Between the Blade and the Heart (Valkyrie #1) by Amanda Hocking

betweenAs one of Odin’s Valkyries, Malin’s greatest responsibility is to slay immortals and return them to the underworld. The balance of the world rests on her ability to carry out orders. But when Malin discovers that her mother spared the life of an immortal who was destined to die, her world is thrown into chaos.

As Malin wrestles with the knowledge that her mother might not be who she thought, she’s also thrust into the path of a gorgeous blue-eyed guy named Asher who needs her help slaying the rogue immortal who destroyed his family. Malin, along with her best friend and her ex-girlfriend, must decide where her loyalties lie…and whether helping Asher enact his revenge is worth the risk—to the world and to her heart.

So, the above is the synopsis for Between the Blade and the Heart taken directly from the Goodreads page.  Now, I don’t normally just cut and paste the blurb – this isn’t a judgement by the way – everyone writes reviews following their own preferred style and I normally try to give a brief synopsis in my own words.  Mainly because I want to write my own interpretation of the plot.  But the reason I’ve changed my style a little is twofold.

Firstly, this book didn’t really work for me but, I can’t deny that it was a great idea – Odin’s Valkyries – oh yes, I am there for that.  And, this book is undoubtedly action packed and fast paced – and I think you can pick up from the synopsis that the story will be that sort of style, urban fantasy, plenty of characters and action.

Secondly, there was a love triangle, this is the main reason why I’ve used the publisher’s blurb – if you read this it’s patently obvious that not only will this book involve romance but there will more than likely be a love triangle.  Why then, given that romance and love triangles are not really my preference, did I pick this up?  Odin’s Valkyries  – right thereyou got me.  I read that and was totally blindsided.  Basically, what I’m trying to say is that although this didn’t work for me I think I have to own that I chose a book that was always going to have to work hard to win me over.  I was just caught, like a fish on a hook, by the thought of reading some Norse mythology and didn’t really read the description properly. My bad.

All that being out of the way I’m not going to go into too much further detail.

The idea of the Valkyries is that they’re a little like the Grim Reaper of the Immortals. Basically when your time is up, and I’m not sure how it’s decided they appear for you and it’s ‘curtains’.  Seems a bit harsh really doesn’t it.  In one respect you can’t just have more and more immortals populating the planet, it just wouldn’t be good would it, but, the idea of somebody appearing with their sword and saying ‘your number’s up mate’ does seem a bit of a crazy way of doing things.  Clearly, most of the supernaturals who receive a visit from their own angel of death are less than pleased, some beg and plead, some run, some fight.  Consequently, as you may be able to imagine the Valkyries are not terribly popular.  There is however an underlying theme to the book which is all about fate and choices, whether everything is predestined or whether there is free will, and this aspect feeds into the plot.  Malin’s mother, who has been one tough cookie to deal with, has basically let an assignment go and in doing so has set in motion a train of potential world destroying events.

Now, clearly I’ve already mentioned the romance and love triangle.  I think for me the other problem with those elements is they felt rushed and consequently a little thin.  The characters themselves are not really well fleshed out which is understandable in some respects because there’s quite a lot of action, themes and ideas, but it still made me feel ambivalent to them all.  Perhaps too ambitious given the page count.

Then there’s the world building.  It’s urban fantasy but futuristic with flying, hover-type bikes, etc.  Regular humans and immortals living alongside each other.  I couldn’t really get a grip of it.  Again, maybe it’s because there really isn’t any nod to the humans of the world – how do they fit in.  It all seems perfectly normal having a world where your mechanic has horns but I just felt like I wanted a little more depth and a better understanding.  I just feel like I have too many questions and although they might be answered in the second book I don’t think at this point I have the motivation to read on.

I’m a bit saddened that this one didn’t work for me and I realise this sounds very negative.  To end on a positive note I would say that this will probably work very well for others, it’s fast paced and packed with ideas, it’s got gorgeous people being smitten with each other and it’s got a crazy, action packed finale.  On top of this there is diversity and strong female characters – in other words plenty to enjoy.

I received a copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.




Waiting on Wednesday : Between the Blade and the Heart (Valkyrie #1) by Amanda Hocking

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : Between the Blade and the Heart (Valkyrie #1) by Amanda Hocking:

blandandtheBlade Runner meets Game of Thrones in Between the Blade and the Heart, a gripping story of love and revenge from Amanda Hocking, author of the Trylle trilogy and the Kanin Chronicles.

