Arctic Dawn by Karissa Laurel

2016-standout-award-badge-smallA solid follow-up to what may become a long-running series bringing Norse mythology into the present; a Later Years concept for the gods and goddesses of old, given fresh perspective through a modern protagonist.

FTC Notice: This book was provided free in exchange for an honest review. This is no way impacts my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Title: Arctic Dawn
Author: Karissa Laurel
Series: Norse Chronicles Book 02
Publish Date: July 5th, 2016
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Source: Provided by the Author

Publisher’s Description: Alone and exhausted after her month-long sojourn as a shooting star, Solina Mundy flees to southern California to lie low, recuperate, and plot a survival strategy. The one person she trusts to watch her back is her best friend, Skyla Ramirez. But Skyla has been missing for weeks.

The arrival of a dangerous stranger and the discovery of a legendary weapon of mass destruction forces Solina out of hiding and back into the fight for her life. Solina knows she won’t last long on her own. She must find out what happened to Skyla and unite her contentious allies if she hopes to track down this devastating weapon before her enemies use it to burn the world to ash.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.

Vagabond Vahn says…

Seeing old friends after a time away is always a pleasure.  They’ve changed, you’ve changed, but somehow your relationship hasn’t – at least not in the way that matters as you sit down with a drink to catch up.  It’s been a full year since I reviewed Midnight Burning – twelve full months since I last read of Solina Mundy and her Norse god friends.  We were due to sit down and catch up.

Solina went through a lot at the end of her last journey.  She changed figuratively and literally; she evolved into something more, but is still the Miss Mundy from North Carolina we met at the start.  She also happens to be on the run now, hiding out and working in a California bar – but she’s also making Southern sweet tea and promising banana pudding to her co-workers  The South hasn’t left her, despite all she’s been through.  Like friends you haven’t seen in years, everything has changed.  It also hasn’t.  Author Karissa Laurel captures that in Solina very well.

Despite what otherwise appears a respite from her troubles, there is never rest for those who make friends (or enemies) with ancient gods, nor is there rest when you take the essence of one into yourself.  It’s even worse when that essence is also the key to bringing about a new Ragnarok by her enemies.

The Good: Arctic Dawn picks up a few months after the first entry.  Enough time has passed for a bit of character progression, and it’s handled in a way that merits discussion.  We all change over time.  I expect the characters in my stories to change over time as well.  This progression is important to keep a sequel, and especially a series, from going stale.  Solina has changed an awful lot since the beginning of her tale, as has her friend Skyla.   Thorin and Val, however, are another story.  They’re still at each other’s throats like the Alpha males they are.  Val is still trying to seduce Solina at every opportunity, and Thorin is still conflicted over his emotions.  Thorin and Val lack an obvious progression of character that opposes the development of Solina and Skyla.  Yet I’m listing this in The Good section – why?   Throin and Val are immortal.  Time flows differently for them, and a few months – a couple of years even – is not necessarily an acceptable amount of time for them to leave behind centuries of perspective, habit, and manly insecurities.  That’s right, manly insecurities.  It sounds better than “the inability to share emotions because I am a man, beat my chest and hear me roar”.  Or, it’s shorter to type – one of the two.  Looking back on it, I would find an equivalent in character progression for them in this amount of time to be more bothersome than the lack of it, and in the end, appreciate this from the author.

The story itself is solid, and an appropriate follow-up in terms of scale.  There are a few more locations to explore, and a bit more history of the gods with whom Solina keeps company.  Where Midnight Burning was tightly focused both geographically and in literary scope, Arctic Dawn takes the next step with characters traversing multiple locations and the histories of Val, Thorin and others being explored.  Where the novel titles juxtapose a heated night with a freezing dawn, so too do we find ourselves in the deserts of Arizona and the snowy mountains of Thorin’s home away from home.   Loyalties are questioned and emotions challenged.  Karissa Laurel is moving forward with a series that requires her to step it up with each entry, and Arctic Dawn satisfies without introducing the worry that it’ll become hard to top moving forward.

The Bad:  On a personal level (I am a man after all), I would have enjoyed exploring Thorin and Val’s past in more depth.  Enough information was provided, but I find myself wanting more.  Whether this would have been detrimental to the story in the end is a question I’ve been wrestling with myself, and I remain conflicted.  I may not be the author’s target audience, but the genre is a mainstay for me.  I love a strong female protagonist, especially when they’re not so focused on their strengths that they refuse to show a weakness, but I can’t shake wanting more justification for the stubbornness over emotions these ancient gods display.  I discussed above that it makes sense they are still stubborn, in terms of how they view time and would evolve slower than a mortal – I just want to have a deeper understanding what has happened over the centuries that has caused them to still remain so closed.

Just enough happens with a variety of characters in this entry that I feel each of them could have easily filled another chapter or two.  Again, enough is present to handle the story from start to finish, but I wasn’t done with the Valkyries and their base before we moved on.  Helen, our enemy in book one and persisting through book two, kept mostly to the background here.  That’s fine, obviously we’ll be seeing more of her later, but everything still revolved around her.  This kept the satisfaction of an epic encounter with her dormant, and will obviously have to wait until the next entry.  It was odd, bringing her up and being reminded of her throughout, only to hit the end and realize we’ve never really had the showdown I was expecting.

badge4v4The Conclusion:  If you enjoyed Midnight Burning, please continue because Arctic Dawn delivers.  If you’ve not yet read book one, consider this my endorsement to do so.  I also rated it a 4 – Great, last July and awarded it the 2015 Standout Award at the end of the year.  I’m really looking forward to what is in store for these new friends of mine on the next step of their struggle to prevent the end of the world.  I rather like this world and would keep it around as long as possible.  While I’ll never tire of wizard detectives and private investigators, shaman cops or elemental assassins, the charm of Norse meets South is a satisfying addition the Urban Fantasy stories that occupy my mind.

I’ll be keeping an eye on Karissa Laurel as she delves into what looks to be Fantasy, based on the great cover displayed on her site for the upcoming Heir of Thunder (Book One of the Stormbourne Chronicles).

Our reviews in this series…

If you like this book…

…consider trying Midnight Burning, also by Karissa Laurel, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, or The Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne.

FTC Notice: This book was provided free in exchange for an honest review. This is no way impacts my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

About Vagabond Vahn

I have a beard.

Posted on January 1, 2017, in All Reviews, Standout Award and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Thank you, Vagabond Vahn, for a really in=depth, nitty gritty review! You’ve given me lots to take away and think about.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Vagabond Vahn

    Thank YOU, Karissa Laurel, for sharing these characters and stories with all of us!


  1. Pingback: 2016 Standout Awards | One Book Two

  2. Pingback: Midnight Burning by Karissa Laurel | One Book Two

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