Formats available: ebook, paperback, mass market paperback
Genre: urban fantasy
Series: Midgard, #2
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Date Released: August 12, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository
Centuries ago, all was lost in the Last Battle when the Norse gods and goddesses went to war. The elves, the giants, and the gods and goddesses themselves were all destroyed, leaving the Valkyrie known as Mist one of the only survivors.
Or so she thought.
The trickster god Loki has reappeared in San Francisco, and he has big plans for modern-day Earth. With few allies and fewer resources—but the eyes of the gods and goddesses of an old world upon her—it’s up to Mist to stop him before history repeats itself.
Black Ice is the followup to the first book in this series, Mist (reviewed here). I can definitely say that the title of this latest entry is appropriate, not just because there is literal “black ice” in San Francisco (in June!) but also in the sense of “things are always darkest just before they turn completely black”.
This story is not an upper. The situation starts out grim and keeps getting grimmer. Also Grimm-er, in the sense of myths and fairy tales coming entirely too true.
Mist, the titular heroine from the first book, spends this story fighting off Loki and other enemies while continuing to both gather and lose followers.
Some die, some betray her. Whichever is the worst outcome on any given occasion. There is a lot of nonstop action, but also a sense that little to nothing is going Mist’s way.
Black Ice feels a lot like a “middle book” in a trilogy, in that the plot is on a downstroke.
Mist gains new allies; she finds a couple of her sister valkyries and one of Odin’s ravens (either Huginn or Muninn, we don’t know which) arrives on the scene with its person.
Meanwhile Loki turns out to have a dangerous new ally of his own, and gets his hooks firmly embedded into some of Mist’s own allies. Things are not looking up.
Oh, and her mother comes back. Mist has no idea that her mother Freya is planning to the biggest betrayal of all, because she’s too wrapped up in the more immediate grief at the loss of her would-be lover, Dainn, back to Loki.
It’s too bad that Dainn is not the first (and probably not the last) from her inner circle to turn their coat towards the god who is trying to bring on the end of the world. The contest isn’t even serious to Loki, he’s just playing a very big game.
Mist wants to save the place that she’s come to love, and all the people who follow her. Some will die. Some have already died. All Mist can do is soldier on and hope that their sacrifices will be worth it.
She has no idea that she is in more danger than anyone else.
Escape Rating C+: The story setup is that Loki is the embodiment of evil, but I’m not sure that anyone is playing the good side of the eternal equation unless it’s Mist herself. Freya is not “good” by any human definition, even though she puts on a very good show of being benevolent. It’s pretty obvious that the agenda she is hiding is every bit as (possibly more) self-serving than Loki’s.
And while Freya’s agenda seems obvious to everyone but Mist, I’m less convinced about Loki’s. He’s still (and always) a trickster, but he’s quite capable of doing evil in the name of not so bad. Or at least survival.
Mist spends the whole story being run off her feet from battle to battle. She never catches a break. Also she gets betrayed so many times, and most of the betrayals are obvious up front. I wish she’d get a bigger clue.
The really interesting character this time out is Anna Strangland, accompanied by her raven-disguised-as-a-parrot, Orn. While Orn is obviously more than he appears, we don’t get a clear picture of what he is. (Bets on Huginn or Muninn). But Anna gets dragged out of her everyday life into Ragnarok, and manages not to be overwhelmed and to make a place for herself.
I hope that book 3 moves the story into an upswing. There really needs to be a bright side to look on, and where Black Ice ends, it isn’t even on the horizon.