Malin is a Valkyrie-in-training. It’s her responsibility to slay immortals, returning them to the afterlife to maintain balance in the world. She also struggles to maintain balance in her own life – between her studies, her duties as a Valkyrie and her conflicting feelings for her ex-girlfriend.

But when a beguiling stranger breaks into her home on a quest for vengeance, Malin’s carefully balanced life falls apart. Asher is hunting the rogue immortal who murdered his mother, and he thinks Malin may have information. Her loyalties are tested, as she uncovers a betrayal that unravels everything she thought she knew. And she must decide if helping the mysterious Asher enact his revenge is worth the risk – to the world, and to her heart.

Due for publication: February 2018

Freeks by Amanda Hocking

Posted On 3 January 2017

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freeksFreeks is quite a crazy little number that I enjoyed reading.  Set in a travelling sideshow run by Gideon Davorin the crew are a strange bunch that bring together the archetypal images of the bearded lady and the strong man but add a fantasy element with necromancy, pyrokinesis and other strange and wonderful phenomenon.  Put basically, the world that exists here is a strange confection of paranormal and darkly creepy mixed up with regular human.

The thing is for me personally, travelling sideshows hold something magical, romantic maybe, and mysterious.  They also conjure up images of things that are maybe a little bit scary and it all adds to the allure somehow.

So this particular sideshow moves to Caudry, Louisiana.  They’re in trouble.  They have no money and they need a gig and Caudry is the only offer on the table.  An offer that looks almost suspiciously tempting except that maybe Caudry need something to help generate interest as much as Gideon’s show need money.  Perhaps the deal is mutually beneficial to both sides – until, that is, something seems to start stalking people from the sideshow and killing them in very grisly circumstances.

Okay, Freeks has this lovely urban fantasy feel – without the urban.  The Sideshow are camped out in a field, they set out their stalls everyday and the setting is written in a great way that really puts you in the middle of the situation and makes it easy to imagine.

In terms of characters, the main one obviously is Mara.  I liked Mara, I liked that she gave a bit of insight into her particular life.  The constant moving, the lack of attachment to other characters, the longing for more personal space.  These things came across really well.  I didn’t particularly feel that Mara always acted in the most sensible or safest way and I also felt just a tad more disappointed that she didn’t have a little more about her  She seemed to be carried along on the crest of a wave somehow, a participant rather than a player.

Gabe is the love interest.  He’s one of those characters that seem casually privileged.  He’s always well dressed and has this indifferent sex appeal that he’s unaware of.  He also hides secrets and maybe needs to be kept at arms length.

I felt that the instantaneous love between the two was a tad much.  I mean, we are literally talking a few days here and the two of them don’t exhibit such a lot of chemistry.  Maybe they would have over a longer time frame but this just felt a bit rushed, I thought they both got on okay but I wasn’t quite feeling the love.

In terms of the rest of the characters, I wish that we could have spent more time with them as it felt a little like all the others were just ‘fodder’ for whatever was stalking them. Rose’s mother, Gideon and Roxie had parts that were slightly more integral but still not given enough page time.

The setting.  I enjoyed the show-ground.  A lot of attention was paid to the mobile homes and we frequently spent time looking at the work that needed to be undertaken around the place. What was lacking a little was a sense of impending doom.  Everyone knew that something bad was going to happen, in fact one of the members of the show had already gone missing and yet nobody took it as seriously as I would have expected.  They were nestled up to a swamp with tales of terror abounding and a member of their crew gone astray and yet there was a notable lack of fear.

The plot was interesting, not totally gripping, but intriguing nonetheless.  Why was the the sideshow staying and in fact what was keeping them there.  It was an interesting premise.  Personally, I think it could have been kept a bit more simple.  It could have revolved more around the supernatural and horrific elements and maybe relied upon more of a gothic feel, in a way it feels slightly like a missed opportunity, like a good way to bring yet another ‘love’ story to the YA arena.

In spite of that  I enjoyed the story.  The pacing was reasonable, the characters likeable, the story entertaining and the setting intriguing.  Put bluntly, it was a fun read with elements of horror.  It didn’t quite live up to the horror or gothic expectations that I had but even so was still a good read.

I received a copy via the publisher courtesy of Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.