Richards, Jasmine. Secrets of Valhalla
January 19th 2016 by HarperCollins
Copy received from the author
Buzz's mother has been missing for a while, and his mythologist father, aka the Prof, doesn't pay all that much attention to him or to his sister, Tia. After Buzz meets a new girl at school and they start a tenuous friendship, the two are caught in the woods and see missing news personality Eleanor Bright. Unfortunately, the also see a dragon who takes Eleanor below ground at the root of a giant tree, and Buzz is slightly injured in the altercation. He's bound to convince his father of what he saw, and even brings in his Uncle Mark, a policeman. Mary denies that his story is true, so the adults chalk it up to Buzz being stressed. When Buzz wakes up and it is Saturday for several days in a row, he knows he has to figure some things out. With Mary's help, the two figure out that the Sunna, the Norse day guardian, is missing, and this is why the calendar is stuck. Loki is to blame, so the Runes of Valhalla must be found and returned to the other gods before Loki finds them. This isn't an easy process, and involves traveling to several different realms, since the runes are hiding with the Roman gods. When various friends and family members turn out to be channeling the Norse gods, Buzz realizes he has the help he needs to avoid certain disaster and to tie up all of the loose ends before the end of the book!
Buzz is a somewhat reluctant hero, but he and Mary work well together and muster their forces. They are equal to the task of traveling, dealing with Persephone, Fenris, and other creatures who don't have their best interests at heart! There's plenty of action, so readers who want chases and fighting won't be disappointed.
Mary is described as having tiny braids and is dark complected, and Buzz has very curly hair. His sister is described several times as having caramel colored skin. Fantasy is very low on characters of color, so it's great to see some diverse characters included. I do wish that there would have been a tiny bit more information about the ethnicity of these characters, especially since some of them later turn out to be channeling Norse gods in the British countryside.
There have been very few books featuring Norse mythology, so it's good to see another one. Harris' Runemarks (2007) and Armstrong's Blackwell Pages trilogy (2013) were about the only two I've found, aside from Riordan's new Sword of Summer. Since middle grade readers love to read books that are similar to each other, it's good to see another Norse related fantasy, and it doesn't hurt that there are a few Roman gods thrown in.