Friday, April 03, 2015

Tessa Gratton's The Apple Throne

Tessa Gratton's The Apple Throne is an excellent example of how to end a trilogy. Throughout The United States of Asgard novels and novellas, the narrative view point pivots so we see characters from inside and out; we get angles off the side and around the back. As Gratton ties the final knot of the story that began with The Lost Sun, she reveals the whole of the world. All of these threads of fate we've been following become a web.

Soren Bearstar, everyone's favourite berserker and best friend, is the central thread connecting the first two novels and novellas, but in The Apple Throne we learn it's Astrid who holds the world together.

This novel explores power, strength, and the different forms they take. It is about how people who believe different things can live together without compromising their individual needs. It's a book about choice. Consent.

Astrid, who took up the role as Idris, Lady of the Apples, is a mortal goddess who offers the apples of immortality to the Asgardian pantheon. These apples must be "freely given," and therein lies the truth of The Apple Throne. Each time Astrid makes a choice, the text respects it. Reinforces that her choices drive the narrative.

Astrid is kind, but she is not weak, because this is a book that understands the strength of kindness. It contrasts it against the strength of power in Signy and the strength of determination in Eirfinna. By representing the different ways we can be strong, The Apple Throne reinforces that we can choose our strength and our way of doing battle. It does not say one is better than the other, so much as remind us that they are all options.

Varied representation is something that The United States of Asgard has always done well. Both visible and invisible minorities exist in Gratton's series—in a natural way that is about whom the character is or will become through their arc. These are people, not checkboxes. Their moralities are varied, as are their relationships. I appreciate stories about these complexities; it's easy to be friends with someone whom you agree with all the time, but it's often more rewarding to be friends with someone you don't.

One of the things I love about Amon is he is selfish and kind of an asshole, but that doesn't automatically make him a villain. He's Amon. He just is. (I also love Sune Rask, and I've cast Chris Evans as him in my head.) This ability to be more by choosing to be yourself echoes all through Gratton's series, from Soren choosing to be the Sun's Berserker to well, spoilers. Incredibly satisfying spoilers.

We are a world of headlines and clickbait, so it's important we have stories that fight against over-simplifying political and personal conflicts. Stories that say something, succinctly and on the page, without it feeling like a command. The Apple Throne gives us a view of a world conflicted as our own, but says we can find our way through it. If we don't like the paths being offered, we can forge better ones.

Much like The Goblin Emperor and The Just City or The Raven Cycle, Gratton's The United States of Asgard books put kindness back into the world. I cannot recommend them enough, and now you can read them all.


Thank you to the author for providing a copy of The Apple Throne for review.

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