we wanted to read rather than everyone reading the same book. I really liked this idea, so one day I suggested that she open it up to everyone to share the books that they’ve read and sort of form an online book discussion group on her blog. She agreed and we sort of “co-founded” the monthly book discussions which she writes reviews on the books that she has read for the month and I do the same. So far it’s mostly just her and I that participate. I am hoping that others will want to join in one day. But for now, I continue to support our discussions on her blog. Being a part of her discussions has really helped me keep my focus as it allowed me to set a goal for myself to have at least one book read a month so that I can write about it when review time came. And never wanting to let anyone down, I’ve read more now over the past year or so than I ever had before as I wanted to help keep our review sessions alive as much as possible. So now it’s because of this that I’m always looking for interesting books that I could read in order to share with everyone later in the discussions. Wonderful idea Salazar! 🙂

But now you can see what I reviewed on her blog over here on mine as well. It will be the exact same review and like Salazar, I will have monthly book reviews on the books (or book as the case usually is for me) that I have read. But I will do my reviews slightly different in that instead of having them the last Wednesday of each month, I’m going to hold mine on the very last day of each month. So that means that no matter what day it is, if it’s the last day of the month, I will hold the reviews. So I am holding off on “Thoughtful Thursdays” this week to bring you my book review. Check it out below. Come back next Thursday if you want to read witty riddles, quizzical quotes and other fun stuff on “Thoughtful Thursdays”!

And now, my review:

I sort of took an unexpected detour in my book reading this time (tends to happen with me a lot; ah, the life of a bibliophile). While I had recently started the third book in “The Taj Mahal” series, “Shadow Princess”, I came across a children’s/tween/ teen book called “Valkyrie” by Kate O’Hearn. It entails the adventures of a young (in reality, she is over 600 years old but physically appears to be around 14) Valkyrie named Freya and her discovery of what life is really like on Midgard (Earth) and the making of human friends that help show her that humanity isn’t as bad she first believed. Freya, in the beginning of the story, has an indisputable hatred of humans due to what she has seen of their behavior over the centuries, believing them to be nothing more than blood thirsty savages. And because of this belief, Freya dreads her First Day Ceremony in which she becomes an official Valkyrie and must reap (take the soul of) her first human that dies in a valent battle.

As it turns out, her first reaping allows her to encounter Tyrone, a fallen soldier in the military that has a huge heart as he is concerned for his family that he will leave behind once he dies. Freya is stunned by how dedicated and warm the soldier is when he pleads her to not take him away from his family until he knows that they are safe; her heart begins to warm a little more for humanity after seeing this. But Freya must do what she must and reaps Tyrone and they both travel to Asgard, home of the Valkyries and all of the fallen warriors who have died valiantly in battle. From what I gather, Asgard is like a sort of purgatory for the fallen warriors where they can either choose to reside in Valhalla (within Asgard) and party and celebrate for eternity or to go through the Gates of Ascension, which is like heaven I guess. But Tyrone has no desire to celebrate in Valhalla because he is so concerned for his family that are still back on Earth, and instead decides to go through the Gates of Ascension. He only does this after Freya agrees to look in on his family, which she agrees to do, despite the many protests of Orus, the black raven who is Freya’s constant companion and ultimately, her adviser. And leaving Asgard without permission from Odin (who sort of serves as the god of Asgard) is strictly forbidden, which leaves Freya in quite a conundrum in fulfilling her promise to Tyrone. She enlists the help of Loki, brother of Thor, who which both are sons of Odin, that helps her and Orus get past Heimdall, the watchman of Bifrost, a living bridge that leads down to Earth.

It is at this point where Freya’s attitude toward humans truly begins to change, as she meets various people who are kindhearted in nature, very much like Tyrone was. The person that she becomes closest with is Archie, a teenage boy with whom is a victim of a gang of neighborhood bullies, led by the cruelest one called JP. Freya ends up saving Archie and a group of kids, known as the “geek squad” from JP and his bully buddies, which makes both Freya and Archie, JP’s new main targets, as they will encounter him several times throughout the story, one in which nearly kills Archie and Freya pleads with one of the Angels of Death (who take the souls of people who die but are not soldiers that have fought valiantly) to spare him long enough so that he and the other members of the “geek squad” can attend the school dance in order to celebrate their becoming more brave and learning to stand up for themselves (thanks to Freya’s training) against JP and his gang.

