Pride of the Valkyries

MistThere once was a young fanboy (we’ll keep his identity secret) who diligently rated all the comic books he read on a 1-5 scale. After compiling a sizable qualitative sample, he was able to determine which series he liked the best. To his surprise, even though he defined himself as a Fantastic Four/Amazing Spider-Man kind of guy, it turned out that he actually liked The Mighty Thor the best. Nate Silver would agree: statistics don’t lie.

In many ways, we had a similar experience. As a kid, we liked a sundry of crazy comic books—most of them long forgotten. But after all these years we continue to have an undying sentimental attachment to Journey Into Mystery and the adventures of Thor Odinson. The comic book even sparked a lifelong interest in Scandinavian folklore, Viking metal, and multiple viewings of the movie Adventures in Babysitting.

And that’s why we always perk up when we see modern reinterpretations of Norse paganism like Mist, the first novel in a brand-new series by Susan Krinard. The author takes the icons of Germanic mythology (and Journey into Mystery) and sets them free in San Francisco. The book is an urban fantasy/paranormal romance featuring kick-ass Valkyries, sexy elves, menacing frost giants, and Tom Hiddleston.

Cast down to Midgard by All-Father Odin himself, Mist Bjorgsen is doing her best to live a normal life in the Bay Area. She drives a Volvo, eats Jarlsberg cheese, and pays her mortgage as a professional bladesmith. Two things happen that turn her life upside down. One, it starts snowing unexpectedly in Golden Gate Park. That’s odd. And two, Loki Laufeyson (looking and acting suspiciously like actor Tom Hiddleston) arrives with a dastardly plan to take over the world.

The shape-shifting trickster god has come to San Francisco and he’s brought Fimbulvetr (the Great Winter) with him. Mist knows immediately that Ragnarok is right around the corner—it’s time to assemble her Valkyrie sisters (including Freya, the mother of all shield maidens) and send Laufeyson/Hiddleston back to Hel.

Despite the dire situation, not much actually happens in Krinard’s book. It’s basically 400 pages of exposition and stage setting. The novel also contains quite a bit of (sometimes head-scratching) folkloric namedropping. We actually enjoy this kind of stuff, but many readers will need to keep a dictionary of Northern Germanic mythology by their side in order to catch the unexplained context. Wikipedia might be helpful in a pinch.

Also, as mentioned earlier, the author seems to have a crush on actor Tom Hiddleston. It is Hiddleston’s big-screen interpretation of Loki that has inspired the character in this book. True, Thor’s adoptive brother was the father of monsters and the purveyor of chaos. But he was also a charismatic figure, lean and wiry as a stoat. He looked good in his tailor-made suits, and “his eyes were brilliant green, his hair was artfully styled, and he had a long, handsome face.” In other words, he was an Aesir dreamboat.

Loki tried to take over the world in the first Avengers movie. But he didn’t have much luck. Iron Man, Hulk, and Captain America sent him back to Asgard with his tail tucked between his legs. Now the God of Mischief has returned and it’s up to a battalion of female furies (staffed with godly accoutrements) to squash him again. By Odin’s hairy balls! Will Loki never learn his lesson? To be continued in Black Ice, available later this year.

[Mist / By Susan Krinard / First Printing: July 2013 / ISBN: 9780765332080]

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