I actually listened to this one as an audiobook from Audible.com to give myself a break during our read aloud time. Narrator Shea Taylor is a wonder. The way he creates a distinctive voice for each character and flips between them so effortlessly left me in awe. Seriously. I really enjoyed listening. Unfortunately, I’m such an extreme visual learner that I miss a lot when I only take in info through my ears. So after listening with my boys, I’d sneak off and reread the chapters.
Funny enough, I was a little apprehensive going into this one only because my brain resists when it enters a world not familiar to me, where the rules all change. Such is the case in the two other books I’ve read by Brooks. I always struggle with abstract Otherworld settings. But in Valhalla, the Otherworld is akin to our Middle Ages. It’s comfortable. It’s solid. I’ve studied a lot of history, and stepping into this book felt like stepping into a world of times past that I love so much, only with magic. The world building was one of my favorite elements.
Another is the trio of heroes. Aaron comes from our world, so when he befriends Bran and Rosella, some great moments of humor arise. Yet they all find a common denominator in simply being kids, and they keep a tight friendship despite some, uh, shall we say undesirable circumstances? For the three of them are each keepers of a piece of the all-powerful Stone of Valhalla, which the Goblin King will do anything (and does!) to claim for himself.
Samarlidi the crotchety old wizard (love him!) and Klara, an equally crotchety old lady, make for a great secondary plotline. The dialogue between them is filled with snarky comments that sometimes made me laugh out loud. The plot is well thought out, with some twists and turns I didn’t see coming. And as for style, I give this one bonus points. There are some lovely, poetic moments, yet Aaron is so darn unassuming that his point of view adds an honesty and innocence to the thoughts being presented and magnifies their beauty.
This is fine literature, suitable for ages 9+. I give it my absolute highest honor by bestowing a Squeaky Award. It is among the few and proud.
Grab a copy! Kindle editions are only .99, and audiobooks are currently an amazing 1.99.