Between the Blade and the Heart (Valkyrie #1) by Amanda Hocking
Publication date January 2nd 2018 by Wednesday Books
Source: ARC from Publisher
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Valkyries have one great responsibility: to return immortals to the afterlife by slaying them. As a Valkyrie, Malin has always known that the balance of the world rests on her ability to carry out orders. But when Malin discovers that her mother spared the life of an immortal who was destined to die, her world is thrown into chaos.

Malin not only wrestles with the knowledge that her mother might not be who she thought—she’s also thrust into the path of a gorgeous blue eyed guy named Asher who needs her help slaying the rogue immortal who destroyed his family. The balance of the world is at stake. And, as Asher competes with Malin’s ex for her love and loyalty, so is her heart.

Aside from tidbits about Loki, Odin, Thor, and Freya, I know very little about Norse mythology. But I always thought the idea and what little I knew of Valkyries was really cool! So when I got the opportunity to read Between the Blade and the Heart, I was incredibly excited. It’s Game of Thrones meets Blade Runner (according to the blurb)! A “commanding new YA fantasy!” I was picturing, I dunno, Wonder Woman x an army or something? Or something.

Well. Between the Blade and the Heart was definitely an “or something.”

Good things first? Quinn! She’s steadfast and supportive and brave. She’s so incredibly loyal too – like she’ll sell an old family heirloom to help her friend in dire straights, or hang around waiting an entire night just to make sure a friend gets out safely because she heard something and was worried, and I just? Ugh. I also love how direct she is – she knows what she wants, and she doesn’t beat around the bush.

AN EXTRA PARAGRAPH FOR QUINN because she basically single-handedly saved this story from my dnf-pile.

And, um. Sloane’s character arc was nice?

I kid, guys. That’s all I’ve got. Thank goodness for Quinn.

RIGHT SO. MOVING ON. I’m a huge fan of chapter zeros and prologues, but the three-page intro at the beginning? Highly unnecessary. It might feel different in a movie, or a trailer! A trailer – I’m picturing a panoramic shot of the Valkyries going about their daily duties while Malin parts of those three pages in the background and yeah, that’s a pretty cool intro, but book-wise? Not really. It’s a pretty jarring infodump of unnecessary information. What readers need to know from it will be rehashed later on in the story when the information’s important, and the unnecessary bits are never touched on again, so. The whole thing’s effectively useless and a pretty jarring way to start the story.

Then the actual story came, and most everyone was super inconsistent, especially Malin and her mom. I get if unusual circumstances throw them off, or if they’ve been hiding things, but usually, your core character would stay the same. After a while, all the characters in Between the Blade and the Heart all blurred together because their personalities kept flip-flopping between one type and another. Most of them were never really consistently anything, leading most of them to read as the same inconsistent character.

Okay, that’s unfair – Malin was consistently a dick. I’ll give her that much. She kept whining about how people were smothering her (when she basically did whatever she wanted whenever she wanted, other people’s opinions, common sense, and common courtesy be damned) and how she never got to really be, then had this mini-crisis over supposedly not getting love and affection when? Quinn? Asher? Her mother? What Marlow had for Malin did seem like a kind of love. Maybe not the warm, affectionate kind we typically see, but she did look out for and want good for Malin, and it did seem like she felt genuine affection for Malin. Granted, the characters were incredibly inconsistent, but that was the sort of feeling I got from Marlow most of the time. On the other hand, Malin was the one consistently pushing people away, judging them for the smallest things, and refusing their affection (i.e. after the funeral when Quinn tries to extend a hand to Malin and basically gets flipped off and raged at for being too restricting).

And, augh, I seem to be all-around incapable of writing short reviews. But. In any case. Moving on.

The writing pretty much relied on telling, the plot was non-existent for most of the story, and the dialogue scenes were incredibly stilted. See (all quotes taken from the ARC – may be inconsistent with the finalized, finished editions):

“How are you ladies doing this lovely morning?” Atlas asked, with a broad grin to match his broad shoulders.
“Just finished the job,” I replied.
“I assume that it all went well for you,” Atlas continued grinning.
“Is Samael in?” Marlow asked, cutting Atlas’s chatter.

“Thanks,” I muttered, slamming my book closed, and got to my feet. “I’m looking for help, and you kick me when I’m down. Nice.”
I started walking away, but Sloan sighed and called after me. “Sorry. I didn’t realize you were actually having a genuine existential crisis.”
I stopped to look back at her. “Well, I am.”
“All the Valkyries I’ve ever known have been dumb jocks,” Sloan explained, as if that would somehow make me feel better. “I’m working on trying to get over my own prejudices, and it’s unfair of me to stereotype you like that.”

(OH SHOOT I JUST REALIZED – someone I’d initially thought of as one character was actually two? Take that as you will about the state of the characters…)

And YES I’M WRAPPING UP SOON I PROMISE. Just one last thing: the entire buildup, a good 200+ pages of the story was ended in – I kid you not – one page, and the author attempts to offset that by building up that anticlimactic result, as well as the remaining few pages, into hype for the next book in the series. And it sounds pretty like a pretty disappointing climax point but honestly? At that point, it was pretty much like deflating an already deflated balloon for me – I just wanted the book to be over.

(I’m really, really amazed, though. This is my first Amanda Hocking book, but apparently it’s her twenty-second published novel? Even if each novel was just 120,000 words, that’s 2,640,000 written and published words! Which is like 455 of these reviews. Or 290 of that one medical anthropology essay I’ve been putting off and should really get to finishing. Or if you wrote a word a second for every minute of every hour of every day, it would take you roughly a month to write enough words to fill those novels, even with that extremely low word estimate per book. Holy crap.)

(AND ANOTHER COOL FACT YOU PROBABLY NEVER NEEDED TO KNOW: it’s incredibly cool and also kind of shocking to hear that Amanda Hocking is publishing her 22nd book because I was already book blogging when she published her first! (Count the years – or don’t. Thinking it over, it’s kind of scary. In the blogoverse, I’m practically ancient^^;;;))

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