Book two of the United States of Asgard
By Tessa Gratton
Available now from Random House BFYR (Penguin Random House)
THE LOST SUN ended up being one of my favorite books last year. The romance, the loyalty, the world - it all combined to form a delicious reading experience. But I was not prepared for the sequel. THE STRANGE MAID starts before THE LOST SUN, and is the story of Signy Valborn, a disgraced Valkyrie who couldn't be more different from Soren. Soren longed to escape his violent destiny. Signy would like to bring back human sacrifice.
Signy is a delightfully unique heroine. She dances on the edge of madness and chaos, delights in battle and revenge, has sex with whoever she wants and doesn't apologize for it. Her story is likewise violent, sexy, and just a little crazy. Also, fitting for a story set in a US where the Viking gods are real and everyone still worships them, there is a strong vein of BEOWULF running through the plot.
I loved how much more of the world Gratton explores in THE STRANGE MAID. Soren shows up eventually, but he doesn't take over the story. Signy's story stretches over even more of the land, and she spends time integrating into more groups. For all that THE LOST SUN involved a road trip, it was more insular. THE STRANGE MAID also gives more insight into the berserkers, in addition to the Valkyrie. I'm not entirely sure where Gratton is going with this series, but she obviously has a plan. Clearly, I have no idea what might happen next, and I love it.
I think that I prefer THE LOST SUN to THE STRANGE MAID, but that's because I loved the central triangle of Soren, Astrid, and Baldur in THE LOST SUN so much. I think THE STRANGE MAID has stronger worldbuilding and a more sophisticated plot. It's a rich exploration of grief, revenge, entitlement, destiny, choice, and faith. Plus, like her critique partner Maggie Stiefvater, Gratton knows how to use her words. THE STRANGE MAID is a beautiful novel.
I cannot wait for book three.