Between the Blade and the Heart | A Review
Wow, okay this was an interesting read.
A short summary
Malin is one of Odin’s Valkyries, whose main responsibility is to keep the mortal and immortal worlds balanced by slaying immortals. However, when Malin discovers that her mother spared the life of an immortal who was destined to die, both worlds erupt into chaos.
To be honest, I usually steer away from fantasy novels, but this book sort of took me off guard. Between the Blade and the Heart focusses on Norse mythology, which I haven’t read in many books since Rick Riordan’s series. There are clearly pros and cons, however, after I closed the cover, I had an urge to read book 2 of the duology.
Fantasy and Mythology
Like I mentioned before, I’m not a total fan of fantasy. To be short, I was confused at the start. Where is the story set? Why are humans thrown in with the immortals? What is with the hovercrafts and the floating bikes? I was thrown off track with the words and I really couldn’t tell what time period it was set in. The future? The past? The present? I guess that’s just fantasy books. After reading the first few pages, I had imagined that the Valkyries and the other immortals disguised themselves as humans to live in the mortal world, but boy was I wrong. From a car mechanic with horns to a school for both mortals (half-bloods) and mythical figures, it seemed that the mythical creatures and humans coexisted. In a world with hovercrafts. And a lot of pollution. Probably in the future then. Although, as the story progressed, it became clear how the worlds are separated, it was rather hard to make sense of what the context is.
Mythology-wise, there is a clear run-down of the main figures in Norse mythology before the story begins. Aside from the Valkyries, Odin’s ravens are also present. In Norse mythology, Odin is often referred to as the ‘raven-god’ because of his pair of ravens: Huginn and Muninn (they represent ‘thought’ and ‘memory/mind’). It’s interesting to find that Hocking added these tiny details from Norse mythology throughout the book.
Characters and Love
Why do I always find myself ‘attacking’ the characters? A positive first, I loved the character, Oona. She’s probably the sort of best friend you would want in your life and her overall characteristics are quite likeable. However…Malin. As a young adult, she is portrayed as a character who can’t decide who she likes, which is natural and normal. I guess that I don’t really think that juggling two people’s feelings at the same time is a right or faithful thing. In my opinion, character portrayal, such as this, to the point of not caring either people’s feelings, is probably not the best way to represent a character to a young audience. (However, it does create a love triangle and complexities, which can be interesting to read.) Again, I do believe that Hocking described each character well and created them to have their own sense of individuality.
My favourite part of this book would be the exploration of philosophical ideas. Sloane, initially an unlikeable character, presented the idea of free will to Malin. Fate. Destiny. Free will. These ideas can be interpreted in many different ways and by including these concepts, Hocking gave this story an intriguing twist. In the system of the Gods and the Valkyries, everything is kept in order, however, what if a person stepped out of line? Did they do it according to their own free will? Or because someone made them?
“If I don’t believe in free will, the unfortunate logical conclusion is fate. If we’re not choosing it for ourselves, then someone must be choosing it for us. They’re the ones deciding our destiny.”
Another point that Hocking mentions is whether a person is born good or bad. Valkyries are ordered to kill an immortal when their time has come, which means that there is also a destined time for them to die.
“He didn’t choose to be born. He didn’t choose to be good in life. And he won’t choose his death. Where is the free will in that?”
Although that’s the case with Valkyries in the mortal world, does it still apply in our world? Do we have free will?
If we choose to not choose, but it was someone choosing for us to choose to not choose, does it mean that even if we don’t choose, it’s still chosen for us?
I really enjoyed reading this book; it was fast-paced and I loved it! I might begin to read more fantasy books in the future!