Khanh the Killjoy

The Lost Sun: Book 1 of United States of Asgard

The Lost Sun - Tessa Gratton This was a beautifully written book with an intriguing concept of a Norse-mythology-based United States, but it was just not fun to read. I didn't find the plot intriguing, I didn't find it interesting, I didn't feel any sense of urgency or excitement. The characters are nice, but to me, it didn't feel like they developed throughout the story at all. I was not attached to them, to me, the characters did not feel like real people to whom I can relate.Great writing and an interesting alternate world can only do so much towards my enjoyment of a book, the plot and character development is also needed to keep my attention, and this book lacks both of the latter. I'm currently reading a Gossip Girl-type book (of all things!) that I found superior to this one where character development and plot are concerned. I appreciated this book...but I was not entertained by it.I tend to take my mythological reinterpretations rather seriously. Or rather, I often go off on prolonged rage-y expletive-filled rant about how the author completely abused the accuracy of certain myths for their own ends. I have no such complaints with this book. My knowledge of Norse mythology and the Aesir, the Ragnarok, is not the best, but so far, I feel like the gods have been accurately represented and reinterpreted, and I have no problems with how they are portrayed here.The United States of Asgard was very first. I was initially intrigued at the concept of it. We are in the current United States, but one based on Norse Mythology, where the gods of the Aesir are alive and living among mortals. Instead of states, we have Kingstates, ruled by a king, with princes. There is a House of Congress; instead of a White House, we have a White Hall. The language spoken is Anglish. The days are Sunsday, Moonsday, Tyrsday, Thorsday, Freyasday, Freysday...etc. The kingstates are renamed, Mizizibi, Nebrasge, Colorada, Montania, Cantuckee, Kansa.We have elves and trolls wandering the wilds and terrorizing those not living in established settlements. Our magazines are Os Weekly, Teen Seer, with articles like “Top Ten Ways to Make Runes Sexy” and “Dating and Prophecy: Things He Doesn’t Want to Hear.” Instead of the NFL, we have National Stoneball. Instead of Carl's Junior, we have Jarl Burger...etc.The gods are living among us, they appear at Congressional hearings, they appear with starlets on their arm at red-carpet events, they have photographic press events! The gods are very active among the people, and that's what makes them so adored and worshiped."But none of them is so well loved as Baldur the Beautiful.He’s the god of light, and is handsome and golden, strong and funny. At the end of every summer, he dies and his body is consumed in a great bonfire, only to rise again at winter’s end. He gives himself to Hel for six months of every year, but lives harder and more brightly in the time he has with us on earth.He is the only god who dies at all.And that makes him the one most like us."This new world is beautifully woven at first, then it gets cute...and then it gets a little bit grating. It's one thing to build a system based on a mythological system, slapping a new Norse-based name on everything in existence just feels like it's trying too hard, and it got on my nerves more often than not. I would also have liked to know more of the history of the United States of Asgard, too. How did it come into existence? What about the rest of the modern-day world? It is a well-built microcosm of a nation, but it leaves too much unexplained.Soren is the son of a berserker, who went crazy. His father was infamous for going off in a berserker rage and killing 13 people before being killed by a SWAT team himself. Astrid has a famous mother, a seethkona or a seer who has disappeared--or died. Meanwhile, the living god Baldur has disappeared when he should have been reborn, and thus Soren and Astrid join forces in a quest to find him and in doing so, gain a boon from his father, Odin. Both are seeking something, and a boon (a wish) from the Alffather is something to be prized.The beginning was interesting...what follows, is more or less an alternate-universe edition of On the Road, which is to say it's not terribly exciting, despite the premise of a missing god. They travel on the road, mostly the desert-dry landscape of the American Midwest, they meet people, they get into random was all incredibly dull for me.There was supposed to be character development...I didn't see it. Soren is frustrated and fearful of unleashing his berserker ability. He lives all the time with the knowledge that his father's taint is passed onto him. He knows people regard him fearfully, thinking he might burst into rage at any moment. Soren knows that he is a timebomb waiting to happen...he is really, tremendously angsty about it all the time. Despite all that, I felt that neither his character nor Astrid were relatable, nor did they grow much throughout the events of the book. They are both quite perfect to begin with, besides their internal angst, and that much didn't change at all throughout the book.Soren and Astrid are supposed to have their faults, but to me, they felt much like the omnipresent Norse gods within the book. Unreachable, cold, distant. They are both, for lack of a better description---godly. Their weaknesses are more like a brief attempt at making them relatable, human, but they are both so perfect that they did not feel like your average teenager---albeit those with more unique powers than most, at all.Astrid is a pretty kick-ass character. She is a seether (seer) herself, she's also skilled in swordplay, fighting. She excels in everything. Astrid is just too perfect, and Soren views her as such. His reverence towards her makes Astrid to be such a paragon, and to me, she is an unattainable character, too consummately flawless that she is unreal.I also had a lot of problem with the insta-love. I felt the romance was utterly forced in this book. Literally from the moment their eyes lock, Soren and Astrid feel a connection. They never fight, they never argue. They just acknowledge a connection between their souls, and they accept it. It was so unrealistic, and completely unnecessary for the development of the plot. I would have liked it so much better if they didn't fall for each other so quickly and their feelings escalated so rapidly; their mission could have been built on a background of friendship that grows over time instead of just insta-love. Soren is an idealized male narrator, not a realistic one."I think my heart stops beating.There are stories of old heroes being born and reborn to discover loves from past lives, to suffer and struggle for them again and again. Sigurd Dragonslayer and the Valkyrie Brynhild, Ivar and Ohther, Starwolf Berserk and Lady Kate.In that moment on the roof of the Spark, I imagine ages and lifetimes pile atop us, spinning us into the pull of destiny."Recommended for fans of Norse mythology and those who enjoy an interesting alternate world, with a patience for slow plot and lack of character development.