The lost sun by Tessa Gratton

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United States of Asgard, book 1. Random House, 2013. ISBN 9780307977465.
(Age: 14+) Recommended. Norse mythology. Fantasy. In the United States of Asgard, ruled by Norse gods, 17 year old Soren is fighting his berserker nature. His father had lost control of himself, going berserk in a shopping mall and killing innocent people. He feels the battle- frenzy and fever of the berserker, but tries to remain calm. Isolated at Sanctus Sigurd's Academy he is amazed when the popular Astrid Glyn, daughter of a famed seeress, tells him that she dreams of him. When Baldur, son of Odin, fails to bring back the sun and goes missing, Soren joins Astrid on a road trip across the States to find him. Together they trace the missing god and find their own powers and destiny.
This is an intelligent, beautifully crafted story based on the idea that there is an alternative United States, a country governed not only by the President, but by the gods. Gratton intertwines Norse mythology and the fates of Soren and Astrid throughout the book in such a way that the reader, even one unfamiliar with Norse legends, is able to gain an understanding of the gods and how they operate. The road trip across the United States of Asgard is a thrilling one.
What works exceptionally well is the struggle that Soren and Astrid have with their feelings for each other and what fate and the gods have determined for them. Soren is determined to fight his berserker nature, while Astrid has to come to terms with the visions that she sees. It was engrossing to follow Soren's story and to imagine what it would have been like to be a berserker and to fear loss of control and killing innocents. The themes of fatalism, faith, honour and loyalty are explored in a sensitive, thought provoking way.
This was a compulsive read, which is much more thoughtful and complex than many young adult novels. Fans of Neil Gaiman and Holly Black will welcome The lost sun, and teens who liked the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan could well enjoy this too.
Pat Pledger