Review: Between the Blade and the Heart - Amanda Hocking

Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking
Series: Valkyrie #1

My rating: {★★★☆☆}

YA Urban Fantasy
Published January 2nd 2018 by Pan

Source: Review Copy sent by the publisher
Game of Thrones meets Thor: Ragnarok in Between the Blade and the Heart, a gripping story of love and revenge from Amanda Hocking, author of the Trylle trilogy and the Kanin Chronicles.

Malin is a Valkyrie-in-training. It's her responsibility to slay immortals, returning them to the afterlife to maintain balance in the world. She also struggles to maintain balance in her own life - between her studies, her duties as a Valkyrie and her conflicting feelings for her ex-girlfriend. But when a beguiling stranger breaks into her home on a quest for vengeance, Malin's carefully balanced life falls apart.

Asher is hunting the rogue immortal who murdered his mother, and he thinks Malin may have information. Her loyalties are tested, as she uncovers a betrayal that unravels everything she thought she knew. And she must decide if helping the mysterious Asher enact his revenge is worth the risk - to the world, and to her heart.
It was a strange, cold thing to realize I was born to be a murderer.

This is my first Amanda Hocking read and I'm so glad that I was granted my request from Pan Macmillan SA because I really enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to seeking out more of her work.

Between the Blade and the Heart is a sort of futuristic YA Urban Fantasy - think hovercrafts (cars and motorbikes!) and various castes of mythological creatures roaming the Earth alongside humans and a large sprinkling of Norse mythology and you'll be pretty close!

The fragile balance between mortals and immortals is on the edge and catastrophic consequences could befall the world.

Malin is the main character, a Valkyrie (mortal women that Odin bestowed with supernatural powers and weapons, passed on from mother to daughter that are able to slay the immortals to return them to their underworld). Everything that she knows and has ever learnt is thrown into question when she discovers that her perfect Valkyrie mother failed her task of slaying an immortal and has set into motion a plot that has been brewing for longer than the Gods might like to admit.

There is a huge amount of diversity packed into this book and I really give Hocking props for being inclusive in so many ways and yet never slapping you in the face with it- the world is how it is, the characters are how they are - you're just reading about it. I love the diversity in the humans as well as in the various immortals. I'm not well versed in many mythologies, especially not Norse but I didn't feel like I was ever lost. A glossary wouldn't have gone astray, but it isn't strictly necessary.

I have to admit that I didn't love the romance in this one - I understand Malin was told repeatedly that Valkyries do not love in the same way that humans do but I found her reluctance to admit her feelings frustrating. To add to this fact there was also a love triangle, albeit different and more diverse (a male and a female both interested in the main female character) triangle, it was still a triangle and Malin's wishy washy feelings between her ex girlfriend and Asher also frustrated me to the point where I didn't actually ship either possible relationship.

I would have loved to have spent a little more time getting to know more of the characters and understanding their motivations but being written in first person from Malin's POV I know this isn't always possible. There was a lot of 'telling' from Malin's side about her relationship with her mother and I really felt for her and wished that their relationship could have been closer and more affectionate.

I did love the friendship between Malin and Oona though - her best friend and roommate and sorceress-in-training. Oona is the kind of friend that everyone needs - supportive, practical, loyal and totally lovable.

The pacing of this felt a bit up and down which was a little offputting, but it wasn't a deal breaker for me because the writing style is so easy to read and for the majority of the book, everything flowed organically and the dialogue and interactions felt legitimate once I understood the characters a little more.

“That’s the funny thing about love,” he said. “It doesn’t wait for perfection – the heart loves who it loves, exactly as they are, faults and all.”
Overall this was a good story with an extremely well researched and detailed world. I loved the crowded mess of a city with the sci-fi elements that made this futuristic. I loved the entire vibe of female empowerment and the fact that love is a strength, not a weakness and I hope that this theme continues into the next book. The final scenes (yes, a cliffhanger!) left me needing to know how this finishes, and thankfully I already have book two sitting on my shelf waiting for me.

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