Review: Stormbringer by Alis Franklin + Giveaway

stormbringer by alis franklinFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: urban fantasy
Series: The Wyrd #2
Length: 374 pages
Publisher: Random House Hydra
Date Released: July 21, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Ragnarok—aka the end of the world—was supposed to doom the gods as well. Instead, it was a cosmic rebooting. Now low-level IT tech and comic-book geek Sigmund Sussman finds himself an avatar of a Norse goddess. His boyfriend, the wealthy entrepreneur Lain Laufeyjarson, is channeling none other than Loki, the trickster god. His best friends, Em and Wayne, harbor the spirits of slain Valkyries. Cool, right?

The problem is, the gods who survived the apocalypse are still around—and they don’t exactly make a great welcoming committee. The children of Thor are hellbent on reclaiming their scattered birthright: the gloves, belt, and hammer of the Thunder God. Meanwhile, the dwarves are scheming, the giants are pissed, and the goddess of the dead is demanding sanctuary for herself and her entire realm.

Caught in the coils of the Wyrd, the ancient force that governs gods and mortals alike, Sigmund and his crew are suddenly facing a second Ragnarok that threatens to finish what the first one started. And all that stands in the way are four nerds bound by courage, love, divine powers, and an encyclopedic knowledge of gaming lore.

My Review:

The road FROM Hel is also paved with good intentions. And every story needs a villain – but it doesn’t need to be the SAME villain. Not even when that villain is Loki.

One last important point, by way of the American humorist Will Rogers, “It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.” There are all too many people (and beings) in Asgard that think they know all about Loki and his lies and betrayals, only to discover that what most of them know is wrong, and it’s that wrong that gets everyone in seriously big trouble.

liesmith by alis franklinStormbringer picks up right where Liesmith left off. And if you haven’t read the absolutely awesome Liesmith, Stormbringer is going to be more than a teensy bit confusing. On the other hand, Liesmith is utterly fantastic urban fantasy, so if you love UF, go get Liesmith.

A lot of the things that Asgard believed about Ragnarok come not quite true at the end of Liesmith. (It helps if you know a little about Norse mythology, but deep knowledge isn’t strictly necessary).

Way back in the day, over 1,000 years ago, Odin had plans to subvert Ragnarok by having his beloved son Baldr and his always sacrificed frenemy Loki body swap. Unfortunately for Odin, Loki’s wife Sigyn did a swap of her own, and attended Ragnarok in Loki’s place wearing Loki’s armor. So Baldr and Loki stayed swapped. For a millenia. It messed them both up something awful. Naturally.

Asgard has never recovered from what it perceived as Loki’s betrayal. He wasn’t guilty, but since the prevailing mythos that surrounds Loki is that he is always guilty, everyone acted on that belief, often to their detriment, nearly always to Loki’s.

The story in Stormbringer is all about a whole bunch of Asgardians believing that Loki is the root of all evil, and treating him so horribly that while it can definitely be argued that they are way more evil than anything Loki is even thought to have done, he feels forced to do some fairly bad stuff to fix the mess he has walked into.

Meanwhile, back at the Lokabrenna ranch, Loki’s daughter Hel enlists Sigmund and his friends Wayne and Em on a quest of her own. It turns out that Hel set up a whole chunk of the events in Liesmith for her own purposes. She wants to get her people, the supposedly dishonored dead into Valhalla. But Valhalla is only for those who died in battle, which Hel has finally done.

That not many people die in battle these days has caused a serious population explosion in Hel. Their goddess wants to remedy that by getting them all into Valhalla, and by the way reuniting the dead warriors in Valhalla with their not-illustrious but still beloved wives and small children, who generally did not die gloriously in battle.

So while Loki is being abused all over Asgard and the associated realms by one group, Hel, with Sigmund and Wayne and Em recreate Aragorn’s march from the Paths of the Dead from Return of the King by heading towards Valhalla. The difference is that Aragorn’s march was intended to end in a battle. Hel hopes for peace and reunification, and only ends up with a battle after someone cheats.

The story, like Liesmith, ends with a surprising bang, and goes nowhere that anyone involved, including the reader, ever imagined.

And it’s utterly cool.

