"This infinitely exciting tale’s twist and turns highlight the characters’ missions as they decide which identity to choose: hero, martyr, or villain. Readers looking for a sophisticated fantasy that shows a raw, rowdy, and rough side of life will be utterly satisfied. For fans of Robin LaFevers’s His Fair Assassins series." -SLJ
The Strange Maid (United States of Asgard Series #2)by Tessa Gratton
Fans of Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, and Maggie Stiefvater will embrace the richly drawn, Norse-influenced alternate world of the United States of Asgard, where cell phones, rock bands, and evangelical preachers coexist with dragon slaying, rune casting, and sword training in schools. Where the president runs the country alongside a council of Valkyries, gods walk the
Fans of Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, and Maggie Stiefvater will embrace the richly drawn, Norse-influenced alternate world of the United States of Asgard, where cell phones, rock bands, and evangelical preachers coexist with dragon slaying, rune casting, and sword training in schools. Where the president runs the country alongside a council of Valkyries, gods walk the red carpet with Hollywood starlets, and the U.S. military has a special battalion dedicated to eradicating Rocky Mountain trolls.
Signy Valborn was seven years old when she climbed the New World Tree and met Odin Alfather, who declared that if she could solve a single riddle, he would make her one of his Valkyrie. For ten years Signy has trained in the arts of war, politics, and leadership, never dreaming that a Greater Mountain Troll might hold the answer to the riddle, but that’s exactly what Ned the Spiritless promises her. A mysterious troll hunter who talks in riddles and ancient poetry, Ned is a hard man to trust. Unfortunately, Signy is running out of time. Accompanied by an outcast berserker named Soren Bearstar, she and Ned take off across the ice sheets of Canadia to hunt the mother of trolls and claim Signy’s destiny.
Can Signy solve the riddle that stands between her and her rightful place among the Valkyrie? Ten years ago, when she was 7, Signy's parents died in an accident. In her grief, during a visit to the New World Tree, she climbed the Tree and met Odin Alfather; he renamed her Signy Valborn, handing her her destiny: to become the next Valkyrie of the Tree, one of nine Valkyries who help run the United States of Asgard. The day after her 15th birthday, a riddle appeared on the trunk of the New World Tree; since she couldn't solve it, Signy set out to find her answer. Two years of sometimes-homeless living later, she's still looking…until she meets Ned Unferth, who says he can provide her the answer. He says that "The Valkyrie of the Tree will prove herself with a stone heart" means she must kill a troll and take its heart, which becomes stone in daylight. She trusts the truth rune she sees in his eye, and they set off to train and find a troll. Gratton's follow-up to The Lost Sun (2013) is more entertaining and engaging than its predecessor, but the tale's padded with so many complications it's easy to put down. There's such a surfeit of navel-gazing that Signy should be able to map her own spinal column. Fans of the first book and lovers of Norse legend may enjoy, but there's better for fantasy-adventure lovers. (Fantasy. 14-17)
Gr 8 Up—In this prequel to The Lost Sun (Random, 2013), Gratton brings readers back to a world that comingles Norse mythology, vengeful gods, and technology in a landscape that resembles the United States. Teens are introduced to a new character, Signy Valborn. She was in training to be the Valkyrie of the Tree but left her apprenticeship in shame because she is unable to solve the riddle. She sets off on a journey to find herself and meets Ned the Spiritless, who is a poet and a warrior. Through Ned's stories, she learns her destiny is to fight the troll mother, and the two head north to spend the winter training. Fans of the previous book are brought full circle, when Baldur, the god of the sun, does not rise from the dead, which was the focus of the first installment. Ned is taken by the troll mother, and Signy continues her journey alone until she meets Soren Bearskin, also a character from the previous entry, who is instrumental in finding Baldur and returning him to Odin, the lead deity. Eventually, the heroine is aided by Ned and Soren in her quest to reap the stone heart and become a true Valkyrie. It is not necessary to read the first book before diving into this one, but it would help in the understanding of the violent fantasy world that the author has meticulously created. This infinitely exciting tale's twist and turns highlight the characters' missions as they decide which identity to choose: hero, martyr, or villain. Readers looking for a sophisticated fantasy that shows a raw, rowdy, and rough side of life will be utterly satisfied. For fans of Robin LaFevers's "His Fair Assassins" series (Houghton Harcourt) and Sarah J. Maas's "Throne of Glass" books (Bloomsbury).—Elizabeth Kahn, Patrick F. Taylor Science & Technology Academy, Jefferson, LA
Meet the Author
TESSA GRATTON has wanted to be a paleontologist or a wizard since she was seven. She was too impatient to hunt dinosaurs, but is still searching for someone to teach her magic. After traveling the world with her military family, she acquired a BA (and the important parts of an MA) in gender studies, and then settled down in Kansas with her partner, her cats, and her mutant dog.
