Medium: ebook (442 pages in print)
Overview (No Spoilers):
Having been stuck in Jötunheim for the past twelve winters (thanks a lot, Freya), Maya has survived by making herself indispensable as the sorceress for the king of the City of Light. Then one day, Maya is tasked with receiving a special delivery along the shoreline of the river Ifing. Believing this to be a big misunderstanding since Ifing can’t be crossed without Thor’s flying chariot (and it’s not like Thor plans on visiting since the cargo is actually his own hammer, Mjölnir), imagine her surprise when it arrives! Whatever happens next, Maya knows this won’t end well. The series of events that follow result in a chance encounter with Thor’s son, Magni. They bond over shared frustrations as children of gods and goddesses, including how Magni is often mistaken for Thor. Unfortunately, this isn’t a compliment since Magni despises his father and the terror he causes – it also results in unwanted attention from admirers and potential attacks from folks itching to earn the title of ‘godslayer’. All Magni wants to do is continue his work as a blacksmith, but first he must find a way to carry out his mother’s last request that he go to Midgard…
Children, the first book in the Ten Worlds Cycle series by Bjørn Larssen, was released in October 2020. Since then, it has gone through a few cover redesigns (all of which are well done) before honing in on its current, captivating cover. The concept for this novel is also interesting, as Larssen takes popular stories from Norse mythology and refreshes them by exploring them through the eyes of lesser-known descendants of the gods. To achieve this, the first-person point-of-view is shifted each chapter between Magni and Maya, the children of Thor and Freya, respectively. Shaped by their very different upbringings, Magni comes across as childlike and naive, whereas Maya tends to be more self-reliant and defensive. They both show tremendous growth over the course of the story, enduring hardships and uncovering truths that continually challenge their views of Ásgard and its inhabitants. Well-known or not, each character introduced feels important and shows depth. Across the board, Larssen has done an exceptional job penning a full range of emotions with these characters – love, innocence, indifference, anger, mischief, etc. And given some of the difficult subject matter, I appreciated how Loki’s character tends to defuse serious, tense moments with flashes of humor.
With ten worlds to draw from, the worldbuilding in Children is one of my favorite parts. It was fun to explore the land of the ice giants, the wilds of the human realm, and other locales, even if only through a character’s memories. It was also interesting to envision the vastly different residences inhabited by the Ásgardians. Additionally, I liked the concept of mana as the fuel for magic, where gods are able to bypass the need for it in their area(s) of expertise. As mentioned earlier though, things aren’t always fun and games, as Magni and Maya face difficulties throughout the story that warrant the trigger warnings listed at the front of the book. I applaud Larssen’s ability to channel the chaos and pain of key moments effectively in the writing, however, this also made it harder for me to follow because these sections read more like a stream of consciousness. This happened more often in the middle of the book where the characters tend to lose time due to trauma, visions, and the effects of Idunn’s fruit. Overall, I was drawn in by Larssen’s portrayal of the Norse pantheon and I loved the twists in the last third of the tale.
Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound!):
- Based on the direction of the first few chapters, I wondered if each chapter would focus on a different world. It didn’t, but I’m interested to see how the tenth world treats these characters.
- How will Maya seek revenge for what Loki did? Will she make it to the tenth world before dying in Midgard? How long until the events she sees in her sleep come to pass?
- What is it about jötnar that the Gods are afraid of? Why are the Gods concerned about jötnar invading Ásgard but not humans from Midgard?
- It’s interesting how when Maya shapeshifts, her animal instincts override the human in control.
- Why did Járnsaxa direct Magni to go to Midgard instead of Ásgard?
- What happens to Dalebor, Wojciech, Niedomira, and the people of Jomsborg when Ludo sets everything on fire?
- Interesting take on the effects and hazards of the fruit of Idunn (which grants eternal youth). What would happen if a human ate it?
- What is the purpose of Brisingamen?
- Early on, Maya mentions that Thrud is the daughter of Thor and Sif. So, what was the point of Odin bringing it up later at the assembly? Wouldn’t the people of Ásgard already know her status? Or was it that she hadn’t had abilities before that firmly placed her as a goddess?
- Now that Maya’s freed herself (by letting herself out of the locked room), will she be able to wear different clothing/get manicures/change?
- Is the boy real? Or is Magni imagining things?
- Is Gróa’s husband dead? How is she after Thor accidentally harmed her?
- Is mana a finite resource? Is its use in the book inspired by mana, Melanesian and Polynesian culture’s concept of spiritual energy?