Escape Rating A-: One of the things that always gets me about modern interpretations of Loki stories is that Loki is always evil and the big villain. Except he wasn’t. He was a trickster god, a chaos agent. Every mythology seems to have one.

Chaos is not necessarily evil per se, but it is always upsetting to those who benefit from the current status quo and don’t want anything to change.

When Stormbringer begins, Loki and Baldr are both kinda sharing the body of Lain Laufeyjarson, who isn’t either of them exactly, but isn’t not, either. It’s as confusing for Lain and his boyfriend Sigmund as it may be for the audience. The entire confusion factor is much higher because Sigmund is the reincarnation (more or less) of Loki’s wife Sigyn, and his BFFs Wayne and Em, who are both female in spite of Wayne’s name, are reincarnations of Valkyries.

Hel needs Sigmund’s Valkyrie friends. Lain needs Sigmund to rescue him from the mess he has been dropped into, only partly of his own making, in Asgard. And Asgard and all of the other realms surrounding it need to seriously get themselves updated from the 10th century to the 21st.

A lot of what goes wrong on the Asgard side revolves around not paying attention and not keeping up. The Earth has moved on from the days that the Vikings went a-Viking, but Asgard never got the memo. And that’s in spite of warriors in the intervening centuries who have found themselves in Valhalla, WITH all their kit.

So there are two stories going on, Thor’s kids taking Lain on what they believe is a one-way trip to retrieve their father’s treasures by way of a past that never was, and Sigmund and his friends supporting Hel in what becomes a 20th century style protest movement against a tyrannical regime that has gone on way too long.

The story is crazy wild and utterly absorbing. I did find myself wishing I knew a bit more about Norse mythology, but that’s just me. There is enough explanation to get the reader through the mythical bits.

The Asgardians, who are all-too-appropriately called as, pronounced ass, have acted like asses to everyone around them. The reader wants them to get their comeuppance. Lain falls all too far into the trap of being Loki, and discovers that he really needs Sigmund to keep him making good decisions. Sigmund discovers that he can be a hero with a little help from his and Lain’s friends. It makes their relationship just a bit more equal.

But the thing I loved most about this story was the way that the eventual solutions to the mess all come from women’s ideas and women’s decisions. Not just Hel, but also Wayne and Em and Thor’s daughter Trud and especially Baldr’s wife Nonna. With a little bit of help from the Loki’s other daughters and the part of Sigyn that lives in Sigmund.

Even though the majority of this story is set in Asgard, I would have preferred that the author had stuck to the common English translations or transliterations of most of the names. It is possible to get a bit lost, especially attempting to search Wikipedia for what else is known about some of the characters.

On that infamous other hand, that Lain’s car turned out to be Sleipnir was just plain awesome.


As part of the tour, the giveaway is a $25 gift card to the eBook retailer of the winner’s choice + eBook copy of LIESMITH by Alis Franklin

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews.
***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Liesmith by Alis Franklin

liesmith by alis franklinFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: urban fantasy
Series: Wyrd #1
Length: 308 pages
Publisher: Hydra
Date Released: October 7, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Working in low-level IT support for a company that’s the toast of the tech world, Sigmund Sussman finds himself content, if not particularly inspired. As compensation for telling people to restart their computer a few times a day, Sigmund earns enough disposable income to gorge on comics and has plenty of free time to devote to his gaming group.

Then in walks the new guy with the unpronounceable last name who immediately becomes IT’s most popular team member. Lain Laufeyjarson is charming and good-looking, with a story for any occasion; shy, awkward Sigmund is none of those things, which is why he finds it odd when Lain flirts with him. But Lain seems cool, even if he’s a little different—though Sigmund never suspects just how different he could be. After all, who would expect a Norse god to be doing server reboots?

As Sigmund gets to know his mysterious new boyfriend, fate—in the form of an ancient force known as the Wyrd—begins to reveal the threads that weave their lives together. Sigmund doesn’t have the first clue where this adventure will take him, but as Lain says, only fools mess with the Wyrd. Why? Because the Wyrd messes back.

My Review:

For the first third of the book, I was afraid it was going to turn out to be a two-man grift. And it almost was, but not exactly the same two men and definitely not the same grift.

