Between the Blade and the Heart is the first book in a brilliant new YA fantasy duology inspired by Norse Mythology by New York Times bestselling author Amanda Hocking.
When the fate of the world is at stake
Loyalties will be tested
As one of Odin's Valkyries, Malin's greatest responsibility is to slay immortals and return them to the underworld. But when she unearths a secret that could unravel the balance of all she knows, Malin along with her best friend and her ex-girlfriend must decide where their loyalties lie. And if helping the blue-eyed boy Asher enact his revenge is worth the riskto the world and her heart.
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The air reeked of fermented fish and rotten fruit, thanks to the overflowing dumpster from the restaurant behind us. The polluted alley felt narrow and claustrophobic, sandwiched between skyscrapers.
In the city, it was never quiet or peaceful, even at three in the morning. There were more than thirty million humans and supernatural beings coexisting, living on top of each other. It was the only life I'd ever really known, but the noise of the congestion grated on me tonight.
My eyes were locked on the flickering neon lights of the gambling parlor across the street. The u in Shibuya had gone out, so the sign flashed SHIB YA at me.
The sword sheathed at my side felt heavy, and my body felt restless and electric. I couldn't keep from fidgeting and cracked my knuckles.
"He'll be here soon," my mother, Marlow, assured me. She leaned back against the brick wall beside me, casually eating large jackfruit seeds from a brown paper sack. Always bring a snack on a stakeout was one of her first lessons, but I was far too nervous and excited to eat.
The thick cowl of her frayed black sweater had been pulled up like a hood, covering her cropped blond hair from the icy mist that fell on us. Her tall leather boots only went to her calf, thanks to her long legs. Her style tended to be monochromatic — black on black on black — aside from the shock of dark red lipstick.
My mother was only a few years shy of her fiftieth birthday, with almost thirty years of experience working as a Valkyrie, and she was still as strong and vital as ever. On her hip, her sword Mördare glowed a dull red through its sheath.
The sword of the Valkyries was one that appeared as if it had been broken in half — its blade only a foot long before stopping at a sharp angle. Mördare's blade was several thousand years old, forged in fires to look like red glass that would glow when the time was nigh.
My sword was called Sigrún, a present on my eighteenth birthday from Marlow. It was a bit shorter than Mördare, with a thicker blade, so it appeared stubby and fat. The handle was black utilitarian, a replacement that my mom had had custom- made from an army supply store, to match her own.
The ancient blade appeared almost black, but as it grew closer to its target, it would glow a vibrant purple. For the past hour that we'd been waiting on our stakeout, Sigrún had been glowing dully on my hip.
The mist grew heavier, soaking my long black hair. I kept the left side of my head shaved, parting my hair over to the right, and my scalp should've been freezing from the cold, but I didn't feel it. I didn't feel anything.
It had begun — the instinct of the Valkyrie, pushing aside my humanity to become a weapon. When the Valkyrie in me took over, I was little more than a scythe for the Grim Reaper of the gods.
"He's coming," Marlow said behind me, but I already knew.
The world fell into hyperfocus, and I could see every droplet of rain as it splashed toward the ground. Every sound echoed through me, from the bird flapping its wings a block away, to the club door as it groaned open.
Eleazar Bélanger stumbled out, his heavy feet clomping in the puddles. He was chubby and short, barely over four feet tall, and he would've appeared to be an average middle-aged man if it wasn't for the two knobby horns that stuck out on either side of his forehead. Graying tufts of black hair stuck out from under a bright red cap, and as he walked ahead, he had a noticeable limp favoring his right leg.
He was a Trasgu, a troublemaking goblin, and his appearance belied the strength and cunning that lurked within him. He was over three hundred years old, and today would be the day he died.
I waited in the shadows of the alley for him to cross the street. A coughing fit caused him to double over, and he braced himself against the brick wall.
I approached him quietly — this all went easier when they didn't have time to prepare. He took off his hat to use it to wipe the snot from his nose, and when he looked up at me, his green eyes flashed with understanding.
