Review: Freya and the Dragon’s Egg
Posted by Stephanie Whelan
Freya and the Dragon Egg by K. W. Penndorf (Open Door Publications, expected publication May 2016)
Norse mythology certainly seems to be one of the more popular subjects this year for fantasy writing. Not that I’m complaining–Norse mythology has a wealth of stories and legends to tap, and plenty of opportunities ripe for interpretation of how that magic might link with characters from our contemporary world. Unlike a lot of other books that have picked up these stories, Freya and the Dragon’s Egg does not choose to use the most familiar forms of these myths.
Freya is the middle daughter of her family. She is used to being ignored by her mother and father in favor of her two sisters. She tends to get herself into all sorts of trouble, even when she means well. She also has been having some strange dreams, or perhaps some kind of visions . Trouble finds her again when her father, a respected Viking archeologist, gives Freya an artifact to hide and in a moment of panic, she swallows it! Now she’s on a wild adventure through time that will bring her face to face with the mythological Viking past and very real danger! An enemy to all nine realms is gaining power and unless he is stopped, all the worlds, including Freya’s own, could be at risk. What can one girl do? Quite a bit actually. With a little help from a magical forest, a young man who turns into a bear and some mysterious creatures called Norns she hatches a plan–she just hopes this time things won’t just get her into more trouble!
Confession time. Anyone who checks will see that I’ve done another review just recently on another title involving Norse mythology. I didn’t realize at the time I’d end up back-to-back on the subject! That said, the two titles depart radically from one another. Unlike the previous title I read which was a contemporary fantasy tackling of the mythic, K. W. Penndorf’s story is a fantastical time-travel adventure that take Freya back to a past that is fully populated with creatures and magic from lore. Freya’s adventure takes her on encounters far from her own time. Back to the time of Vikings . . . though this is a mythological past rather than a pure historical one. Unlike many Norse adventures where characters meet gods like Loki and Thor, this one takes a sharp turn into uncharted territory. We do encounter the world-tree, Yggdrasil, but we also meet fearsome Berserks and go in search of the fate-speaking Norns. There’s a wealth of legend woven into this story, and a fair share of new vocabulary. I checked with the author and she’s added a lot of invention to the Norse legends–though you’ll see many familiar bits to the framework.
Given the amount of invention, the author does fair work explaining the words and terms within the course of the narrative. This should appeal to those readers who enjoy rich world-building and can easily absorb a lot of new information. The world Freya finds herself in has forests that move, silver tapestry threads that only she can see, and frightening creatures that can steal a person’s spirit and bring another back to life. I find it a enjoyable to encounter new beasties and magic in stories–it can be too easy to fall into the familiar descriptions and traditions, so I’m happy to read something that doesn’t. Likewise it’s always a delight to discover fantasy adventure like this with a strong female protagonist taking center stage. Freya does a good job of making the key decisions that affect the story’s outcome and being the character with most of the agency. She’s less a “chosen one” than a sort of hapless hero who blunders into things, but she doesn’t reject her role. The fact that she makes errors and triumphs throughout keeps her from being too perfect, but gives us someone to cheer on.
There are a few points where the pacing occasionally breaks down–most of these are due to passages where a character is taking time to explain an aspect of the mythological or magical in detail. It’s often difficult to avoid these blocks of information when the world and legends are unfamiliar and both the characters and the readers need the explanations. It does slow down the story somewhat, and it’s why I stress that the readers that fit this kind of storytelling are the kind that enjoy rich world building. Those kinds of readers are necessarily more patient with long explanations and new concepts introduced–and can really relish them. My other small issue is the speech that Freya encounters when she time travels. The characters from the past speak with an archaic touch, the language full of “aye” and “Lo”. At times this broke up the reading a little, as I puzzled out a specific sentence. Having read Beowulf in the original and translation, I can feel a familiar sort of patter to the word play the past characters use, but I do think it may be challenging for younger readers. Still, it’s a small thing, and reading some of the sentences aloud can help.
It’s clear that while Freya thinks the story is done at the end, that things are not near resolved yet. There’s enough foreshadowing and loose threads left to guarantee readers will be anticipating a second book (even if the cover gives that element away). I look forward to seeing where Freya’s adventures will lead her in the future!
Note: An advanced copy was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher:Open Door Publications
Publication Date:May 2016
Recommended for grades 4 and up.
About Stephanie WhelanI'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.
Posted on April 24, 2016, in General Posts and tagged Authors, Books, Children's Books, fantasy, Historical Fantasy, kidlit, MG Books, Middle-Grade Fiction, Reading, reviews, series, Time Travel. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.