MINI MONDAY: Between the Blade and the Heart (ARC) by Amanda Hocking

Released in North America on January 2, 2018, Between the Blade and the Heart by New York Times bestselling author Amanda Hocking is the first book in a brilliant new young adult fantasy duology inspired by Norse mythology that is sure to be popular with fans of Riordan’s Percy Jackson.

(NOTE: I would like to thank St.Martin’s Press for providing me with an electronic copy of Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking in exchange for an honest review) 

When the fate of the world is at stake, loyalties will be tested. As one of Odin’s Valkyries, Malin’s greatest responsibility is to slay immortals and return them to the underworld. The balance of the world rests on her ability to carry out orders. But when Malin discovers that her mother spared the life of an immortal who was destined to die, her world is thrown into chaos. As Malin wrestles with the knowledge that her mother might not be who she thought, she’s also thrust into the path of a gorgeous blue-eyed guy named Asher who needs her help slaying the rogue immortal who destroyed his family. Malin, along with her best friend and her ex-girlfriend, must decide where her loyalties lie…and whether helping Asher enact his revenge is worth the risk—to the world and to her heart.

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“If death marks you, and it misses you, who knows how long it will be before death comes around to mark you again?” – Amanda Hocking, Between the Blade and the Heart

I was really quite excited to read Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking because the concept sounded quite intriguing, and I was a fan of Hocking’s Trylle series. However, I was quite disappointed by this one.

Between the Blade and the Heart introduces readers to a world is divided between Mortals and Immortals; Mortals have a short lifespan, but they can determine their own fate, whereas Ιmmortals live forever, but their path is set in stone, and fundamental choices about their nature do not belong to them. In order to maintain the balance, the gods created the Valkyries, mortals bestowed with supernatural strength and abilities, assigned to murder immortals and return them to the Underworld.

Sounds intriguing, right?

Unforunately Hocking did not deliver, instead presenting a world that felt half developed at best, despite her over zealous and often unnecessarily detailed descriptions (seriously, did I really need to know that the ferry goes exactly 125 km/h? I think not).

First, there were far too many kinds (sub-species?) of nefarious immortals running around – I just couldn’t wrap my head around it, and after awhile, I just found that I stopped caring, since the different kinds of immortals didn’t really matter all that much to the plot. Perhaps, had Hocking spent more time developing the general idea of her world, instead of nitpicking at unnecessary details, I could have become more engaged with the story.

Next, there was the whole “deep dark secret” about her mother’s past of shirking her Valkyrie duty and letting an immortal sentenced to die live. I took issue with this for a few reasons. One, Malin’s mother gave up her secret, which Malin is very clear could get her (and maybe even Malin) killed, way too easily, just because Malin asked nicely? I would have enjoyed a bit more suspense or some resistance, at very least. And as a Valkyrie, a servant of Odin himself, shouldn’t someone have noticed she didn’t kill an immortal she ought to have? If not her handler, then maybe the god himself?

“That’s the funny thing about love. It doesn’t wait for perfection – the heart loves who it loves, exactly as they are, faults and all.” – Amanda Hocking, Between the Blade and the Heart

Despite this, there were still aspects of Between the Blade and the Heart that I enjoyed! I found that, despite my usual proclivity to scorn love triangles, that I quite enjoyed the love triangle presented by Hocking in Between the Blade and the Heart. It had a fresh feel to it – and not only because Malin is bisexual – but also because the two love interests didn’t seem to be fighting against one another for her attention. Instead, they seemed to be trying to convince her of their commitment to her, which was a rejuvenating take on the much overdone love triangle. That being said, The relationships were frustratingly superficial, they didn’t evoke any emotions, and their backround was poorly established, they were friends or lovers because Hocking told you they were, not because she showed you the way their bonds ran deep and true.

In addition, I very much enjoyed the journey element at the end of the story, which really highlighted the relationships (both romantic and platonic) between Malin, her roommate Oona, Asher, and Quinn. It added a fun and quirky element to the story, and definitely reminded me of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson.

Overall, Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking just wasn’t for me. Despite enjoying the journey element of the story and the love triangle – queer love triangles are rarely seen in Young Adult books, especially YA Fantasy, so it was refreshing to see – I found that pretty much everything else fell short for me. From the utter lack of world building to the superficial character/relationship development and poor storytelling, Between the Blade and the Heart just did not impress (2/5).

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