Monday's Muse, 50th edition.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Laiska by Värttinä [Nordic Roots 3] (Seriously. This came on my shuffle. Couldn't have turned up at a more perfect time. It made me grin from ear to ear. Yes, I am a nerd and oh so proud of it). :)

The idea of Monday's Muse is to introduce you to unknown, forgotten, or overlooked fiction that has been lost from regular radar. I am WriterGirl. I am in the business of saving lives, one book at a time.

What I do is go to one of several places, narrow it down to a YA field and type in a random word, any word that comes to mind. I then take a sampling of some I have never heard of before, or only vaguely heard of (and hopefully you as well). No infringement is intended for any description I take for the books. It's purely for promotional reasons. I will try and cover as many genres as possible that are fitting for the random word. Simple but it really uncovers some incredible gems. I will be doing this every other Monday. If there are any words you want to prompt me with, go ahead and fire away.

Today's random word:
Mythology - Norse.

Icefall by Matthew Kirby.

The king's three children and a small group of warrior-protectors take refuge in a winter-bound steading on a northern fjord and discover there's a traitor in their midst.Beautiful Asa, the eldest princess, faces an arranged marriage, although she loves another. Harald, the youngest, will one day be king. But the narrator, middle daughter Solveig, is neither attractive nor particularly useful, until she begins to realize she has talent as a storyteller and could have a future as a skald, or court bard. As food runs low and bitter winter tightens its hold, someone in the group begins to sabotage the remaining supplies, and Solveig has a dream that foretells a tragic end to their efforts to survive. Interesting, well-developed characters abound, and Solveig's strong narrative voice adds authenticity as she grows into her new role, not just telling stories of the mythical Scandinavian past but creating tales to alter the behavior of those around her. Valid clues and occasional red herrings heighten the sense of mystery. The chilly, claustrophobic, ancient setting is vividly created, and the sense of impending doom generates a gripping suspense overarching the developing—and deteriorating—relationships among the group, marking Kirby (The Clockwork Three, 2010) as a strong emerging novelist.Recommend this one to teens who crave a good mystery set in an icily different time and place. --Kirkus.

The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun by J. R. R. Tolkien.

The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún is a previously unpublished work by J.R.R. Tolkien, written while Tolkien was Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford during the 1920s and 1930s, before he wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. It makes available for the first time Tolkien’s extensive retelling in English narrative verse of the epic Norse tales of Sigurd the Völsung and The Fall of the Niflungs. It includes an introduction by J.R.R. Tolkien, drawn from one of his own lectures on Norse literature, with commentary and notes on the poems by Christopher Tolkien.

The Sea of Trolls (trilogy) by Nancy Farmer.

Jack was eleven when the berserkers loomed out of the fog and nabbed him. "It seems that things are stirring across the water," the Bard had warned. "Ships are being built, swords are being forged."

"Is that bad?" Jack had asked, for his Saxon village had never before seen berserkers.

"Of course. People don't make ships and swords unless they intend to use them."

The year is A.D. 793. In the next months, Jack and his little sister, Lucy, are enslaved by Olaf One-Brow and his fierce young shipmate, Thorgil. With a crow named Bold Heart for mysterious company, they are swept up into an adventure-quest that follows in the spirit of The Lord of the Rings.

Other threats include a willful mother Dragon, a giant spider, and a troll-boar with a surprising personality — to say nothing of Ivar the Boneless and his wife, Queen Frith, a shape-shifting half-troll, and several eight foot tall, orange-haired, full-time trolls. But in stories by award-winner Nancy Farmer, appearances do deceive. She has never told a richer, funnier tale, nor offered more timeless encouragement to young seekers than "Just say no to pillaging."

Runemarks by Joanne Harris.

The Lightning Thief meets The Sea of Trolls in this well-executed, if rather plodding children's debut by the author of the adult novel, Chocolat. In a world where the intolerant "Order" has deemed the old Norse myths as blasphemous, village misfit Maddy Smith discovers she is the daughter of the Norse god Thor. Guided by Loki and advised by Odin, Maddy travels to the "World Below" to try and thwart the prophesied war between the old gods and the new. The heroes win the day, but at least one villain escapes, hinting at a sequel. Unfortunately, Harris's determination to include just about every Norse god in her narrative brings Maddy's quest to a standstill at times. Some youngsters not well-versed in Odin's family tree may find the discussion of the gods' past grudges confusing, while others will be inspired to dig out their old copy of D'Aulaires' Norse Gods and Giants to refresh their memories of the Vanir and Aesir. A mini-course in Norse mythology for the tween set. --Kirkus.

The Raven's Ring Pin by John Anacker.

Fifteen-year-old Samuel has just moved with his parents to Yellowstone's Geyser Inn for the winter. Samuel has no friends, his on-line classes are too easy, and the TV has only one channel. Life basically stinks until one snowbound day when he decides to explore the creaky old attic. There he finds a ring pin engraved with weird symbols. A strange voice commands Samuel to drop the pin, and the adventure begins.

The ring pin has mysterious powers that allow Samuel to communicate with Rag and Thokk, the ravens that live in the attic. The ring also has the power to transport the trio to the perilous and magical world of the Nordic gods. Suddenly, the three find themselves in the midst of a battle among the most powerful gods of the Norse pantheon-Thor, the thunder god; Aegir, the sea god; and Loki, the trickster. But the ring pin can't-or won't-bring them home again.

