Review: Valhalla by Ari Bach

ValhallaValhalla by Ari Bach
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Violet MacRae is one of the aimless millions crowding northern Scotland. In the year 2330, where war is obsolete and only brilliant minds are valued, she emerges into adulthood with more brawn than brains and a propensity for violence. People dismiss her as a relic, but world peace is more fragile than they know.

In Valhalla, a clandestine base hidden in an icy ravine, Violet connects with a group of outcasts just like her. There, she learns the skills she needs to keep the world safe from genetically enhanced criminals and traitors who threaten the first friends she’s ever known. She also meets Wulfgar Kray, a genius gang leader who knows her better than she knows herself and who would conquer the world to capture her.

Branded from childhood as a useless barbarian, Violet is about to learn the world needs her exactly as she is.

Warnings: graphic violence, extreme body horror (including dismemberment) and gore, suicide and death, sexual coercion, mention of cannibalism

Okay the thing about Valhalla is, is that it started off so good. Violet, the main character lives in a futuristic dystopian society in the 23rd century, controlled by capitalistic ventures where everyone has a neatly sorted place, and she doesn’t fit in because of her violent tendencies and general lack of motivation towards anything that would be considered ‘normal’. She is present when her parents are killed by the Orange Gang, and after killing the leader, she is left alone to think her future. Thinking violence is the only thing she is good for, she enrolls in the military, but she finds it hard to fit in even with the other students there, and after an incident, washes out, and it is then that she is approached by Valhalla to join their ranks. The only catch is that she has to fake her death, which she enthusiastically agrees to, and is absorbed into a commune that lives far north (near the North Pole practically) – global warming has rendered it practically livable at this point – where she revels in finding kinship with others who enjoy violence as much as she does.

Much of the first half is her picking up skills, and us getting to know more about the society and its advancements. In that era, science has made it possible to even recover from death, and eliminate pain entirely, and all warriors at Valhalla have died at least once (it is a rite of passage) so it certainly fits in with the Norse tales of Valhalla, and there are certain characters who have names/take place of the original characters. They work towards one goal – be an independent militia from the two major companies that control all the countries in the world, and take care of elements that would disrupt society, on their own. The teams at Valhalla are mostly cordial with one another, and there’s a lot of camaraderie and casual violence. Breaking bones, necks, etc in the time of highly advanced medicine means that they all don’t fear death, but like Violet, some have certain goals to fulfill (in case it wasn’t obvious, hers was revenge since the brother of the leader she killed is gunning for her) on their own.

It is the second half where the plot gets tiresome. The writing is very perfunctory, almost like making a report, and it is much more obvious in this part, as it relays the information of the series of missions they carry out. It feels bereft of emotion for the most part, and it is hard to figure out even the protagonist at times, since the story is much more involved in what they are doing than what the characters think about it. There’s also a large cast of characters to keep track of, and combined with the long action scenes, it can become quite a lot to read through. Certain action moments do shine though, like when Violet takes out an entire squad and comes out alive, to the awe of all her fellows peeps, but the thing is that they are also drowning between all the other action scenes. Finishing the book, thus, felt like a task, as opposed to the excitement I felt at the start. The Norse elements are rendered very well in this futuristic setting, retaining a lot of key elements and events but giving them a modern twist – like Sleipnir is a machine built by the ‘Loki’ of the book for the ‘Odin’, Gleipnir is actually a cell built to contain the ‘Fenrir’ and ‘Tyr’ actually loses a hand but its not such a big loss considering the tech and medicine.

Overall, it was a good book, but I felt the start was written well and the readability went downhill from there. Might pick up the sequel in the future, but I am not really in a hurry.

Is it diverse? sapphic main character; queer and PoC secondary characters

View all my reviews

Buy links

The Book Depository | Wordery

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