Fans of the first book and lovers of Norse legend may enjoy, but there’s better for fantasy-adventure lovers.

THE STRANGE MAID

From the United States of Asgard series , Vol. 2

Can Signy solve the riddle that stands between her and her rightful place among the Valkyrie?

Ten years ago, when she was 7, Signy’s parents died in an accident. In her grief, during a visit to the New World Tree, she climbed the Tree and met Odin Alfather; he renamed her Signy Valborn, handing her her destiny: to become the next Valkyrie of the Tree, one of nine Valkyries who help run the United States of Asgard. The day after her 15th birthday, a riddle appeared on the trunk of the New World Tree; since she couldn’t solve it, Signy set out to find her answer. Two years of sometimes-homeless living later, she’s still looking…until she meets Ned Unferth, who says he can provide her the answer. He says that “The Valkyrie of the Tree will prove herself with a stone heart” means she must kill a troll and take its heart, which becomes stone in daylight. She trusts the truth rune she sees in his eye, and they set off to train and find a troll. Gratton’s follow-up to The Lost Sun (2013) is more entertaining and engaging than its predecessor, but the tale’s padded with so many complications it’s easy to put down. There’s such a surfeit of navel-gazing that Signy should be able to map her own spinal column.

Fans of the first book and lovers of Norse legend may enjoy, but there’s better for fantasy-adventure lovers. (Fantasy. 14-17)

Pub Date: June 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-307-97751-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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Bloody? Yes. Scary? No.

THERE'S SOMEONE INSIDE YOUR HOUSE

Someone is murdering high school students. Most freeze in fear, but a brave few try to stop the killings.

Senior Makani Young has been living in corn-obsessed Nebraska for just a little over a year. She has developed a crush and made some friends, but a dark secret keeps her from truly opening up to those around her. As the only half–African-American and half–Native Hawaiian student in her school, she already stands out, but as the killing spree continues, the press descends, and rumors fly, Makani is increasingly nervous that her past will be exposed. However, the charming and incredibly shy Ollie, a white boy with hot-pink hair, a lip ring, and wanderlust, provides an excellent distraction from the horror and fear. Graphic violence and bloody mayhem saturate this high-speed slasher story. And while Makani’s secret and the killer’s hidden identity might keep the pages turning, this is less a psychological thriller and more a study in gore. The intimacy and precision of the killer’s machinations hint at some grand psychological reveal, but lacking even basic jump-scares, this tale is high in yuck and low in fright. The tendency of the characters toward preachy inner monologues feels false.

Bloody? Yes. Scary? No. (Horror. 14-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-525-42601-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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A derivative mess.

ASHFALL LEGACY

A half alien teenager sets out for the stars in search of his missing dad.

In what rapidly devolves into a jumble of well-worn science-fiction tropes and typecast settings glued together by adolescent behavior and muddy thinking, the story follows 16-year-old Sydney, who has been on the lam with his gun-toting default-White human mom for 10 years. Syd meets and agrees to join his alien uncle on a training voyage to planet Denza, where he can take classes at the local star fleet academy and find his father, who vanished on an exploratory voyage years before. Syd discovers that all humans become super strong and super tough when they leave Earth—but die when they return. Might his father have come upon a cure hidden among the relics of a…wait for it…mysterious race of vanished galactic overlords? In his typically unsubtle way, the pseudonymous Lore chucks discrimination into the mix too—being a “mutt,” as one hostile shipmate put it, Syd gets a decidedly mixed reception from the specist Denzans, and a fellow hybrid angrily informs him that she identifies as human. Before arbitrarily cutting off midway through, the climax collapses into a glutinous mass of revelations including the fate of Syd’s father and the nature of the aforementioned overlords. Oh, and there are space monsters and a magic ring.

A derivative mess. (Science fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-284536-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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