Battle for Midgard

blackiceThe end of the world (Ragnarok) is nigh and Loki Laufeyson has plans to turn Earth into his own private playpen. But he’s not alone. Odin and the rest of his brood have the exact same plan. Jotunheim and Asgard have been destroyed and everyone is looking for a new place to call home. No matter how things turn out, the Twilight of the Gods spells doom for all of mankind.

If you’re familiar with Norse mythology (and Marvel comic books), you already know that Loki is the harbinger of Ragnarok. And you also know that he is indirectly responsible for the deaths of Odin and Thor. The Vikings didn’t like him back in the 13th century. And the Avengers don’t like him now. He’s been called a trickster, a slanderer, and a devil, but he is, and always will be, a giant pain in the ass.

In Black Ice, the second volume in Susan Krinard’s prose edda, things are unfolding a little bit differently as foretold. Ragnarok never quite happened the way it was supposed to. Loki wasn’t totally successful in his evil plan. Yes, eight of the original homeworlds were destroyed. But Midgard (Earth) still exists.

Now Loki has come to San Francisco with plans to start the war all over again (see Krinard’s first novel in the series, Mist, for more information). And this time he’s going to do it right. Odin and Thor (and the Warriors Three) are locked away in a godly shadow-realm called Ginnungagap. And that means Loki and his army of frost giants stand unopposed. The shape-shifting god can do whatever he wants with no niggling interference from those Asgardian pests.

The only thing standing in Loki’s way is a battalion of 12 Valkyrie warriors armed with specific divine weapons (like Odin’s spear and Thor’s hammer). The leader of the female furies is Mist Bjorgsen, daughter of Freya—the goddess of love and sex and war and death. You know, all the important stuff.

Lady Mist is described as having beautiful Scandinavian features, grave gray eyes, and the aura of strength and purpose. “Very Norse, and very much a warrior.” It’s her job to marshal her Valkyrie sisters, defeat Loki, and prevent Ragnarok. If she can get some sexy time with a grim elf named Dainn, that would be nice too.

We have two minor problems with Krinard’s series so far. The story basically revolves around Mist, Loki, and Dainn (we have no problem with that, btw). But a lot of interesting characters are introduced and quickly abandoned due to ongoing narrative demands. That’s too bad. Freya, for example, is a powerful, magnetic presence whenever she pops up. But due to extenuating circumstances, she’s reduced to a minor role. We want to see more of her. Also, the 11 Valkyries in Mist’s army are just set decoration. Why write a book about Valkyries and not give them something interesting to do? Hopefully in the next book we’ll get substantial action from Bryn, Eir, Rota (yes, Rota!), Hild, and the rest of the gang. The good news is that we’ll probably see a lot more of Regin. She’s the Valkyrie who has possession of Thor’s hammer, Mjollnir. We’re guessing that’s an important piece of weaponry needed to smash Loki and his Jotunn jackanapes.

Black Ice ends with a crazy plot twist on the night before Christmas. Despite all the obstacles before her, we’re confident that Mist will ultimately prevail in a huge battle royale on Christmas day. She’s ready. “Mist, you’re so dramatic,” taunts Loki at one point. “It would seem you have been enjoying too many tales of heroes with extraordinary powers who rush in to save the day whenever the weak or innocent are in the clutches of a monstrous villain.” Reading between the lines, even the Trickster God seems to know that his days of debauchery are coming to an end shortly.

[Black Ice / By Susan Krinard / First Printing: August 2014 / ISBN: 9780765332097]

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