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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Loki's Wolves (The Blackwell Pages #1) by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr

In Viking times, Norse myths predicted the end of the world, an event called Ragnarok, that only the gods can stop. When this apocalypse happens, the gods must battle the monsters--wolves the size of the sun, serpents that span the seabeds, all bent on destroying the world.

The gods died a long time ago.

Matt Thorsen knows every Norse myth, saga, and god as if it was family history--because it is family history. Most people in the modern-day town of Blackwell, South Dakota, in fact, are direct descendants of either Thor or Loki, including Matt's classmates Fen and Laurie Brekke.

However, knowing the legends and completely believing them are two different things. When the rune readers reveal that Ragnarok is coming and kids--led by Matt--will stand in for the gods in the final battle, he can hardly believe it. Matt, Laurie, and Fen's lives will never be the same as they race to put together an unstoppable team to prevent the end of the world.

Released: May 7th 2013          Pages: 358
Publisher: Atom                      Source: Library
First Look: ****At this point, I'm interested pretty much as soon as I read the word "Loki".  And Norse mythology.  I was hoping this would be a sort of Percy Jackson for Norse mythology.  And that's exactly what I got.

 Setting: ***** I love when middle grade books add a sense of humor in the way they add mythological characters into modern settings.  For example, the trolls being part of the noses on Mount Rushmore.  It may not be entirely believable, but it makes readers willing to accept it, because it's fun.  Rick Riordan does this same thing, and to great effect. 

I got a good sense of the tension that exists in Blackwell between the different families.  Setting is more than just the physical appearance of a place--it's the people who inhabit it.  The authors did a good job making it come to life.

 Characters: *****  I could absolutely see the Thor in Matt.  He's a good, strong kid at the core, despite being inclined to getting into trouble for solving problems physically.  (Chris Hemsworth's Thor, anyone?)  He has a seemingly idea life, but he's pressured by his family to be like his brothers.  ("I remember a shadow.  Living in the shade of your greatness."  Sorry.  I had to.)

Fen was my favorite.  He was so, so a descendant of Loki.  I could see it in basically everything he did.  Out of all of the main characters, he had the most to lose.  I loved his devotion to Laurie.  I also liked his initial personality clash with Matt--and the way their relationship developed throughout the book. 

Laurie was likable, but a little more bland.  I'm interested in characters we didn't get to know so well, like the twins.  They didn't come into the story until near the end, so I'm eager to see how they play into the next books.

Plot: ***** The plot was fun, engaging, and fast-paced.  There was a nice balance between action-filled scenes and slower, quieter scenes.  Having a plot that moves too fast is a common problem in middle grade novels like this, even upper MG, but this book's plot moved at a plot fast enough to keep my interest, but with enough quieter moments to create depth.    

Uniqueness: ****
Comparisons between this book and the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series are inevitable.  They do have a lot in common--both series involve younger teens descended from mythological gods/goddesses with the fate of the world in their hands.  Both series remain lighthearted (though this series doesn't take the jokes and wisecracking anywhere near the Percy Jackson level).  Both series involve teens running around to save the world completely unsupervised, which strikes me as a bit unrealistic, but we'll give it a break because otherwise it wouldn't be any fun.  The two series are very similar, but still not in a way that makes you think that The Blackwell Pages is trying to copy the Percy Jackson books.  (Copy, no.  Use PJ's success to their advantage?  Probably.)

Writing: ****
I wish the different POVs--Matt, Fen, and Laurie--had been a little more distinctive.  Other than that, I had no issues with the writing, and I've left this review go so long now that it's getting hard for me to remember the details of how the narration was, anyway,

"Thor smash," Reyna interjected.
"That's the Hulk, not Thor," Matt started to explain.
Thank you.  It's about time someone brought Marvel into this.  When Baldwin went to grab a movie for the group to watch, I seriously thought he was going to pull out Thor.  That would have made me  happy. 

Also, the pictures.  I love when YA and MG books have pictures.  We aren't too old for it!  More books should have pictures.  I can't tell what I enjoyed more--the fact that the book had pictures, or mentally giving each picture an out-of-context caption. 

 Not-so-great: I have to wait a year for the next book?

Overall: This book was a lot of fun.  It's basically Percy Jackson, but with Norse mythology.  It has a good balance of action and slower moments.  The characters are interesting and real, and I could connect with them.  This book would appeal to middle grade readers, but will also reach the YA audience.  And it has pictures, which makes it even cooler.

Similar Books: Fans of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series will enjoy this (or vice versa), and also Rick Riordan's other spinoff series, The Heroes of Olympus.  It involves teens dealing with mythological creatures in the modern world, like the two series previously mentioned and also the series Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel.
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