Frostborn by Lou Anders is a middle grade fantasy inspired by Norse mythology with a refreshingly balanced gender representation of both main characters and secondary characters. Frostborn unfortunately slipped on some of the usual middle grade problems such as being overly simple in plot and writing, but it could still make for an enjoyable read for the target age range. Adults who enjoy reading some middle grade, however, may be less impressed.
Note: I received an advanced copy of Frostborn from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.
Frostborn by Lou Anders (Thrones and Bones #1)
Published by Random House Children's on Aug. 5th, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, MG
Page Length: 352 pages
How I got my copy: NetGalley
Amazon - IndieBound - Book Depository - Goodreads
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Meet Karn. He is destined to take over the family farm in Norrøngard. His only problem? He’d rather be playing the board game Thrones and Bones.
Enter Thianna. Half human, half frost giantess. She’s too tall to blend in with other humans but too short to be taken seriously as a giant.
When family intrigues force Karn and Thianna to flee into the wilderness, they have to keep their sense of humor and their wits about them. But survival can be challenging when you’re being chased by a 1,500-year-old dragon, Helltoppr the undead warrior and his undead minions, an evil uncle, wyverns, and an assortment of trolls and giants.
- The world of Frostborn never clearly links up directly with Norse mythology, but it has a definite flavor of ancient Norse to it. The names of characters and regions borrow letters and phonemes from Norse myths and it even has frost giants!
- Thrones and Bones is the series name, but it is also a game that one main character, Karn, absolutely loves to play. I really enjoyed finding the complete and detailed rules for how to play Thrones and Bones at the end of Frostborn so that enthusiastic readers can give it a try.
- Frostborn starts off with a note from the author discussing his goal of writing a story that would appeal equally to boys and girls and I think that Frostborn succeeds at that. The cover doesn’t strike me as being aimed at either group and there are main characters, secondary characters and villains in pretty much equal proportions of men and women. The gender roles of the main characters are also turned around a bit since the girl, Thianna, is half-giant and therefore much stronger and larger than Karn.
- The dragon that appears on the cover of Frostborn does not disappoint! On top of him, there are also some pretty awesome wyverns that become even cooler as the story progresses.
- The beginning of most chapters had some lovely artwork and I assume that there will be artwork for each chapter in the finished copy. I really like this style of middle grade illustration :D.
- So Thianna is a half-giant, but it is her father that is the giant and her mother that is the human. Her father is described as being 18-feet tall. No baby giants appear, but logic does not work with a human woman giving birth to a half-giant. There certainly could be magic or storks involved in giant reproduction, and I completely acknowledge that middle grade readers aren’t likely to be thinking about this logical flaw. However, I’m a firm believer in middle grade stories still holding to basic storytelling logic and this was quite the stretch (literally?).
- Karn is pretty obsessed with Thrones and Bones which is kind of like Chess but with different movement and capture rules. At first I liked the strategies from the game reflecting on Karn’s real life struggles, but that didn’t last. The game analogies became horrendously overused and again rather nonsensical (where the real life strategy really didn’t have anything to do with a strategy in the game).
- There are two scenes in Frostborn that felt like they were ripped directly from Disney’s The Lion King and Tolkein’s The Hobbit. The Lion King scene even had three laughing minions to stand in for the hyenas….
- The writing of Frostborn ended up feeling rather bland. The jokes fell flat instead of being delightful, the characters weren’t charming and the world wasn’t enchanting.
By the end of Frostborn all I could really do was shrug and acknowledge that if I knew a middle grade reader who was really obsessed with Norse mythology and had read everything else I could think of, I might hand them Frostborn just to tide them over. I can see the series becoming something I would greatly enjoy, but only with noticeable improvement in subsequent books. If the premise sounds awesome, go for it, but if you like your middle grade whimsical and beautiful, Frostborn probably won’t cut it.
Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
Frostborn by Lou Anders
© 2014, Anya. All rights reserved.