Samuel is drawn into the timeless conflicts of the gods as he searches for Thor's magical hammer Mjollnir, and eventually must answer a challenge that will determine the fate of the gods themselves.

Sheild of Odin (trilogy) by Jim Jennewein.

It's easy to see that this was written by two Hollywood screenwriters—readers can almost watch the CGI effects unfolding as they go. When the local Viking overlord kills Dane's father and abducts a childhood friend, he and some neighbors set off on a quest for rescue and revenge that catapults an ill-matched crew into hideous perils and hilarious misadventures. A rollicking page-turner with definite appeal, the book falls short in its historical details, taking liberties with Viking life: Anachronistic language abounds, as do 21st-century concepts, ambitions and family relations. Nonetheless, the plot—of the classic "good commoners vs. evil-lord-with-grandiose-ambitions" variety—churns consistently on, hurtling from disaster to cliffhanger to a climactic deus ex machina resolution. Characterization is not the point; with the exception of Dane and his friend-turned-love interest Astrid, the good guys are all pretty obvious caricatures, while the villains are there to drive the plot. Although it can be overly detailed at times, boys especially will enjoy the pell-mell action, the wisenheimer narration and the belch-and-flatulence humor embedded in the adventurous tale. --Kirkus.

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman.

In this simple but well-done tale, Newbery Medal–winner Gaiman (The Graveyard Book ) introduces Odd, a boy with an injured leg whose Viking father died at sea. Odd befriends the Norse gods Odin, Thor and Loki, who have been transformed into animals and exiled from Asgard. The gods, having previously tricked and bested the Frost Giants, are now receiving some of their own medicine. Showing great ingenuity, Odd figures out how to reach Asgard and then convinces the Frost Giant that ruling Asgard isn't so great (after all, admits the giant, his prize, the beautiful goddess Freya, “only comes up to the top of my foot. She shouts louder than a giantess when she's angry. And she's always angry”). The gods and the giant, though powerful, come across as self-involved and vaguely simpleminded, clearly in need of a resourceful young fellow like Odd to help set things straight. Although less original than Coraline or The Wolves in the Walls , this enjoyable story should appeal to Gaiman's younger fans. --Publisher's Weekly.

Ragnarok: the end of the gods by A. S. Byatt.

It is apt that Booker Prize–winning English writer Byatt chooses to locate her reimagining of the Norse myth Asgard and the Gods, which describes the destruction of the world, during that most apocalyptic of times in British history, the blitz. The little girl at the center of the story, whom we know only as “the thin child,” has been evacuated, with her mother, from London to the idyllic countryside. Her father is a fighter pilot who’s “in the air, in the war, in Africa, in Greece, in Rome, in a world that only exist in books.” The thin child goes to church and reads Pilgrim’s Progress, but finds the concept of “gentle Jesus” naïve and untenable in the face of war. Asgard and the Gods, on the other hand, provides, if not a more believable narrative, one that at least reflects the world she lives in: “It was a good story, a story with meaning, fear and danger were in it, and things out of control.” The only question that nags at her is how “the good and wise Germans” who wrote it can be the same people bringing terror to the skies over her head at night. Told in lush prose, describing vividly drawn gods and their worlds, this is a book that brings the reader double pleasure; we return to the feeling of reading—or being read—childhood myths, but Byatt (Possession) also invites us to grapple with very grown-up intellectual questions as well. A highly unusual and deeply absorbing book.

Search for Senna (Everworld series) by Katherine Applegate.

With a seemingly boundless capacity for imagination and humor, the author of the Animorphs series takes older readers on a journey to a bizarre world, where elements of the past coexist with the fantastical, in this first volume of the Everworld series. After his mysterious girlfriend, Senna, is dragged underwater by a gigantic wolflike creature that rises from a lake, David and three other high school students are swept into the peculiar and frightening universe of Everworld. Applegate conjures a thrilling land inhabited by trolls, a gigantic snake "the size of a derailed Amtrak," evil winged creatures called Hetwan, unicorns and a colony of crude Vikings. Taken as prisoners to the court of Loki, the Norse god of destruction, the quartet again encounters the supernatural wolf--but it seems that Senna has disappeared. When they fall asleep and find themselves back in the "real world," the four realize that Everworld is a parallel universe, and they are existing simultaneously in both places. As the book closes, narrator David and his friends have joined the ranks of the Vikings in battle against the army of the Aztec god Huitzilopoctli. Loki's treacherous castle is as gruesome as Huitzilopoctli's island is dazzling. With her blend of accessible story and mythological cast of characters, Applegate is sure to attract a host of new fans. Due out the same month is the series' second installment, Land of Loss. --Publisher's Weekly.

The Fetch by Chris Humphreys.

A boy is drawn into the violent past of his grandfather and Viking ancestors. Sky's not looking forward to a summer with his estranged cousin Kristin, until they find Grandfather Sigurd's runes in an old chest in the attic. Runecasting leads Sky to animal shapeshifting, dangerous haunts and visions of going a-Viking with his berserker forefather, Bjorn. Sky and Kristin run off to Norway on a mysterious quest, where they discover that Sigurd is neither so dead, nor so benevolent, as they'd originally suspected. Sky's lessons in unexpectedly potent violence lead him to some hard decisions. The cousins slog through overwritten prose (though some historical Viking scenes are brought beautifully to life with language reminiscent of Anglo-Saxon alliterative rhythms). Despite pacing, a compelling adventure that asks hard questions of its characters. --Kirkus.