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The Strange Maid: United States of Asgard #2    by Tessa Gratton order for
Strange Maid
by Tessa Gratton
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2014 (2014)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I unfortunately missed The Lost Sun, story of seventeen-year-old berserker Soren Bearskin, prophetess Astrid Glyn and a missing god (Baldur, son of Odin). It was the prequel to Tessa Gratton's The Strange Maid, second in her United States of Asgard series (YA urban fantasy based on Norse mythology).

Signy Valborn's parents died when she was young. Her wish-parents (family friends who adopted her) took her to visit the New World Tree, hoping this would help her. When Signy climbed the tree, she encountered Odin, the Alfather, who told her that 'sacrifice is the most worthwhile thing in all the nine worlds.' He made her one of his Handmaidens, Valkyrie of the Tree and she was accepted by her eight older sisters on the Valkyrie Council as the Child Valkyrie.

But when Signy turned fifteen, she was presented with a riddle - 'The Valkyrie of the Tree will prove herself with a stone heart.' Rejected by her sisters, she has wandered ever since in search of its solution. Then she meets poet Ned Unferth, who claims to have the answer she seeks. They head north to Canadia, troll country, where he teaches her to hunt and kill trolls. She makes a pet of a maimed troll she calls Red Stripe and reunites with her wish-parents.

Then tragedy strikes and Signy hunts the greater mountain troll she holds responsible - but who is the hunter and who the hunted? Her destiny combines with that of Soren Bearskin and she starts to dream as they walk 'along a strand of fate' together and replay (or perhaps change) history. For destiny is ... always choosing.

Signy Valborn, the Strange Maid, reminds me in some ways of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, unsure of who she is and what she should do, yet strong inside. This is an exciting series and I look forward to more.

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