Krinard, Susan -- Mist [e-book purchase]

Yet another Norse mythology fantasy novel. So far I only like Elizabeth Bear's. This one has Mist the Valkyrie living in modern San Francisco, long after Ragnarok left her and her sisters at loose ends. Then a frost giant turns up, followed by a cranky and mysterious elf; and then Loki steals Gungnir from her closet and some kind of Fimbulweather is back in the air.

(Up Fimbulcreek without a paddle? Okay, maybe not.)

My big problem here is that we have two blatantly unreliable characters -- Dainn the elf and Loki -- who are both manipulating the living crap out of our heroine and each other. Except the book barely hesitates before giving us both their POVs! And in both cases we don't find out any more than we did before. Loki is an arrogant jackass (but not noticeably clever); Dainn is an angsty jackass. Both go on at length about their respective secrets, and then how they're both screwing over Mist. Then we switch back to Mist, who manages to come up with some secrets of her own, but in a pro-forma "I must have something to not talk about" way.

The result is a loss of narrative tension, and a serious inability to care about Mist's problems. Mist and Dainn are the non-romantic equivalent of the "You know, if you two would just talk the story would be over already" romance cliche. (Except with romance thrown back in, eventually.) Loki, well, he should be scheming, but half the time he's monologing the reader and the other half he's being made a fool of. It does not work.

Somewhere in the background is the real scheme, which seems to involve Freya being a bigger jerk than Loki ever was and Odin hanging over Chekov's mantelpiece. (Both Loki and Dainn know about this, and talk about it in blatant ellipses.)

I feel like any one of these viewpoints -- Mist, Loki, or Dainn -- would have made a good story. In Mist's case, we could cheer her struggles without seeing the gears turn backstage. For the two guys, we could take (either of) them as protagonists rather than narratively signposted manipulative jerks. But trying to jam these three threads into one novel is a mess.

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