The what-if premise of Gratton’s (Blood Magic) first book in the United States of Asgard series has the gods of Norse myth thriving in 21st-century America, not as divinities so much as celebrities: the gods walk openly among humankind, hosting charity events and resurrecting on national television. It may sound like the setup for a spoof, but it isn’t—Gratton’s 17-year-old protagonists are dead serious in their goals. Soren, a destined berserker whose father was a mass killer, wants freedom from his violent heritage; Astrid, a seer, seeks her dead mother, whom Astrid believes is alive. The teens join forces in a road-trip quest à la American Gods when Baldur the Beautiful fails to rise from the dead on schedule, prompting Odin Alfather to offer a boon to any who bring word of Baldur’s whereabouts. Soren is occasionally too noble, Astrid too gnomically lovely, and with so many portents flying around, things can get, well, portentous. But on the whole Gratton avoids the risk of parody to pull off a moving and original romance. Ages 12–up. Agent: Laura Rennert, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (June)
"A moving and original romance." --Publishers Weekly
"Strong writing and an inventive recasting of mythological characters combine to create an evocative, romantic adventure. The novel wisely allows its characters to revel in their mythological underpinnings rather than trying to make them seem like authentic contemporary teens, yet Soren and Astrid’s struggle to understand their place in the larger world will still resonate with readers, while their intense, moving romance will elicit plenty of sighs. Reading like a slightly older sibling to Armstrong and Marr’s Loki’s Wolves, this rousing narrative offers all the best elements of a mythological quest while giving unfamiliar readers a thorough but not heavy-handed introduction to the traditional tales." --The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Gratton sets up an alternate universe where Norse gods are juxtaposed with typical American life in this first novel in a new series. While Astrid dreams of apples and Soren battles the berserker rage inside, they forge new alliances and a bond of friendship that puts them squarely in the path of a cat-and-mouse game played by gods." --Booklist
From the Hardcover edition.
Gr 8 Up—Soren Bearskin and Astrid Glyn meet for the first time at a boarding school in an alternative America with places called Nebrasge and Colorada. Soren is a berserker who wants to resist his destiny to be a fighter. Astrid is a seethkona, a seer, whose famous mother has recently died. Everyone in the country is watching the television when the god of light, Baldur, does not rise from the dead for his yearly renewal. Astrid decides to seek him out, and she enlists Soren for the mission. They find him, and the journey to return him to his father without being followed is where most of the action takes place. The protagonists learn that the gods are manipulating the annual ritual to suit their needs. Soren and Astrid become romantically attached, and many sacrifices have to be made for them to deliver Baldur safely to his home. The mix of contemporary living and technology with mythology and fantasy is jarring at first, but readers will quickly get a hang for the unusual names and attributes of the characters. Hand this to fantasy lovers who might be ready to branch out of their comfort zone.—Elizabeth Kahn, Patrick F. Taylor Science & Technology Academy, Jefferson, LA
When the god Baldur the Beautiful vanishes, can two teens rescue him and win their hearts' desires? In a country very like a modern America populated by Norse-descended followers of Odin and his pantheon, 17-year-old Soren struggles against his berserker heritage and the disgrace of his father's having lost control in a shopping mall. At his school, Sanctus Sigurd, he meets seethkona Astrid Glyn, a prophetess who's sure her world-famous mother's not dead. The two set off across the United States of Asgard in hopes of finding Baldur, who did not rise from his ashes as he does at the end of each winter, and thereby winning a boon from Odin Alfather. Finding Baldur turns out to be the easiest part of their quest; the duo must find a way to return him to the gods without drawing attention to themselves, as no one knows who orchestrated the god's disappearance, and the rest of the country wants him back too. Gratton's series opener is a wordy, languid adventure dotted with slightly twisted retellings of Norse myths. The breathless internal conflicts and easily overcome external conflicts never quite ignite. It's chock-a-block with cornball plays on American cultural and place names made slightly Norse-y. When gods other than Baldur finally appear, things get interesting; maybe future installments will begin there. (Fantasy. 12 & up)