Since no one in their right mind would say no to fourteen free books in their favourite genre, I couldn't resist picking up the Gods and Mortals collection on Kobo. Mythology and urban fantasy are two great loves of mine, and I always love seeing how other authors explore the genre. The first novel in the collection was Elsker, the first novel in S. T. Bende's Elsker Saga. I knew going in that the novels in this collection would be the first books in the start of a series, a way to tempt readers to buy the rest of the series and support the author(s). I love that idea, am thinking about doing it myself, and really thought I could get into Elsker Saga the as a whole. Sadly, that didn't happen. The novel wasn't bad, but I felt that it lost momentum and became increasingly predictable. I didn't feel the danger the story was trying to convey, something that's important when you write a saga. There were some high points, but not enough to convince me to buy the other books.
|Definitely like the scaled colours and the text. A hot-looking Ull isn't bad either.|
Kristia Tostenson prefers Earl Grey to Grey Goose and book clubs to nightclubs. But when she transfers from her one-stoplight Oregon town to Cardiff University in Wales, she falls in love with Ull Myhr. Her new boyfriend isn’t exactly what she was expecting. His cashmere sweaters and old world charm mask a warrior who's spent an eternity fighting for his very existence. Ull is an honest-to-goodness Norse god — an immortal assassin fated to die at Ragnarok, the battle destined to destroy Asgard and Earth. On top of being marked for death, Asgardian law prohibits Ull from tying his fate to a mortal. No matter what she feels for Ull, Kristia knows she's the one thing he can never have.
With Ragnarok on the horizon and a lunatic haunting her dreams, Kristia has to find a way to convince Ull that breaking the rules is the only way to survive; that defying the order he's sworn to uphold is their only chance to be together. And when someone starts asking the wrong questions, Kristia realizes the crazy visions she's had all her life might be the key to saving their realms... even if they end up costing her her life.
Frequent readers of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and Young Adult romance will find this story very familiar. A young woman enters a new life and finds a handsome, mysterious stranger watching over her with more power than she realizes. While I really have read that story a thousand times already, I can cut the familiarity some slack because I can likely get invested enough in the story to see how the genre trope is altered/changed to adapt to a new story and world. I'm a reader who cares about details and subtle differences to turn said trope into something new and unique, which I might not of found had I quit the book because it was cliche.
That being said, this particular story moved way too slow for me. It was littered with details that didn't have any relevance to the story, simply being there to lighten the mood or show a passage of time. I really didn't care about Kristia's fashion designer friends, and was bored by her calling her best friend to talk about an irrelevant play or to get advice on her latest guy troubles. While we were introduced to some important characters and eventually got to the path that will lead Kristia to her destiny, it took forever to reach that destination. The only time we really see any action is in Kristia's visions or dream sequences. And the villain? I can't tell you who he is, why he up and disappears halfway through the book, or why he isn't truly threatening Kristia or Ull. The book was all introductions, and no actual action.
The characters? I hate to say it, but they were pretty stereotypical. We had the spunky, curious, strong female lead, the mega-hot, broody, mysterious love interest, the loveable, loyal friends, the over-bearing father figure, and the creepy villain when he decided to show his face. That being said, I did like the main characters. Kristia was a good person to view the story from, and Ull, while he started off being a creepy stalker, did have a big heart and was a true romantic, though I really didn't like how secondary characters made him out to be a grim lone wolf without giving us any current context to back that statement up. They definitely had a fairytale romance, and while overly sweet, considering the last novels I read, it was a nice reprieve.
But I think my biggest problem with Elsker was the lack of true conflict. Any problems Kristia and Ull had were repeats of their same argument or solved a few chapters later. Novels are carried on conflict. The more problems your character has to solve, the stronger they (and the book) become. Like I said before, there was little by way of action. Maybe it's just me, but I prefer my paranormal romances to come with heaps of cosmic danger. I love mythology, and I find it very hard to take these deities seriously when they're not exercising supernatural muscle at every turn.
Personally, this series was not for me. That being said, if you're looking for an easy-going novel with a soft heart, or are wondering what Thor would be like if he were less macho and more romantic, Elsker is for you.