Timeslip Tuesday falls on a Wednesday this week; I am not sure why it is so, but I have been struggling to find time to read and blog these past few weeks (actually, I am sure. It is because I have been sickly and busy and because my 15 year old broke the headphone jack of his lap top and needs to listen to music to do his homework, and because my 12 year old now has a laptop of his own, and likes to listen to the musical background of his games, and all this is happening in the room with the fire going, which is to say the one really warm room, and it is so much easier just to play candy crush and not even try to focus on books). But in any event, I have now read a timeslip book and will now write about it yay me.
Secrets of Valhalla, by Jasmine Richards (HarperCollins, January 2016) is a timeslip book in that there is a repeating Saturday on which the world has gotten stuck. This is what gives urgency to the plot--reality is being worn thing by constant recycling, and all that the young hero of the story holds dear will be lost unless he can get time going again. Buzz, though, is just an ordinary kid, caught in an adventure that is way more extraordinary than he is. It all begins when he meets Ratatosk the squirrel scampering around Yggdrasil, a tree in the middle of a patch of woods he's been exploring all his life....
Buzz learns that each day of the week had a Norse god or goddess appointed as its guardian (with the exception of Saturday, of course, that one having a Roman god). And the power of each day keeper was contained in rune stones...which Loki is now plotting to seize for himself. The first step of Loki's battle, kidnapping Sunna, keeper of Sunday, is what fixed the world in the repeating Saturday.
Buzz, with his new friend Mary (so quirky and fey I though she might be a manic pixie dream girl, but happily she turned out not to be) set off into the realms of mythology to find the rune stones first, and restore the power within them back to the Day Keepers, so that they in return can restore order to the cosmos. Adventures result, lots of them, taking Buzz and Mary to Hel and back. As well as to the Cloud realm of Zeus, the undersea realm of Poseidon, and the underworld of Hades....
The result is an entertaining read, that 10 or so year old kids who get a kick out of mythology will enjoy lots, especially readers (like me) who think Loki's kids were hard done by (the Fenris here is a lovey Fenris for those who like large wolfs). Buzz and Mary are appealing main characters, with enough familial backstory to give them three-dimensionality. There is, as is so so so often the case in MG fantasy these days, a Bully, who as is also almost the case, has Reasons for being a bully and is rehabbed at the end. I feel this has been done enough, and can stop now.
Just got back from checking the Kirkus review, and we are in agreement on this one (!), although Kirkus is perhaps more actively enthusiastic than me. Kirkus says:
"Some knowledge of Norse mythology will help readers unravel the multiple gods and complicated plot, but it’s not critical. (me--I have lots of knowledge of Norse mythology, which let me figure out a plot twist, which I don't usually do...)
The combination of adventure, appealing characters, and high stakes should satisfy middle-grade fantasy fans. (Fantasy. 10-14)"
I myself wouldn't give it to a kid much older than that--some of the adventures skew a bit young, and some resolutions come a bit too easily to be truly satisfying for a very experienced MG mythological fantasy reader.
However, the (relatively small) bits of the book that focus on the repeating Saturday in the real world are nicely done--people become aware in a dim way that things are going off (literally) but don't quite get it....
(random Norse mythological childrearing aside--if you happen to have a large stuffed dragon/dinosaur and two small boys (although girls would work too), put one boy at the top of the stairs, which are Yggdrassil, to be the eagle, and put the dragon at the bottom to be the Nidhog, and then the boy in most need of exercising can be Ratatosk and scamper up and down the stairs conveying insults. If like me you have just two children, you will have to provide half the insults, but there are worse things).