The Fantasy Queen of Norway Crafts a Fun and Compelling Debut Entry into an Epic YA Fantasy Trilogy
Strolling into Barnes & Noble one weekend just to ‘look’ around turned into a book shopping spree that left me $80 poorer than when I had walked in. But, out of that expensive book haul, I came away with my first foreign fantasy book: Odin’s Child by Siri Peterson.
I know it’s generally bad practice to judge a book by its cover, especially for traditionally published novels whose authors have little control over cover design. Still, once I read the title and feasted my eyes upon the simple and very shocking cover ( you don’t see a detached tail of a fantasy creature on book covers very often ), I was already sold.
Admittedly, anything about Norse mythology and culture grabs my attention, so after reading the jacket summary and ripping my debit card from my reluctant wallet, I was well on my way into a brand new fantasy world.
The first impressions were great. With a dark and intriguing cold opener to a delightful first chapter that introduced our titular ‘Odin’s Child’, I quickly realized that I was in for a fun and wild ride.
The premise is pretty straightforward: our main character, Hirka, is the only ymling ( a young native of the fantasy world of Ym ) without a tail. She and everyone else has been fed a narrative that wolves took her tail when in reality, it was never there in the first place.
What fascinates me is that this author showed us exactly what went down just after Hirka was found abandoned in the snow outside a mysterious ring of stone in the prologue. It goes against what many editors and booksellers will tell you to do in your opening pages, but I found the entire sequence extremely necessary and captivating.
Her adoptive father goes through all the stages of paranoia, fear, and moral debate before deciding to protect the innocent baby by carving a wound into the base of her spine to make it look like it was forcefully taken. The scene still burns in my mind after finishing the book.
Hook? Sinked. Main plot? Set. Conflict? Poised and ready to make us chew our fingernails off.
This means throughout the first act of the novel you the reader know the truth while Hirka is fumbling around in the dark, feeling rightfully out of place and getting bullied for her difference in appearance.
When she does inevitably find out that she is not a scarred ymling, we the readers are given a wonderful extra push toward sympathy for Hirka, and other questions to focus on from the start of the book: where does she come from, and how did she get here?
And oh, boy, do you get WAY more than just those inquiries to ponder over!
It’s a refreshing breath of fresh air for a YA novel. It focuses primarily on the effects the main character's choices have on the world and their inner turmoil, with the stereotypical romance sub-plot turned main-plot put into its proper place, IN THE BACKGROUND.
Not to say I didn’t love the two main character's relationship, but I get so tired of these amazing fantasy and sci-fi worlds getting overshadowed by Mr. broody-mc-broody face and Ms. help-me-I-can’t-do-anything-without-you. Not every YA book has to have romance, you know? Not all Young Adults experience it or want to.
For a YA novel first published in 2013, the entire story felt painfully relevant and relatable to today. I think readers of the Young Adult literary category will be able to enjoy it and find the same nuance that I have for years to come.
I’d recommend this for ages 15 and up due to some of the gory scenes and more mature topics of the effect of religion and blind faith on a massive populace. There are also some references to a whore house, sex, and drugs.
REMINDER: this is a foreign novel originally written in Norwegian and translated into English! Give the translators just as much praise as Siri herself.
Easily 4 out of 5 stars for me!