Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Tessa Gratton's The Weight of Stars

The United States of Asgard is one of the most under-read series in YA Fiction. If you enjoy Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Cycle and Sarah Rees Brennan's Unspoken or anything by Courtney Summers then you should be reading Tessa Gratton.

Novellas can be a difficult format, but in Gratton's hands they become compact examples of what I love about her series. All three novellas collected in The Weight of Stars are well-paced stories that offer full characterization and a satisfying plot without sacrificing thematic elements. These are quietly intelligent, direct in their purpose, and make the original Norse mythology as accessible and fun as Rick Riordan made Greek and Roman lore.

Gold Runner
 is brash, bold, and in your face—perfectly matched to the voice of Amon, a son of Thor. An action-packed start to the collection, Gold Runner features mystery and romance that plays out within a relatively short amount of words without feeling rushed. Running through this is a commentary on race relations that displays both the ease and importance of diverse protagonists. Amon's desire to keep things about himself tight to his chest is echoed in his willful refusal to see things as they are in his relationships, and as a result Gold Runner has what one might call the least "happy" of endings. It is, however, a satisfying ending that thematically suits his story.

Lady Beserk is narrated by Vider, a secondary character from The Lost Sun (the first novel of the United States of Asgard) and fan favourite. As the first female berserker in centuries, Vider is a girl with a dragon in her heart. This is also a story for all the Loki fans, as the Trickster finally makes an appearance. All of this is woven into the first dragon hunt in American history being filmed for reality television, which creates an explosion story of love and learning to live with your inner beasts. Much like The Strange Maid (the second novel of the United States of Asgard), Lady Beserk also discusses leaving a place that you thought you'd be happy to find the place where you will be. Vider and Signy would likely be great friends.

Glory's Teeth, my favourite of the collection, is about Glory AKA The Fenris Wolf. Glory is the fiercest and most dangerous girl in the United States of Asgard, as she is the one who will cause the end of the world by eating the sun. She knows it. She owns it. And she hungers for it. This is the story of her hunger and her ongoing relationship with Tyr, the god of justice. Glory is reoccurring character in the United States of Asgard world, and this is the first time we see the despair behind the teeth. Glory's Teeth is about having that endless hunger, that empty ache, and as a result it's also a story about kindness.

While the novellas can be read in any order, reading them in order they appear in The Weight of Stars hints at the progression of a relationship that begins in Gold Runner along the edges of Lady Beserk and Glory's Teeth. Wandering and weaving through all three is Soren Bearstar, reoccurring hero and everyone's friend one of the threads who knots the stories of the world of The United States of Asgard together. (Soren is kind and kind of the best.)

All three novellas deal with learning to live within one's own skin, to know one's heart, and to be fiercely proud of who one is despite the pressures to confirm to societal expectations. These are stories vital to the reading community—full of hope and offering a diverse range of representation to readers. Stories with both visible and invisible minorities written with lush, evocative prose in a richly re-imagined world of Norse mythology. The collection also showcases Gratton's talent with narrative voice, as each reads as a distinct character while fitting within the world.

The Weight of Stars can be read out of the context of The United States of Asgard novels, so if you're looking for a sample then consider trying the novella that sounds most appealing as all three are available for the Kindle and via the Kindle app as separate eBooks. If you're already a reader of novels, you won't be disappointed as The Weight of Stars is like getting three extra books.

Highly recommended for fans of Maggie Stiefvater, Libba Bray, Courtney Summers, Neil Gaiman, and Holly Black, The Weight of Stars is now available from Amazon and on the Kindle.

Thank you to the author for providing a copy for review.