________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 12. . . .November 22, 2013



Kate O’Hearn.
London, Eng: Hodder Children’s Books (Distributed in Canada by Hachette), 2013.
343 pp., trade pbk., $9.99.
ISBN 978-1-444-90755-1.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Tara Stieglitz.

**˝ /4



Reacting instantly, Freya ran. She pushed through the officers struggling against the raven. She could hear them cursing and calling for help. Soon other officers appeared and blocked her exit.

“Stop!” they shouted as they raised their weapons. With no recourse, Freya opener her wings and let out the loudest Valkyrie howl she’d ever made. The police clutched their ears and collapsed to the ground as Freya darted past them and ran to the closest window. Without pausing, she leaped through the glass and opened her wings.


Freya is an Valkyrie, a creature out of Norse mythology that is responsible for choosing those slain warriors who are worthy enough to ascend to Valhalla and spend their eternity fighting by day and carousing by night. The only problem is that Freya feels lonely and isolated in Asgard. She doesn’t like to spend her nights dancing in Valhalla, and she doesn’t like the destruction and evil she sees on earth when she descends to the battlefields to reap dying soldiers. Her sister Valkyries encourage her to get to know the soldiers better, but, when Freya does befriend a reaped soldier, he tells her of his family and elicits a promise from her that she will protect them from an unnamed danger they face. Moved by the soldier’s story, Freya disobeys the rules laid out by Odin, the Norse god that rules the Valkyries, and she descends to earth to find and help the dead soldier’s family.

     Valkyrie has a very strong anti-bullying theme. Bullying is clearly an issue that is very dear to the author: the novel’s preface is a note written by the author to readers telling them that she, herself, was bullied and that help is available. While this is an important message and bullying is certainly a concern, the novel’s treatment of bullying is heavy-handed and slightly preachy. The plot, itself, is fairly thin, and the problems the dead soldier’s family face are only discussed a few times and then easily solved. The characters are also underdeveloped, being characterized as either wholly good or wholly evil, with very little in the middle.

     The idea of Valkyries in an urban fantasy setting is original and intriguing, but unfortunately the novel fails to live up to its potential. Even the anti-bullying message of the novel could have been made more compelling with better-developed characters.


Tara Stieglitz is a librarian at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton, AB.

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