Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking – Book Review

Hocking, A - Between the Blade and the HeartI received a copy of this book from the publisher, Pan Macmillan, and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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So while I was checking who the publisher was for the opening line of this review I saw NetGalley’s description of this book started with these words: ‘Game of Thrones meets Thor: Ragnarok’.

Um, no? I feel like this is a severely misleading description if anything this book is Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Shadowhunters and well, every mythological being out there, apparently. I found this book quite disappointing really. It wasn’t bad, it was actually alright but it lacks focus on its concept and if you’re going into this expecting a Norse-inspired YA fantasy you’re going to be disappointed.

So far as I can tell the Valkyries in this book resemble those from mythology only in name, fierceness and weaponry. Their purpose and values are completely unique to this world and that is perfectly fine, they just don’t line up with the mythology and I think it might have been better if they had had a different name all their own. The atmosphere and setting of the novel is a very grungey, steampunk, overcrowded city complete with hover crafts, dark, gritty alleyways and underground markets just ’cause. The scene setting is actually really good, and the world building as good as it could be with the complete overload of inspirations it had.

The Norse influence is very limited and this book includes all manner of immortal, mythology beings including angels, demons, vampires, werewolves, goblins, cyclopses, ghosts, witches, devas (whatever they are), demigods, real gods, giant spiders, shapeshifters, sorcerers and pretty much everything in between. It’s too much, and frankly, I just wish the bad guys had had one overarching theme. On top of this, while a lot of the names used were German-inspired we also had them side by side with things named in different Norse languages, Latin and probably many others I’m too uneducated to recognise. It was just too much.

It’s our main character, Malin’s (and her fellow elite warriors the Valkyries) job to kill these many, many, many immortal beings when their time is dictated by some other faceless, immortal beings for reasons unbeknownst to us and her and she is aided by her human-come-sorceress-in-training best friend, her knowledge father figure mentor and this other dude she just met – but wait! She has to do all this world-saving and keep up with school work and exes and mother issues like any other teenager?! However, will she cope at being so awesome? (Do you see where I am getting Buffy from?)

Much like Buffy, I found it hard to keep my attention with this book. I mean it was interesting but, as with Buffy (when my best friend made me watch it, appalled I had missed it in my childhood despite it predating us both) my mind would wander and I’d hit pause to go do something else pretty easily.

Overall the writing was good even if a few sentences kind of felt like a thesaurus had coughed them out:

“Many immortals took umbrage with the idea of being “returned”, which was teh vernacular the Riks used for killing.”

And I feel when you are going to reference literature or mythology as part of your world building it’s important to decide once and for all if it’s also canon in your world or not. For instance, there was a place called ‘the Ninth Ring’ and one of the characters then explains it refers to Dante’s Inferno. It’s a place name. Your readers can get that reference themselves and it’s clever. When your characters get that it’s cheesy. I also didn’t get how the characters could refer to anything as mythology when it all lived right next door to them, quite literally. Or question if the Vanir gods are real when according to their own job description, they work for them. It was confused as hell.

My final peeve, is that I saw yet another example of what I’m tentatively going to refer to as a trope, since I’m not sure it is and I have not heard it discussed before. In the last few YA books I’ve read with a bisexual main character, I’ve noticed a trend that every single one seemed compelled to include two romantic rivals, one female, and one male as if it was necessary to validate their characters bisexuality? Just gonna say now, it isn’t. It makes sense in some books but on most occasions, it feels like the author is just trying to prove their character is bi to the reader. When a character makes it clear they are straight or gay in a book I don’t go looking for proof, I accept it because it’s a book, why would it lie? So, why do I need proof for bisexual characters in the form of forced, and often utterly incompatible love rivalries that add naught to the story except annoying inner turmoil for the main character as they decide who they like better? Please just stop, it’s dumb and borderline offensive.

I think this book will really appeal to a lot of people, as many people do really like the meshing of different mythologies and legends and overall it isn’t horrible, I’m just not one of them and I won’t be reading the sequel.

2 thoughts on “Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking – Book Review

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