"It's you," Eleazar said in a weak, craggy voice. We'd never met, and I doubt he'd ever seen me before, but he recognized me, the way they all did when their time was up.
"Eleazar Bélanger, you have been chosen to die," I said, reciting my script, the words automatic and cold on my lips. "It is my duty to return you to the darkness from whence you came."
"No, wait!" He held up his pudgy hands at me. "I have money. I can pay you. We can work this out."
"This is not my decision to make," I said as I pulled the sword from my sheath.
His eyes widened as he realized I couldn't be bargained with. For a moment I thought he might just accept his fate, but they rarely did. He bowed his head and ran at me like a goat. He was stronger than he looked and caused me to stumble back a step, but he didn't have anywhere to go.
My mother stood blocking the mouth of the alley, in case I needed her. Eleazar tried to run toward the other end, but his leg slowed him, and I easily overtook him. Using the handle of my sword, I cracked him on the back of the skull, and he fell to the ground on his knees.
Sigrún glowed brightly, with light shining out from it and causing the air to glow purple around us. Eleazar mumbled a prayer to the Vanir gods. I held the sword with both hands, and I struck it across his neck, decapitating him.
And then, finally, the electricity that had filled my body, making my muscles quiver and my bones ache, left me, and I breathed in deeply. The corpse of an immortal goblin lay in a puddle at my feet, and I felt nothing but relief.
"It was a good return," my mother said, and put her hand on my shoulder. "You did well, Malin."
The crimson of the early morning sun glittered off the windows of the skyscrapers that towered above, making the glass look like fragmented rubies. In the heart of the city, dwarfed by all the buildings around it, sat the Evig Riksdag — the eternal parliament. Colloquially referred to as the Riks by Valkyries, it was where we all reported and got our orders from the Eralim.
The building's design made it similar to a concrete mushroom, with the lower twenty floors narrow and almost windowless, while the top ten floors extended far past the base, held up by metal beams. It was a feat of engineering that the top- heavy building didn't topple over. The austere appearance lent itself more to a government prison than to a place of celestial intervention.
A small computer screen was posted next to the front door, and I placed my hand on it. A beam of light flashed hotly over my hand, analyzing it, then the screen flashed green. The thick steel doors slowly slid open, and Marlow and I walked inside.
The lobby was deserted, save for the half dozen armed guards that were posted around the doors. Their black uniforms all had the same insignia on their shoulders — an eagle with the three horns of Odin. It was the symbol of the Vörðr, the powerful police force of the Evig Riksdag, mostly made up of sons of Valkyries.
The solid concrete walls enclosing the lobby gave the room a bunkerlike feel, but the black marble floors swirling with copper added a touch of elegance. Two bronze statues — men brandishing long swords, hunched under the shroud of their massive wings — were the only décor in the entire space.
But the Riksdag wasn't the kind of place that encouraged loitering or visitors of any kind. Security was of the highest priority. There had been many attacks by immortals against the Riks, some that resulted in deaths of the Eralim and Valkyries that ran it, which was why the Vörðr needed to be the most elite police force in the world.
Many immortals took umbrage with the idea of being "returned," which was the vernacular the Riks used for killing. We weren't murderers — we were simply returning the immortals back to a world where they belonged.
Marlow and I took the elevator to the twenty-ninth floor, where we were greeted with a retinal scan before we could exit. A long corridor stretched out before us — more black marble floors and copper walls closing in on us. At the very end was a massive bronze door, and on either side stood Samael's personal bodyguards.
Godfrey Wright was the larger of the two, but both were hulking. Godfrey stood well over seven feet tall, with bulging arms and a shaved cranium. But what people usually noticed first was that he was a cyclops, with a solitary large eye above his nose.
The smaller and younger guard was Atlas Malosi. With light brown skin and cropped black hair, he had an open face and glittering dark eyes that made him appear much too friendly to be a guard.
He was the son of a Valkyrie, so he had the strength and height of one, but none of the supernatural ability that would make it possible for him to slay immortals. Only daughters could wield such power.
"How are you ladies doing this lovely morning?" Atlas asked, with a broad grin to match his broad shoulders.
