Strong Female Protagonists and Norse Mythology: Valkyrie Rising by Ingrid Paulson

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Valkyrie Rising (Valkyrie #1) by Ingrid Paulson
(New York: HarperTeen, 2012)
With the rise of mythology in the paranormal world it's nice to see the direction turn not only to Norse mythology, but to highlighting a strong female protagonist. Debut author Ingrid Paulson is a writer to watch as she grips you from the first page of Valkyrie Rising and barely lets go on the last one.

Ellie is sixteen and has always lived in the shadow of her perfect, handsome, athletic brother, Graham. He's actually a good guy but overprotective and thinks he can chime in and make decisions about Ellie's life whenever he feels like it. She's just thrilled that he's graduating and heading off to college. Better yet, they are making their annual trek to visit her Swedish grandmother and Ellie gets to go first, getting some great alone time before Graham comes to join them. One tidbit that has taken the shine off her vacation is the news that her brother's best friend, the annoying and all-too-charming Tuck, will be joining them.

Her grandmother's farmhouse is wonderful as is the attention Ellie seems to be getting from the male population. She didn't think her height and long blond hair would stand out in this country, but something about her seems to be drawing people's eye. When she realizes that there is no small amount of malice directed toward her youthful-looking and feisty grandmother, a tension that seems to be related to the disappearance of handsome young men in the area, Ellie figures out that something big is going on. After she catches sight of the stunning, supermodel women doing the kidnapping - women who cause Ellie to hear voices and feel strength she never thought possible while they hypnotize their victim - she also begins to wonder what's going on with her.

Graham and Tuck arriving only complicate the situation. Graham is prime material for kidnapping (good-looking, athletic hero-types are the victims) and Tuck not playing by the rules of their previous friendship, awakening all kinds of feelings that Ellie would rather not contemplate since she knows he'll never go against Graham's wish to keep all boys away from her. But Tuck seems to be the only one who understands that there is something seriously sketchy is happening with Ellie at the center of it. Even her grandmother is trying to ignore her questions, although the older woman definitely has the answers.

Valkyrie Symptoms (Valkyrie #0.5) by Ingrid
Paulson (New York: HarperTeen, Feb. 5, 2013)
As events come to a crescendo, Ellie not only has to deal with the new awareness of her heritage and what it may mean for her, with saving the brother she loves from death, but also must face the fact that the boy she's fallen for might have betrayed her in a way she'll never get over.

I loved Ellie's voice throughout this novel. She's smart and a little unsure of herself at the start, making this really a novel about a young girl finding herself. What differentiates it from the typical-teenage-girl-becoming-more-confident storyline is that this particular young woman happens to the granddaughter of a Valkyrie. This means the emergence of a lot of anger and power within Ellie and as much as power is something we see in paranormal YA literature, anger is a feeling often denied to young women in the popular canon, but one that feminist readers often would like to see written about.

Because of this focus, the romance with Tuck is a wonderful addition, but I liked that it was not the focus of the book. He's a terrific character and it's nice to have a paranormal book where the female lead is not compellingly drawn to the "mystery boy" and then falls in love with him in a matter of hours. I also appreciate that Paulson has a prequel to Valkyrie Rising (timed a few days prior to the start of that book) written solely from Tuck's perspective, entitled Valkyrie Symptoms. While this was released in free form by the author, don't think you shouldn't buy the ebook - that free look is only 20 pages, and the ebook novella is listed at 56 pages, so I have happily forked over the $.99 for my pre-ordered copy and will be waiting with baited breath for more Tuck-time on February 5th!

I also appreciated that, in a world of writers who leave you on the cusp of something at the end of a book prior to priming you for the next and you are dying in the meantime, wanting the author to stop his/her life so they can just write the sequel already. Paulson has certainly left doors open for further development of the storyline and characters, but managed to provide enough closure to the reader that there is sense of satisfaction when finishing the last page.

My one caution is that Ingrid Paulson needs to get on the bandwagon in terms of her website and social media. This talented author is going to generate a following of teens who want to see these characters and hear about the writer's ideas and interests. Right now her website is very bare bones without much recent content and the same goes for her social presence. It's hard for writers transitioning between a previous job and working as a writer full-time (and that transition can last a few years) to keep up with this type of obligation, but building a fan base based on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads posts cannot be overestimated.

I'd encourage anyone interested in Norse mythology (Thor fans, anyone?) and/or strong female leads to check Valkyrie Rising. You'll be hooked, I promise!!