But even while that little victory is temporarily being savored, things are not well back in Asgard as Loki (known for his trickster-like ways) tries several times to have Odin learn of Freya’s absence. Maya, Freya’s older sister learns of this conspiring and convinces Heimdall to let her pass so that she may find Freya and bring her back to Asgard before Odin finds out that she’s missing. However, Odin does find out before Maya can bring Freya back and sends two dark searchers after both of them (demon-like creatures that are invincible and cannot be stopped by anyone, except by Odin himself, until they either find and kill their quarry, or bring them back to face Odin’s punishment.
And while I’m trying not to give too much of the story away (it’s really good!), basically, the climax of it comes about when the dark searchers reach Earth and rage an all-out battle chase, of sorts, on Freya and Maya and a bitter sweet ending is inevitable when the death of someone special occurs.

The ending will indeed surprise you, nothing like I would have expected but much better than I could have imagined! And if you’re anything like me, you will probably cry a little at the end when you discover how the main characters (Freya and Archie) make it out of this conniving conundrum alive (or not).

To go a little more in depth, without giving away too much of the story, as you should go read it for yourself, I want to talk a little about the two main characters, Freya and Archie. While many might look at a story like this and say that it’s the typical “boy falls in love with girl, despite their vast differences” kind of story, that is certainly not the case here. What I really like about this story more than anything else is the relationship that Freya and Archie share and that it’s a NON-ROMANTIC one, thank goodness, as I honestly get so tired of that kind of banality that I see in a lot of these kinds of stories. Though it is quite evident that Freya and Archie love each other as the story progresses, with Freya and Archie, it’s more like a brother and sister kind of love, not a romantic love. The author consistently makes it clear that Freya and Archie are best friends, especially towards the end as she states this directly to be the case, several times. But even without said statements, as you read the book, you can clearly see how much Freya and Archie love each other as best friends and look out for one another. The best example of this is the scenario where Archie is nearly killed by JP and is near death in the hospital. Freya refuses to leave his side for even a minute for if she does, the Angel of Death that’s waiting there with her would take his soul away to the Gates of Ascension (heaven). As long as she, a Valkyrie, is present, the Angels of Death can’t take the souls of the dead as a general rule. And despite the pleading of Freya’s sister, trying to convince her to let Archie go and the Angel’s chiding to her that it was Archie’s time to go, Freya would not budge an inch. To me, that is one of the most touching moments in the story. And from Archie’s point of view, he was willing to put himself in harm’s way to protect Freya from the Dark Searcher sent by Odin, even though he was clearly outmatched. It is that dedication that ultimately saves him in the end, which you’ll see if you read the book.
And there are a lot of other little encounters that both characters face that again show their care for each other, which I think works so well in this story.

One thing I found particularly interesting about this kind of story is that despite all the references to people being carried to other worlds to live forever after they die, there was no reference to places where people are sent to that live immorally, such as hades, hell or any other type of “shadow realm” that administers damnation. Not to go the religious route here, but I found that to be quite interesting. I guess the author just decided that this particular reference was not needed so it wasn’t worth mentioning.

Overall, I thought this book was an excellent read. It was witty, suspenseful, compelling and even a bit creepy (I have to admit, I was a bit creeped out by those Angels of Death), but nonetheless, a real page turner. And while it usually takes me a while to read such a length of a book (344 pages), I read this one in just a little over a week, which is fast for me; it was that good. I simply couldn’t put it down. I even ended up staying up past midnight some nights just because it gripped me that well. I kept saying to myself, “just one more page, just one more page!”. Well, that one page became two, then three, then four, and before I knew it, I knocked out another chapter!

I hated to come to the end of the book, but the good news is that this is not the end. This looks to be a series and the second book, “Valkyrie: The Runaway” is already out. I plan to get it as soon as possible as I can’t wait to see what awaits Freya and Archie in this new adventurous story. And you can bet on the fact that I’ll be reviewing that one as soon as I finish it!
So all in all, I give “Valkyrie” a 5 out of 5. Great story! Go read the book, now!

Hope to be reviewing “Shadow Princess” next month! Look for it!

 

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