"Just finished the job," I replied.
"I assume that it all went well for you." Atlas continued grinning.
"Is Samael in?" Marlow asked, cutting Atlas's chatter.
The smile finally fell from Atlas's face. "You know Samael. He's always in."
Godfrey was a man of few words, so he merely let out a grunt of agreement and gestured toward the door.
"Thank you." I smiled politely at the guards, but Marlow was already opening the door and heading into Samael's spacious office.
Samael had been assigned as my Eralim, because he'd been my mother's before me. His office was sparsely furnished — a large desk in front of the glass wall that overlooked the city, a few art deco chairs and a sofa, and objets d'art he'd collected over the centuries displayed on the shelves that lined the walls.
Samael himself was sprawled out on the black velvet sofa, absently reading something on his electronic tablet, but he broke out in a smile when he spotted us. While Samael was well over three hundred years old, he didn't look a day over twenty-five.
Lounging in black slacks and a dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up, he looked more like a college kid playing at grown-up than an experienced supervisor. Adding to that, he was incredibly handsome, with warm umber skin, bright aqua eyes beneath a strong brow, and a mass of shoulder-length chestnut curls with natural blond highlights coursing through.
His full lips always seemed on the edge of a smirk, one that even my stoic mother couldn't resist. As he walked over to greet us, Marlow pushed down her cowled hood and smiled brazenly at him.
"How is it that you always manage to look so beautiful, even this early in the morning?" Samael mused, his eyes locked on my mother.
I rolled my eyes and sat in one of the several uncomfortable three-legged armchairs. I leaned back, propping my black moto boots up on the glass table to wait out Marlow and Samael's flirtation.
"You know work always brings out the best in me." Marlow smiled demurely at Samael, then turned and sauntered away from him, toward his desk.
He kept a crystal bowl on his desk, perpetually filled with treats like red bean paste covered in gold leaf or baby scorpions dipped in chocolate. As Samael turned his attention to me, Marlow grabbed a handful of whatever delicacy he had today, and as he spoke, she absently munched on it.
"So, Malin, how did it go?" Samael asked me.
I looked past him to my mother, searching her expression for clues as to how she thought it went, but she just stared down impassively at the morsels in her hand.
"He's dead, so I think it went about as well as it could have," I said finally.
"Returned," Samael corrected me, then cast his eyes toward the ceiling, as if someone upstairs cared enough to eavesdrop on us. "He's returned, not dead."
The immortals weren't killed — they merely shed their mortal coil in a way that meant they could never walk the earth again.
That was one of the basic tenets of the world we lived in, and one of the first things we were taught in grade school. The gods had given us dominion over the earth, where humans, animals, and supernatural beings were all supposed to live in harmony as much as we could.
Valkyries were instated to return immortals to another realm — to an underworld called Kurnugia — and they could not come back. Mortals couldn't return from the dead, either, but that was mostly because we had no afterworld.
That was how things were kept "fair." Immortals returned to Kurnugia, but mortals could not. When we died, we were left to rot in the dirt.
The dead must stay dead. That which is dead cannot rise.
"If you're going to be a Valkyrie, you'll have to get the lingo down," Samael went on.
"I am a Valkyrie," I replied pointedly.
"It may be in your blood, but it's not your job title yet," Samael said, sitting back down on the sofa across from me. "You know how the folks upstairs love paperwork and procedure."
"That they do," Marlow snorted in agreement, but I already had plenty of experience with the bureaucracy of the Evig Riksdag.
My training in their protocol had begun shortly after my eighteenth birthday, with classes at Ravenswood Academy, and it had still taken almost a year before I was able to start apprenticing alongside my mother. Then it had been another six months of testing and training and red tape before I had finally gotten a permit and been allowed to make kills, as long as it was under the close supervision of Marlow.
Since then I had killed — or, rather, returned — four immortals. Eleazar Bélanger had been my fifth.
"How are you taking to it, then?" Samael leaned forward, resting his arms on his knees, and something in the softness of his voice led me to believe what he was really asking was how I was coping.
