SPFBO Review: Raven’s Will by Terry Graves

45425503Moving right along with my pile of SPFBO books!

A fairytale retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, reimagined as an epic Saga during the Viking age.

Old prophecies of the Norse say that, before Ragnarök, a great winter will fall upon the world.

The gods have been defeated and vanquished from the Nine Realms. Skaði, the Snow Queen, is the last line of defense. From the highest peaks of Ásgarð, she protects the Bifröst Bridge and wards off the trolls and giants that try to conquer Miðgarð.

But dark omens run freely. There is word of two ravens that fly once again over the world, and fishermen have seen the scales of a giant serpent slithering under the waves of the sea. The song of winter that Skaði sings every night is slowly dying away into nothingness. And when the Snow Queen’s power finally falters, the winter will end and Ragnarök will begin.

Meanwhile, Gerda has been living in the small village of Veraheim for all her life. The daughter of a swineherd who loves to drink and tell tall tales, Gerda dreams of traveling far away and performing mighty feats, together with her friends Kairan, Runa and Alarr.

She has always thought this was an impossible dream… until she finds the giant trapped under the ice of the frozen lake.

“For mankind, death is what lies at the end, no matter what. That is what it means to be alive, every day is a struggle. And I think that, for an eternal being… the mere prospect of death must be simply unbearable.”

This is, as the blurb suggests, a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen with a very heavy Norse mythology/folklore twist to it. It is still very much the story of Kai and Gerda, and how one ends up with the Snow Queen and the other goes searching for him.

In this story, The Snow Queen is actually Skaði, a jötnar, one of the frost giants, who is more or less the last line of defense between the Bifröst Bridge which connects Ásgarð and  Miðgarð, and a horde of angry Jötunn. If they get past her defenses, the long winter that she has blanketed the lands with will end, then Ragnarök will begin. And we all know what that means…. *Cue Immigrant Song*

So, if you read that last paragraph and were annoyed by the accents, eths and what have you, this book is not going to be for you. It is full of Norse mythology that is spelled, as far as I can tell, mostly as it was in actual Norse mythology, or at least closely to that. So, it’s got that going for it, which is nice. But, I know that some people may trip over words with unfamiliar letters, and it breaks their flow. That’s understandable too. So be forewarned, there are a lot of eths (ð), and Æshs and so on.

I thought that it was quite well put together, as a fairytale retelling that also brings a good deal of Norse mythos into the mix. I love mythology in general, and so this was a sure way to keep me invested in the story. I’m also a fan of the story of The Snow Queen, so I figured that this one would go well for me.

I thought the prose was really strong, for the most part (more on that in a sec), and it gave me a real sort of epic-viking-shenanigans vibe. The world was appropriately frigid sounding, and I found that I could imagine it quite well. Skaði’s castle especially, and all of the rooms within that Kai went exploring. The walls of Ásgarð, and the great hall. But the wintery lands of Veraheim where Kai and Gerda live was also easy for me to imagine. A little village, struggling to stay fed as the winter rages on and on.

It does need another pass of edits to really bring it together and make it more cohesive. There were sometimes words that would be used that just seemed very out of place, and I think an editor would do a world of good for this story. I would be immersed in this old frigid-wintery-viking-town sort of setting, then all of a sudden it would be like ‘he fell on his butt’ which would completely break my flow. This might be a huge nitpick on my part but a sprawling viking epic comes to a screeching halt when ‘she peed’ gets thrown into the mix with rather archaic words like ‘ells’ for measurement which were doing a decent job of making it feel old and vikingy. It would sound suddenly and jarringly juvenile, where I don’t think it was intended to. I wouldn’t necessarily classify this one as YA, though the MCs are teenagers, but it drops a couple f-bombs here and there and doesn’t try to avoid difficult themes and just generally felt more like an adult viking epic rather than a YA Snow Queen retelling. This only happened a few times but the few times it did really stood out to me as something that could be improved to make the whole thing a smoother read.

It also slowed down in the middle quite a bit as our characters all went their separate ways. Mainly it became traveling, but from several points of view, and I have to admit that I sometimes found myself struggling to keep my attention on it. Never fear though, it picked back up before long, and I managed to finish the last third or so in one sitting. All together, it read easily and pretty quickly, and I didn’t find myself setting it aside for anything else even when the plot slowed down a bit.

So, all told, I quite enjoyed it! It had little issues that could easily be addressed with a pass of edits, but nonetheless, I think it was a really interesting mixture of The Snow Queen and the Ragnarök myth. I had a total of 7.25/10 stars of fun with this one.


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