The above could be considered a spoiler for Neil Gaiman’s awesome American Gods, but it doesn’t begin to explain the complexity of the story in Liesmith.

However, the Liesmith in this title, and Low-Key Lyesmith in American Gods are the same Loki, for qualified definitions of “same” and possibly even of Loki.

Like I said, it gets complicated. For one thing, gods have erratic memories because they are made out of our myths and legends. When there are multiple versions of the same legend, the deity in the stories often has as much difficulty remembering exactly what he or she did or didn’t do as we do. Which is certainly a factor in the events in this book.

In myth, Loki was condemned for his part in the murder of the sun god Baldr to be chained to a rock with the entrails of one of his sons while a snake dripped poison into his eyes.. His wife Sigyn condemned herself to stand over him with a bowl to catch the poison. When he escapes, he is supposed to kill and be killed by other gods at Ragnarok, and then the world is supposed to end.

In this version, many people believe Loki cheated his fate, because, well, that’s what Loki does. In all of his manifestations, Loki is a trickster god. But Loki didn’t cheat, at least not then. Instead, the moment he escapes his loving wife conks him on the head and takes his place in the godly army, wearing his armor and pretending to be him.

Destiny is cheated, the world doesn’t end, and Loki wakes up to discover what his wife has done. That’s where things get interesting.

Because Loki sets up a huge in the middle of the Australian Outback, and sets himself up in his own exile. He’s had enough of gods and monsters and being both, and decides to just lay low and live out as many lifetimes as he can.

Then Sigmund walks into his life, and hell, also Hel, appear on earth, along with all the rest of the gods and monsters that Loki has spent the last several decades trying to avoid by submerging himself in the person of Travis Carter Hall, CEO of Lokabrenna Inc.

Baldr is back from the dead and out to get the god who connived at his death, and he doesn’t care how many civilians he has to destroy in order to make that happen. Geeky Sigmund discovers that he is the reincarnation of Loki’s lost wife Sigyn.

And Ragnarok is back on. The world is going to end after all, just so Baldr can punish his killer.

Except that nothing is as it seems. Or possibly ever was.

Escape Rating A-: A lot of Liesmith is urban fantasy of the horror school. If you’ve ever seen someone play Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, the horror has that pulpy feel to it. It’s creepy and mucky and invades the “real” world in a way that almost breaks the fourth wall and certainly makes the characters wonder whether they have finally lost their grip on sanity. It grabs the reader enough that you get scared for them.

One of the other major threads of this story is Fate, generally referred to as the Wyrd in the book. The Wyrd seems to be the place that births gods and monsters and legends out of human beliefs and human stories. It also tries very hard to force the people stuck in the story to go down the same path every single iteration, where the characters, when they are aware, desperately attempt to find a way to create a happy, or at least a less awful, ending this time than they did the last time.

References to how this works are rather similar to the Mercedes Lackey’s stories of the Five Hundred Kingdoms. If you are meant to be Cinderella, the very universe itself will do its level best to force you to live out her story, even if you have no desire to be rescued by a prince, thank you very much. Fate can be a very cruel bitch, especially when you attempt to thwart her.

In the middle of all of this myth making and myth-breaking is a sweet and geeky romance between a man who used to be a god and a man who carries the soul of the god’s dead wife. Sigmund Sussman is an adorkable geek who works in IT support at Lokabrenna Inc. Loki falls so hard for the guy that he creates an entire new persona, Lain Laufeyjarson, just for the chance to get to know Sigmund better. And not just because Sigmund used to be Sigyn, but because there is something in the sweet, shy genius that draws the person Loki has become, as well as the god he used to be.

This part shouldn’t work. It’s a fascinating twist on the fated mate trope, and there is a huge difference in the power dynamic. For one thing, while it isn’t difficult to see what Sigmund sees in Loki, no matter which persona is at the fore, it is difficult at first to figure out what Loki sees in Sigmund besides Sigyn.

And while Sigmund seems a bit too naive about love, sex and even sometimes adulthood, it is his genuine goodness, and also his genuine dorkiness, that finally save the day. And the gods. And possibly even the future as we think we know it.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.