Valkyrie Rising by Ingrid Paulson | Book Review

Pages: 352

Genre: young adult fantasy, norse mythology

Synopsis

Nothing ever happens in Norway. But at least Ellie knows what to expect when she visits her grandmother: a tranquil fishing village and long, slow summer days. And maybe she’ll finally get out from under the shadow of her way-too-perfect big brother, Graham, while she’s there.

What Ellie doesn’t anticipate is Graham’s infuriating best friend, Tuck, tagging along for the trip. Nor did she imagine boys going missing amid rumors of impossible kidnappings. Least of all does she expect something powerful and ancient to awaken in her and that strange whispers would urge Ellie to claim her place among mythological warriors. Instead of peace and quiet, there’s suddenly a lot for a girl from L.A. to handle on a summer sojourn in Norway! And when Graham vanishes, it’s up to Ellie—and the ever-sarcastic, if undeniably alluring Tuck—to uncover the truth about all the disappearances and thwart the nefarious plan behind them.

My thoughts

Rating out of five: three stars

I picked this book up because it was set in Norway (my country) and, most importantly, it dealt with norse mythology, as the Valkyrie is female creatures that choose which warriors die or live in battle.

The way I found some of the plot-structure lacking reminded me of fairytale retellings that bases themselves too much about pointing out characters the reader knows and letting what you know or don’t know about these write most of their character, instead of actually setting the feeling and motives themself. Which meant that I thought a lot of the norse mythology parts were missing in this book, strange for a book that’s supposedly all about the valkyrie. None of the gods have motives, or a personality that fit with their norse mythology stories. They don’t act the way they do in the ‘historical’ stories. Which is okay if that’s an obvious choice made in the book, but it didn’t seem to be. The main character even pointed to history when trying to learn about them. It was more about trying to fit these gods into the ‘bad guy’, ‘helper’ and ‘savior’ roles already made, which hurt my head a bit.

It’s a good coming-of-age story, but pretty basic except for the god-stuff. Falling in love with your brother’s friend is a well-used, great plotline. But trying to write something epic and a YA story in 350 pages, without using any space in the beginning to flesh out the characters, it was bound to have faults.

The ending was impressive in comparison to the rest, but overall it didn’t pull itself together enough for me. The norwegian setting parts of this book were more on-point, which I appreciated, it’s obvious the author has some familiarity.

A Woman in the Polar Night by Christiane Ritter | Book Review

A new book on the list of all-time favourites.

Genre: nonfiction, memoir, travel to the Arctic

Pages: 224

Synopsis

In 1934, the painter Christiane Ritter leaves her comfortable life in Austria and travels to the remote Arctic island of Spitsbergen, to spend a year there with her husband. She thinks it will be a relaxing trip, a chance to “read thick books in the remote quiet and, not least, sleep to my heart’s content”, but when Christiane arrives she is shocked to realize that they are to live in a tiny ramshackle hut on the shores of a lonely fjord, hundreds of miles from the nearest settlement, battling the elements every day, just to survive.

At first, Christiane is horrified by the freezing cold, the bleak landscape the lack of equipment and supplies… But as time passes, after encounters with bears and seals, long treks over the ice and months on end of perpetual night, she finds herself falling in love with the Arctic’s harsh, otherworldly beauty, gaining a great sense of inner peace and a new appreciation for the sanctity of life.

This rediscovered classic memoir tells the incredible tale of a woman defying society’s expectations to find freedom and peace in the adventure of a lifetime. 

My thoughts

Rating out of five: five stars

Reading this book was an experience, one that made me actually want to take a trip further north than Norway, to experience the Arctic for myself. Which sounds both dumb and unrealistic, but truly read this book if you want to understand why.

This book is special because of many reasons. It’s a memoir from 1934 by a german woman, the painter Christiane Ritter. Her husband has already fallen in love with the Arctic, and she decided to uproot her comfortable and rich life and see what it’s all about herself. He warns her about how isolated it really is, but it’s almost as if he’s forgotten the big change from normal city life already, becoming used to having to fend for himself, to have no one to turn to when the hut gets covered in snow, and travelling great distances to search for a better stove to cook on.

It’s obvious that it’s written in another time from Christiane Ritter’s position in life, but the emotion she conveys through very sparce wording was really breathtaking. I know enough about the cold emptiness of certain landscapes that I felt I could recognize it, and the feelings the vastness brings after you get over its overwhelming fear of isolation.

Everyone should give this book a chance, it won’t be for everyone’s taste, but it earns its place among my favourite books of all time because of its uniqueness. Why did I feel like this contains lessons in writing as well. I really wanted to add some quotes, but I left the beautiful book filled with markings at home by the university, and as its closed for now, this will have to do.

My feelings reading this book: fear on Christiane’s behalf, then impressed & mindblown. I really loved the third person with them most of the time, the Norwegian, who Christiane talks about the strange customs of. He represented my norwegian heart too well.