Friday, August 1, 2014

Black Ice (Midgard #2) by Susan Krinard

The battle to stop Loki bringing devastation to Earth continues – Mist has to gather her allies, call in her sister Valkyries and the Norse treasures they were holding, anything that can give her an advantage in the coming conflicts

She’s also attracting mortal allies – but is that through genuine need or her own powers changing their choices? Because Mist is also the daughter of the goddess Freya and that’s definitely a learning curve – and brings complications since Freya’s motives may not be entirely what they seem

And there’s Loki, source of all kinds of chaos – who has got his son involved.

I have said it before and I will say it again, I love Norse Mythology and this story takes it and runs with it. We’ve got some decent research with a lot more myths than the standard, well known elements being presented, including the fascinating treasures that litter the Norse gods. This book takes them, the gods, the world setting, the mythology, the runes and makes something really fun and really fascinating with it. The story of the Valkyrie, unknown godchild, facing off against the devastating forces of Loki with numerous other members of the pantheon playing their own manipulative games is an really good one and definitely seizes my attention

The book even acknowledged that Freya is more than just a succubus. Well, just. There’s  a brief nod to Freya once having martial aspects before focusing again on all her terribad sexiness that drowns everything in sex and did we mention the sexiness?

The plot is complicated and involved with several threads and battles going on at the same time while Mist tries to handle them all, learn to trust others and learn exactly what she has become. She does seem to spend more time commenting on how exhausted she is than doing exhausting things though; there was also waaaaay too much dialogue and internal monologue for people desperately battling away

She and her sister Valkyries are all competent, but they’re also very different women. There’s a really huge potential for these women to pool their resources and skills and be a far greater whole.

There are greater problems though

I have a great way for Mist to defeat Loki.

Step 1: Stab Dainn
Step 2: repeat Step 1 until no movement is detected
Step 3: scrape up remains and drop into wood chipper
Step 4: assign Einherjar to watch the remains and stomp on anything that twitches.

No, seriously. I think Dainn may be one of the biggest barriers to Mist actually getting anything done. She spends so much time worrying about him, questioning his loyalty, fearing for him that she actually does very little outside of that, he’s something of an obsession of hers. In turn he does little that’s productive except mope and whine and angst and mope some more – occasionally becoming a big monstrous thing that can be thrown against the enemy (his one real use). It would help a lot more if he didn’t keep so many secrets – he keeps so much from Mist that he’s a constant liability.

In fact, though he’s the main culprit, the entire secrecy of the series is quite ridiculous. Mist doesn’t share things with her fellow Valkyrie. They tend to keep secrets from her (oh, I have a berserker, did I not mention that? Silly me). Dain doesn’t mention Freya’s true motives, his meetings with Loki, the nature of the beast and just about anything else he ever learns. No-one tells Anna anything and the Raven tells no-one nothing.

And then they all angst about their secrets. It makes the book so painfully slow – because we have all of these plot points that could be advanced so much faster and so much more meaningfully if people decided to share their myriad secrets. And I get not trusting people – but there must be a core of trust between these characters! On top of being road blocks for the plot, so many of these characters have big internal monologues about their secrets (looking at you Dainn) that we have further padding of the book.  And I’m tired of Dainn keeping things from Mist for her own good, going behind Mist’s back for her own protection et al; it never works out for him so why does he keep doing it? On the plus side, it doesn’t work out for him and each time it’s clear how his patronising, patriarchal foolishness comes back to bite them all – but it’s done now. Can we stop.

This slowness is the main problem with the book – which is added to by the book’s odd lack of focus. There were times when I thought the book was finally reaching an end before realising there were a lot of pages left – because there’s another plot line leaping forward to be main again. We started out looking for the Valkyrie treasures but those both turned into odd little mini-quests with some action but then just kind of flopped into the background, not even making much effort to introduce the new Valkyrie. There’s a whole huge plot line about Anna and her bird but after spending pages and pages rescuing them, protecting them keeping them safe, there’s no real resolve. There’s no reason why Anna is important (beyond some more angst for Mist) nor any real indication over what her bird is supposed to be doing or actually doing. The plot line just kind of fizzles. Then there’s Gabi and Ryan and Tashiro who are all lurking around in the background involved in some way but doing very little (except giving Dainn more reasons to angst – seriously if you removed Dainn by woodchipper, simply cutting his angst out of the plot line would remove a good fifth of the book).

Diversitywise, we have a fair amount of tokenism going on. Gabi is Latina and has Curendero abilities she needs to develop – but she spends nearly the entire time in her room along with Ryan who is gay (or considered to be. It’s thought he has a crush on Dainn, everyone accepts that but I don’t think Ryan has ever confirmed that) and a former prostitute. Tashiro is Asian and tangentially involved with the two kids – but, again, this is a supremely background role. All three could be removed from the plot and we wouldn’t realise.

Captain Taylor is a Black man who has been made one of Mists Lieutenants, but it’s towards the end of the book so we haven’t seen much chance to develop him. One of Loki’s servants, a nanny, is a WOC which is a trope in and of itself.

Again, all minor roles

Loki is bisexual and is happy to change shape between male and female as well. He’s also a sex predator, molests Dainn and makes it clear he’s happy to force Dainn into his bed.

It’s all tokenism and some very dubious tropes.

Aside from diversity, the main problem with this book is that there’s too much going on and too little of it developed – and too much of it kept separate. All the plot lines are just kind of running without any real resolve, everything is dragged out with excessive personal drama and angst and everything is distracted by story-ettes that don’t seem to go anywhere but don’t seem to end either – they just kind of hang around

It’s a shame, because the overall story, the world, the mythology and Mist herself are all great ones. I love her stepping up to lead the fight and coming to realise exactly who and what she is, I’d love the idea of her standing with her varied Valkyrie sisters, each melding their strength and Norse treasures to the fore and I love some good Norse mythology. It just needs to be pared down a lot more and the focus to be far stronger to keep it engaging.