There had been an entire course at Ravenswood Academy called Guilt and How to Handle It, and we discussed how some Valkyries couldn't deal with it. The responsibility of being an executioner was too much.
But I'd never felt guilt. I'd never felt anything but purpose. My body was made to do this, and when there was too much time between jobs, I began to crave it. The way the electricity felt coursing through me, the buzzing around my heart, the way the pressure felt growing inside of me that wouldn't stop until I completed my mission.
It was all relief and release.
"I can't imagine doing anything else," I admitted.
Samael looked back over his shoulder at my mother. "You think she's doing well enough to go on her own soon?"
"She's ready to go now." Marlow absently brushed at the crumbs on her black pants. "I know the Riksdag wants her to have seven returns under her belt, so I'll be happy to shadow for the next two, but she doesn't need me."
Samael looked back at me, grinning. "Well, it sounds like you'll be a Valkyrie very soon."
My mother looked up, pride flashing momentarily in her dark gray eyes. "She was born for it."
The city had outgrown the land, and a century or so ago it had expanded out onto the lake. I'm sure the engineer behind the New Edgewater development had visions of romantic architecture with canal streets, like Venice or St. Petersburg, but the reality had become something much different.
The water had become polluted, and it smelled of gasoline and dead fish, and the wealthy elites had fled. The condominiums and apartments that towered around me, scraping the clouds overhead, had become run-down and decrepit. Broken windows and rusty fire escapes, with clotheslines running from building to building.
Vehicles sped by on the canals, splashing filthy water onto the sidewalks. It was all old yellow taxis, hovercrafts, and luftfahrrads — motorcycles that hovered a few inches above the surface of the water.
Somewhere a baby was crying. In New Edgewater, there was always a baby crying somewhere within earshot. There was a large population of pontianaks here, and they lured victims with the sound of a crying infant.
It was getting late, but I walked slowly down the crowded sidewalks away from my apartment. As much as I loved working as a Valkyrie, it always took something out of me, and I crashed for hours after.
The garage would be closed by the time I got there, but the stack of silvery blue bills in my pocket would open the doors. Samael always paid me with freshly minted money, and I often wondered what became of the old worn dollars. Did the Riks shred them and constantly print their own money?
Above me, the overcast sky rumbled ominously. The lights from the city made the clouds glow orange and red, and I quickened my pace. I had only a block left to go when the sky opened up with angry, cold raindrops.
Excerpted from "Between The Blade And The Heart"
Copyright © 2017 Amanda Hocking.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
pooled ink Reviews: Pulling together characters both familiar and horrifying, the plot races ahead in this world ruled by gods. Valkyries are compelled to kill (or “return”) immortal beings under the instructions of social order, blind duty, and population control, but what happens when one Valkyrie refuses her call? When one immortal slips free from his fate, will that be the first piece pulled from a precarious house of cards? BETWEEN THE BLADE AND THE HEART is a mash-up of fantasy, mythology, and paranormal genres and it spins together a gripping tale full of action, romance, and deadly conspiracies. Definitely check this one out if you’re into complex worlds, terrifying monsters, myths, and powerful beings, and a protagonist who is fierce. **Read the full review on Wordpress: Pooled Ink
New book alert! The first book in Amanda Hocking’s new Norse mythology duology came out in January and I was given a chance to read a free ARC copy. Despite the unique subject matter and diverse characters, the book just didn’t stand out for me. Maybe you’ll have better luck. Malin is a Valkyrie in a futuristic United States governed by the Norse Gods. It’s her job to kill immortals at the Gods’ command and return them to the Underworld to keep the planet from becoming overpopulated and unbalanced. As such, she has superior strength and reflexes. Her mother is a Valkyrie as well. When Malin finds out that her mother has let a marked immortal live despite her orders, bringing on a possible demon takeover, she’s shocked. Together with the son of the woman that immortal killed and several other friends, it’s her job to fight back and try to return the world to balance. Something I enjoyed about this book was the variety of creatures that you don’t normally see in YA and Hocking had great imagination when it came to combining ancient mythology with futuristic technology. I just felt like the writing was too much like every other YA urban fantasy on the market. Insert love triangle, demon fighting and somewhat shallow heroine here. I did appreciate that the love triangle involved a straight guy, a bisexual woman and a lesbian. The book certainly didn’t lack diversity, but the story itself felt stale. This was actually my first experience reading Hocking’s novels so I had high hopes, but I was left disappointed. When Malin finally confronts the immortal she quested to find, it’s over in a flash and then the rest of the book simply leaves it open for the next novel. I felt like no real thought was put into the sub-conclusion after the rest of the novel centered around the search. Truly unsatisfying. If you like traditional urban fantasy stories, you might enjoy this novel. However, if you are like me and choose extraordinary plots and prose over a quick and easy read, you might want to look elsewhere.