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"In a week and a half I'll be seventeen. It's a decade since I climbed the New World Tree, since Odin Alfather, god of the hanged, named me the next Valkyrie of the Tree, and still I have not won my place on the Valkyrie council." Signy Valborn dedicated herself to Odin when she was seven years old. She was told one day she would join Odin's Valkyrie council and fill the long vacant place of the Valkyrie of the Tree. That was before she read the riddle. Before she left her Death Hall and her sister Valkyrie behind. The Valkyrie of the Tree will prove herself with a stone heart. Signy knows that is her riddle. But after traveling far and wide through New Asgard for years, she is no closer to finding an answer. Until a mysterious troll hunter named Ned Unferth appears with a proposal. Ned speaks in riddles as well as ancient poetry and truths that feel more like lies. But he promises Signy that a greater mountain troll holds the answer to her riddle and offers to train Signy to hunt them. Signy has never been so close to her future and has little choice but to accept Ned's help. Their winding journey will take Signy to the wilds of Canadia and beyond. Along the way she will cross paths with a lone berserker named Soren Bearstar, a monstrous troll mother, and the truth behind the destiny she was promised so long ago in The Strange Maid (2014) by Tessa Gratton. The Strange Maid is the second book in Gratton's Songs of New Asgard (United States of Asgard) series. It is preceded by The Lost Sun. Both books function very well as stand-alone titles however, because of timeline and character overlap, The Strange Maid does include some spoilers for The Lost Sun if you choose to read the books out of order. Gratton once again delivers a perfect blend of myth and fantasy in this engrossing tale. Signy is a sharp, wild narrator with strong opinions and a vibrant love of poetry that comes through in every word of her frank narration. Ned, Signy's mysterious companion for much of the novel, is a perfect foil as Signy is forced again and again to re-evaluate what she knows (or thinks she knows) about her chosen path. The Strange Maid is a vivid story about the power of choice as well as an ode to the strength of well-chosen friendships. References to Beowulf and other Norse tales will bring these older myths to life for new readers. Ideas of causality as well as free will are also artfully explored in this remarkable second book in a trilogy that promises even greater things to come. Possible Pairings: Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, The Curiosities by Tessa Gratton, Maggie Stiefvater and Brenna Yovanoff, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers, The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley, Clariel by Garth Nix, Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce, Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell, The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, Beowulf
A few months ago, I finally read book 1 of Tessa Gratton’s United States of Asgard series, The Lost Sun. (Yeah, I don’t know what took so long either.) Liking it was a no-brainer; a Norse influenced United States, complete with berserkers, Odin, Thor, trolls, and everything else that makes Norse mythology fantastic. It was extremely well-written, and the characters are so likable that I find myself thinking of them when I’m reading other books. Strange Maid is even better. I have to admit, it took me a second to warm up, but that’s because we were really getting to know Signy, the main character. I mean, really. After reading this book, I feel like she is someone I truly know, someone I know which book to buy for their birthday, what not to make her for dinner. The characters are fantastically developed, and Signy is the example. The plot is well paced, and doesn’t give itself away. And, I have to tell you…the feels smacked me in the face. The high point of the plot sang to my heart, and I wanted to simultaneously hug Tessa and yell at her for not warning me I’d hit an emotional high finishing this book. Exclamations of exultation over lunch whilst sitting in your cube provide for some odd looks. :) Read this. I recommend it for anyone who likes alt history, fantasy or Norse mythology.
This twist on Norse myth-meets-United States is probably my favorite alternate world EVER. I LOVED Signy's story! She's both BAMF and vulnerable, and I absolutely loved reading how her mind worked as she sorted through Odin's riddle. Becoming a Valkyrie is all-important to her, but as her character develops so do her priorities. I absolutely loved seeing Soren again!!! This action-adventure is both hilarious and riveting, and I couldn't put it down. Can't wait for Tessa to publish Golden Apples!