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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Frostborn (Thrones & Bones #1) by Lou Anders

The school year starts and I crank into tornado mode whirling through checklists that leave a swath of debris in my office. Reading this story was like the eye of the storm. I ended up sneak reading in-between lesson planning, system updates, meetings, and lunch before devouring it whole for dinner. Consider yourself warned. Read this book on the weekend or when you have a large chunk of uninterrupted time. The action-packed, well-plotted story has plenty of humor and a female character that defies stereotypes. A biracial girl named, Thianna, searching for her identity along with the message to girls to embrace yourself no matter what your size makes this story rise above your average fare. Boys will like the male protagonist, Karn, who loves to play the board game, Thrones and Bones, and uses strategy learned in it to defeat his enemies. He must face responsibility and discover his strengths and passion. The Norse mythology and Viking or Scandinavian history creates a world that is easy to visualize and solidly anchored in high fantasy. The linnorm or dragon, Orm, is like J√∂rmungandr from the Norse myths and the burial mounds where Karn crosses paths with zombies or "After Walkers" are patterned after the Viking burial grounds. This will appeal to fans of Percy Jackson, The Lord of the Rings series, and The Inheritance Cycle. Don't miss it.

Thianna is the daughter of a giant and human. At seven feet tall she is about half the size of most giants with the unique ability of being fast and agile. She struggles with her mixed heritage and is not accepted by some peers her age. When her dad gives her a gift from her mom to remember her human side, he sets in motion a series of events that cause evil people to hunt Thianna. Little does she know that the gift is a magical artifact that gives great power to the owner. While fleeing for her life, Thianna discovers how her mother ended up with the giants and must decide what to do with the gift. She ends up crossing paths with twelve-year-old Karn, a human whose dad trades with the giants. Karn will inherit his father's farm and become a Hauld. This is the most powerful position a free man can become in his culture and means the farm has been in the family for six or more generations. The Vikings traded in silver and Karn receives a lesson from his father. Even though he bumbles his first trade, he shows that he is a clever person with a quick mind as he corrects his mistake and challenges the buyer to a game of Throne and Bones, a board game made up by the author. This is one example of the terrific mix of Viking or early Scandinavian history facts and fiction.

Karn gets duped by a greedy uncle because he does not want the responsibility of running the farm. This causes a series of devastating events that make him decide to flee home. While on the run he meets up with Thianna who is being chased by wyverns. She saves him many times using her strength and agility. The author uproots stereotypes and when Karn calls Thianna enormous and big, it pleases her immensely. Strength is admired among the giants and she likes that she's the brawn in their relationship saving Karn from death many times. The culture she comes from plays violent physical games and she is disappointed when Karn just wants to play board games or "bored games" as she likes to joke.

Thianna's biracial background captures what it is like to be a minority. She is part human and part giant. Her human mother has died and she is not accepted by everyone in the community. In particular, she is bullied by a boy-giant and peer named, Thudgery. She knows how to outwit him and doesn't take him seriously until he puts her life in danger due to his intolerance of her. Not only does Thudgery show that he does not respect differences, he makes decisions that threaten others in the community. His illogical actions show a deluded young bigot whose narrow-minded views limit him from reaching his potential as a human. No one changes him in the end and he takes his friends with him starting his own village. While I envisioned him as the same age as Thianna, he must be older. He's only described as a "young giant." History has many examples of harmful intolerance due to race, social status, religion, or politics. This can be a good launch for discussions on tolerance and its definition in societies. Tolerance does not mean the acceptance of bad behavior, but it does mean treating others with respect.

As others in the community sacrifice their lives to help Thianna, she slowly realizes that they do accept her for being part giant and part human. At first Thianna wants to forget that she is human and be only giant. Her anger and resentment slowly give way to curiosity. And as she interacts with humans through trading and has adventures with Karn, she realizes that she wants to find out more about her human heritage. While she knows she is physically stronger than humans and that she's saved Karn countless times, she recognizes that Karn has saved her too using his intelligence to outwit his enemies. When she takes a last name, something giants don't do, it is the beginning of her learning to celebrate both cultures and find her identity as she moves toward independence.  A good message of focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses.

For a clever character, I thought Karn was a bit naive regarding his uncle and his motives, but he did adore him and obviously had a blind spot. Karn is obsessed with the game, Thrones and Bones. As he flees with Thianna, he discovers that he assesses the situation just like in the game and that he can use strategies that are similar when dealing with dangerous people. Later he finds that running a farm can be similar to his favorite board game and that it isn't as boring as he first thought. He faces his responsibilities and learns to not resent his inheritance. Thianna still doesn't know the entire story as to why her mother left her people and at the end, she sets off to find some answers. A nice breadcrumb that will make me keep my eyes peeled for the sequel.

5 Smileys

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