Friday, May 31, 2013

Review: Loki's Wolves by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr

Yay, another review!! I think I'm really getting back into a rhythm :)

Today, I chose to review Loki's Wolves by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr because I know some of my blogger friends wanted my opinion before they decided whether or not to pick up this book. So I hope this review helps!

Loki's Wolves by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr
published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
In Viking times, Norse myths predicted the end of the world, an event called Ragnarok, that only the gods can stop. When this apocalypse happens, the gods must battle the monsters--wolves the size of the sun, serpents that span the seabeds, all bent on destroying the world.

The gods died a long time ago.

Matt Thorsen knows every Norse myth, saga, and god as if it was family history--because it is family history. Most people in the modern-day town of Blackwell, South Dakota, in fact, are direct descendants of either Thor or Loki, including Matt's classmates Fen and Laurie Brekke.

However, knowing the legends and completely believing them are two different things. When the rune readers reveal that Ragnarok is coming and kids--led by Matt--will stand in for the gods in the final battle, he can hardly believe it. Matt, Laurie, and Fen's lives will never be the same as they race to put together an unstoppable team to prevent the end of the world.
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Series: The Blackwell Pages, Book #1

The Story: This one is a tough one to summarize ^_^; Matt Thorsen is a descendant of Thor and is therefore very familiar with every Norse myths and legends. However, they are the last of his concerns because he's too busy living up to his family standards - his father is the sheriff, his grandfather is the mayor and his two older brothers have set the bar very high as perfect students and athletes. However, when the rune readers reveal that Ragnarok is coming, it turns out that Matt is the one chosen as Thor's champion. Now, he has to follow the path of his ancestor if he wants to prevent the world from ending... His first step is to gather the other champions, starting with Fen... which won't be an easy feat as Fen really dislikes Matt.

 If the Thorsens are the perfect families, the Brekkes are like the other side of the track - the wrong one. The Thorsens believe to be the only ones who have retained the knowledge of their ancestors, but they are in for a surprise. Fen Brekke is a descendant of Loki and has the ability to shapeshift into a wolf. As one who has present with power, Fen has three choices: to join the wulfenkind - a gang made up of Loki's descendants, to pay his dues or to become a lone wolf which means never staying in one place long. Fen really hopes that his cousin Laurie will also develop powers so they can join Laurie's father as lone wolves. For now though, it's time for him to pay his dues and for some reason, the wulfenkind wants an old shield... and Matt Thorsen.

My Opinion: If I remember correctly, I first heard about Loki's Wolves at the RT conference in 2010.  Wow, that is a while ago ^_^; It was during a YA panel and immediately, I put it on my radar. This book is a collaboration between Kelley Armstrong (squee!) and Melissa Marr. Initially, I think the plan was for each author to write one of the protagonists' POV, but I can't remember which ^_^; My best guess would be Thor for Ms Armstrong and Loki for Ms Marr. In any case, the plan must have changed along the way because we ended having a third POV, Laurie, or perhaps they wrote that part together? Anyway, fast forward 3 years and I pre-ordered Loki's Wolves because I'm a huge fan of Kelley Armstrong :) I was excited that Ms Armstrong was having a new series which seemed different from her Women of the Otherworld series... but unfortunately, as it turns out, not refreshing and unique enough to stand out from other YA books with similar concepts, which in the end, was the downfall of Loki's Wolves :(

As a whole, I thought Loki's Wolves was not a bad read. However, when you have a story about kids having powers, being related to Gods, and having to fulfill prophecies that are legends - well you are not going to escape comparison with Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians series... and the truth is, Mr. Riordan's series is better. As a result, "not being bad" gets bumped down a few more notches ^_^; In its favor, Loki's Wolves has good writing, good incorporation of the Norse mythology and some good dynamics. But all this is outweighed by so-so storyline and characters ^_^;

Let's start with the good elements. Ms Armstrong and Ms Marr are two very popular YA authors and writing-wise, they did not disappoint in Loki's Wolves. I think they did a good job at meshing their styles and voices as Loki's Wolves flow really well. They also did a good job at integrating the Norse mythology in the story. Let's be frank, Norse mythology is not as popular as Greek or Egyptian ones and my knowledge of it basically comes from the Thor movie ^_^; However, I didn't feel lost while reading Loki's Wolves and I don't feel my lack of knowledge affected my enjoyment of the book :) Also, I enjoyed the different dynamics between the characters. Fen and Laurie are cousins and are very close, a brother-sister's relationship where Fen looks out for Laurie and Laurie trying to show she can stand her own. I thought it was very sweet and seriously, given Fen's background, I was so happy that he had someone he could lean on. Fen and Matt's relationship was also an interesting one in the sense that you have two guys who aren't friends, but have to cooperate with each other and are kind of vying for the leadership position. It'll be interesting to see how this develop and how it will turn out. For now, there is a truce between the two boys... but Thor and Loki's relationship is never far in their mind.

As I mentioned above, for me, the weaknesses of Loki's Wolves were the storyline and the characters because they failed to engage me, to hook me in. A large part of the book was dedicated to the world building which was necessary of course, but the rest of the story was one-dimensional. I felt like the characters were just going through the motion... They were running around with no inkling of what to do and still managed to stumble across the other champions. The storyline was simply too straightforward and lacked subtleties and hints for what is to come. In addition, the book is meant to be for middle graders and I think it was reflected in the action sequences. As for the characters, I thought they were well developed, each of them having an interesting background and his own issues. Matt is the son of the sheriff with two older brothers that excelled at everything so he feels the pressure. He's already the youngest and the smallest, he's not about to be the disappointment as well. Fen on the other hand has a big chip on the shoulder, he's sullen and never backing down from a fight. He's been shuffled from one relative to another and lacked familial stability. And so, when you bring them together, you have the golden boy and the bad boy butting heads. And then, you have Laurie in the middle who doesn't really know what is happening and is discovering the truth along the book. I thought the characters were likable and well developed... but for me, they lacked the charisma to pull me in, to make me root for them unconditionally.

Before I wrap this review, I want to mention the illustrations in Loki's Wolves. I was quite surprised at them because I did not expect them at all. They are a fun addition to the book although I think they do reinforce the the middle grade feeling of the book. They were like the rest of the book, very straightforward and the style of it was pleasant. I have to admit though I much prefer the cover style and I wonder why they had two different artists. I mean, if you knew they were going to be illustrations in the book, why not offer that person to do the cover? Because the cover is the first image you have from the book and is the one that sticks with you and suddenly, you see the illustrations inside and they don't have the same imagery... Oh well, that's just me being picky ^_^;

Overall, as I said, Loki's Wolves was not a bad book... it simply probably wasn't for me. It's clear the target audience was a younger crowd (middle graders) and they might enjoy it a lot more. As an adult, I just feel the story is too straightforward, simple and serious to be fully engaged. In addition, I'm a huge fan of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series and so, perhaps I'm biased. At this point, the only reason I'd pick up Odin's Ravens would be that I'm a big fan of Ms Armstrong.

My Grade: C-.