First off.... How gorgeous is this cover? So pretty! Then there is the concept of the existence of this whole secret world where Valkyries watch out for and protect humans. Loved it. And then there is the story of Malin and Asher. It is a slow progressing story and if you don’t like those kinds of book, this is not the one for you. Of course, there is romance involved and (of course) there is a love triangle. Overall, it was a good read. I chose to read this book and all opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased. Thanks to NetGalley and Pan Macmillan!
I was given this ARC by NetGalley in return for an honest review. A few months ago, the museum in my hometown began their run of a special exhibition about Vikings and Norse mythology and since then I have visited it three times. One can only imagine my excitement when I found this little gem of a story on NetGalley, which combines futuristic elements with Norse mythology. I must confess that recently I took a small step back from reading Young Adult fiction, because of the overused stock characters that came to dominate this genre. The reader always gets introduced to a special snowflake that wasn’t aware of some talent/gift, but is able to overcome whatever peril is thrown in her way with minimum character development. This is not the case in Between the Blade and the Heart. The main character, struggling to establish herself not only in her profession, but also as a person, while dealing with family issues, primarily a lack of maternal love and affection, is interesting enough to carry the story and keep the readers’ attention. The secondary characters are in their own way just as strong as the protagonist, which makes for a great collection of personalities as they embark on their adventure. The plot with its many references to Norse mythology (and here I have to admit, I wish I knew more about this fascinating subject) is catching and intriguing, explores the importance of mother-daughter relationships, sexual orientation and includes a lot of fantasy. The writing has a natural flow that transports the reader into the story, unfolding in the reader’s imagination and stays there long after the book is finished. The author takes her time setting up the story and introducing the characters. It is a slowly unfolding story that shows the author’s love and commitment. Overall, I am extremely glad that I stumbled upon this story and cannot wait for the second installment. The rougher setting of the world the author has built combined with the ruggedness and internal conflict of the protagonist makes for a great read. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves Norse mythology, fantasy and unconventional characters that breathe some fresh life into the Young Adult fantasy genre.
Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking is a whole new adventure and journey nothing like any of her other reads. This novel follows the story of Malin, a young Valkyrie, who is definitely finding some trouble. Or maybe trouble finds her? Malin is approached by Asher who is trying to find the one who murdered his mother. The two unlikely allies with a couple other friends seek out to stop some catastrophic events from happening. Malin is an interesting character because she is very by the book. She follows the rules and does exactly what is expected of her. Her mother instilled very rigid beliefs of what it means to be a Valkyrie is and these beliefs are the foundation of who Malin is. A Valkyrie doesn't cry, doesn't fall in love, and always does her job. Yet these standards are a little interrupted throughout this novel because of the actions of Malin's mom and also some interactions with some interesting characters. Malin is definitely a character people can connect to because she does have trouble expressing herself and struggles to keep all of her feelings constantly wrapped up. And this inner struggle has led to the degradation of some personal relationships. Personally I was a huge fan of Malin because she always followed her heart or what she believed in. She definitely made some mistakes and had some struggles, but these instances just build her into a more dimensional character that people will connect to. Something that I really appreciated about this novel is the fact that the prologue explains this new world perfectly so that none of the plot is given away and yet the reader has a good idea of what this new world entails. There is a pretty strict hierarchy and the Valkyries are like the enforcers who follow orders and "return" immortals who have been chosen by a lead council. All Valkyries are female and have natural defenses against a lot of different immortals - for some reason boy children of Valkyries just don't have the same immunities. It's pretty much unheard of for a Valkyrie to fail on "returning" an immortal as it is a job taken very seriously in order to keep the balance. This book has adventure, romance, betrayal, heartache, and basically everything else you could expect from a novel. I'm very excited for this series and can see that a lot more adventure awaits! For fans of Amanda Hocking and fantasy in general, this is definitely the book to pick up and read.
Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking is a dynamic Sci-Fi/Fantasy YA with a blend of seemingly normal and paranormal/unique settings. Malin, a Valkyrie in training, is part of a special sisterhood of beings, Valkyries, whose responsibility it is to slay/return immortal beings to the next plane of existence when it is their time. She is almost finished with her course work and has gained experience in the field with her mother. When she finds out that her mom has broken the rules and let an immortal live, thus possibly upsetting the balance of the world, she is thrust into a world of danger and investigation alongside Asher, the son of a Valkyrie, as well as her ex-girlfriend, also Valkyrie, Quinn. There was a lot to digest in the world that Ms. Hocking created, but it is provided in a way to not feel overwhelming yet still give the necessary info to navigate the story as a reader. The mythology used, Norse and others, is both somewhat familiar, but also more complex than a casual reader would come across. I very much appreciated the work that was done to utilize these mythos as well as build a dynamic and complex world for Malin and the other characters to navigate. Malin is essentially a college student and has a lot to learn about how the world really works and so she develops as a character both as she learns more as well as interacts with people who were outside of her and her mother's family. She displays what I felt were characteristics you would expect of a young Valkyrie, strong, brash, but also emotional and still learning. The more I read the more I liked about both her and the world. I recommend Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking as a book that has more than meets the eye, with discussion of predestination vs free choice as well as a cast of characters that provide a breadth of interactions and experiences for Malin and readers to explore. (I voluntarily reviewed an ARC of this book I received for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my open and honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.)
Title: Between the Blade and the Heart Author: Amanda Hocking Genre: New Adult Fantasy, Mythological Format: Ebook - ARC Pages: 325 Rating: 5 Heat: 2 Thoughts: Wow… Other than being the mother of all cliffhangers, that was so awesome! The world, the characters, the whole story was just… wow! It starts out with just getting to know some of the characters with a few morsels of mystery to keep you hooked. Then bam! The secret is out along with the possible consequences. As thing start getting a little clearer something comes along and muddies the water, leaving more questions than answers. And the whole predestined vs free-will thing will really make you think. I can’t wait to read the next book!!! Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this work and chose to write a review.
Valkyrie are not what we normally see in these books and I’m happy the author did something different. It was nice to see the heroine a kick butt chick! The book has adventure, heart, love and fighting. I was a little put off with the whole Quinn, Asher, Malin triangle. It was annoying at times and I didn’t feel it needed to be like that in the book. I am interested to see where the book goes next. *Thank you NetGalley for allowing me to read this for my honest opinion*
Between the Blade and the Heart is the first in a new duology from one of my favorite YA authors, Amanda Hocking! This story is classic Hocking with a more complex plot and a fantasy world as big as the one found in the Trylle Trilogy. Malin, Valkyrie-in-training, gets the biggest upset of her life. Her mother and mentor, Marlow, didn't kill the immortal she was assigned. Her actions have caused the slow unwinding of the world as they know it and it's up to Malin and her friends to fix her mother's mistake. As they wade through vicious supernaturals to find their target, signs of someone powerful pulling the strings become apparent. Between the Blade and the Heart is an intense read that will suck you in with its fierce monsters and even fiercer heroes. Fighting for justice never seemed like so much fun until Malin teams up with her roommate, Oona, a friend from the past, Quinn, and the guy who might be her future, Asher. This story is suited for an audience a bit older than usual, but it's not too graphic. Just be prepared to find that this duology is darker and steamier than anything that's come before. *ARC provided in consideration for review*