Saturday, August 23, 2014

Review: Mist by Susan Krinard

Title: Mist
Author: Susan Krinard
Series: Midgard, Book 1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 16 July 2013
Source: From publisher in exchange for an honest review

Mist lives a normal life. She has a normal job, a normal boyfriend, and a normal apartment in San Francisco. She never thinks about her past if she can help it.

She survived. That’s the end of it.

But then a snowy winter descends upon San Francisco. In June. And in quick succession, Mist is attacked by a frost giant in a public park and runs into an elf disguised as a homeless person on the streets...and then the man Mist believed was her mortal boyfriend reveals himself to be the trickster god, Loki, alive and well after all these years.

Mist’s normal world is falling apart. But thankfully, Mist isn’t quite so normal herself. She’s a Valkyrie, and she’s going to need all her skill to thwart Loki’s schemes and save modern Earth from the ravages of a battle of the gods.

I wanted to love this book. There isn't enough fantasy, or urban fantasy, that deals with Norse mythology. There's such a wealth of history to draw on with the Norse gods, and since it's my heritage I'm always anxious to see it used more. I had high hopes. Mist both did and didn't live up to those hopes.

Firstly, despite the fact that this has a strong sense of place in San Francisco - honestly, I feel like I could have taken out a map and easily followed Mist and the other characters around the city - I would more easily categorize this as straight fantasy. Yes, it's "urban," yes it's "contemporary," technically filling the Urban Fantasy requirements, but it reads and flows more like a straight fantasy novel. I have no issue with this as I love high fantasy as well, but it could be off-putting to a lot of readers more used to the norm of the urban fantasy genre. Another thing that makes it more like Fantasy than Urban Fantasy is the fact that there's no real resolution in this book. It's a beginning of a much larger story. And the ending is a cliff-hanger, not a horrible one, but one nonetheless.

I got everything I could have wanted in a book based on Norse mythology. One slight twist to the myths and Susan Krinard had a whole other story to tell, while staying true to the source material. In the beginning there is Ragnarök, and instead of it occurring like it should, Odin Allfather gives the Aesir treasures to the Valkyrie, then sends them to Midgard to keep guard for when the Aesir return. Every Norse character we meet - save one - is true to the mythologies. Vali and Vidarr, Odin's sons, are actually said to have survived Ragnarök. Mist is an actual named Valkyrie, as are her sisters; Loki, of course, we all know. I enjoyed, greatly, how Ms. Krinard took the myths and wove them into current time. There's a lot of history to work with and as it isn't as familiar to most of the Western world as, say, Greek mythologies she wove a lot of it into the story. I think this makes it so you can read the book without having to look up additional information, but there's plenty additional you can learn if you do look up more. I especially loved the Norwegian that's peppered throughout the text, in curses or endearments.

Mist does a good job of not making the heroes or villains one-note, too. Freya, though we (and Mist) are led to believe she's benevolent and there to help seems to have alternate ideas. She, initially, came off as simply love, which frustrated me a bit because she's so much more. In fact, in one of her earliest appearances she tries to smother a character with love. Freya could do so much more than that. However, I think what I came to realize is that Freya wasn't completely in control of everything at that moment so she used what she could. When she appears again later, it's a much different story. And I'm eager to see what exactly she's up to.

Having the story told in alternating points-of-view - though this doesn't start until nearly 30% into the story - gives us added information that Mist doesn't have. It also gives us insights into Loki and Dainn, which I admit I loved. What I didn't love is the amount of information being kept from Mist. It's a plot device, and a common tactic of the gods, so I get it, but I still hate it. I also was really hoping that at least one of the secrets would be revealed by the end of this book to Mist, alas I was left wanting and somewhat frustrated on that account.

Mist herself is an intriguing character. There's definitely the 'more power than she knew' thing going on and though I don't mind it, I am really curious as to why she has this power that's more powerful than the powerfullest. I hope that gets explained in one of the next two books of this trilogy. Regardless, Mist is a strong heroine, a warrior skilled with the sword and with forging those weapons - and can I say how much I love that she forges her own stuff. I really loved how she wasn't going to let anyone tell her what had to be done, she would make her own decisions based on the best information available and her own moral guide. And though she knows stuff is being kept from her, she still questions things, still tries to get at the truth of it. She's also got a lot of loyalty, and a sense of right-and-wrong that nothing will dissuade her from trying to affect. Despite this, Mist is also a little more than somewhat ashamed and unsure of herself. She lost faith once, as we learn in the prologue, and did things she shouldn't have, costing a lot of lives she was trying to save and her shame from that carries on. I liked seeing that remorse, knowing that her actions had consequences and she's learning from them and trying not to make the same mistakes again.

Though we got a good amount of time in Dainn and Loki's heads, I'm still not sure how I feel, completely, about either one. Dainn wants to be honorable, but isn't sure he can be. He's definitely got something extra going on, but I wish he'd listen to Mist when she offers to help. Loki, on the other hand, is devious and an asshole - most of the time. At others though he seems to make a convoluted sort of sense. While I definitely don't agree with his future plan for Midgard (better known as our world), I'm not sure that I want the Aesir in control either.

This review's getting to be quite long, so I'm going to quickly go over some of the stuff that didn't work for me. While the action is really great, it's fairly infrequent. I wanted more of it, and wanted a better picture of what was happening during it. Then there were the times in the story where we'd get lost, only for a little bit, in exposition and/or Dainn and Mist thinking about what they would do. Even Loki fell into this occasionally, but as he's the Trickster I expect planning and machinations from him. As such, it slowed the story down, when all I wanted was more stuff happening. Again, the secrets kept from Mist irritated me. And the cliff-hanger / non-ending left me feeling a little abandoned. It's a good enough stopping point, I suppose, but I wanted something to add to the tension.

Overall, I liked this foray into Norse myths in the modern world. Krinard is clearly faithful to the original myths and builds them convincingly in Mist. I'm definitely going to be reading the second one to see how Mist deals with this newfound responsibility, and what happens when Mist learns the truth. That is going to be an interesting day.

Grade: C+

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