"Move over, Percy Jackson, there's a new girl in town." Booklist
Freya is a goddess from a centuries-old mythology. And she’s about to make one hell of a comeback.
There's far more to Sara Vanadi than meets the eye. In her prime, she was Freya, the Norse goddess of love, beauty, war, and death - though that past hardly seems to matter now. For an ancient goddess in the 21st century, true believersand the strength they bringare painfully hard to find.
But when a new, rising power threatens to remake the world by bending the divine to its will, Sara realizes her days of hiding have ended, and a chance to claw her way out of the history books has arrived. She'll just need new clothes and a manicure before she gets started.
Blending elements of fantasy and scifi in a modern-world setting, this first novel in a new young adult series is perfect for fans of spellbinding YA novels inspired by history and myth.
An Imprint Book
"This series debut blends philosophy (free will, destiny, faith), humor, multidimensional characters, and a fast-moving, well-constructed plot into a compulsively entertaining read." Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Adrenaline-infused adventure." School Library Journal
"Boatloads of action, villains who are at once familiar and original in their quests for world domination, and a savvy team of multireligious goddesses make for a kick-ass adventure situated between science and belief." The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (BCCB)
About the Author
A designer and writer for over nine years, Matthew Laurence is consistently delighted that people actually pay him to make games. His career has taken him from Orlando and San Francisco all the way to Finland and now Munich, Germany. Besides playing games of all kinds, Matthew writes and cooks for fun, travels with his wife whenever (and wherever) possible, and maintains an unhealthy relationship with Netflix. Freya is his debut novel.
Read an Excerpt
By Matthew Laurence
ImprintCopyright © 2017 Rovio Entertainment Ltd.
All rights reserved.
I live in a mental hospital. I'm not actually crazy; I just like it here.
The Inward Care Center has a lot going for it. They give you clean clothes and neat foam slippers, feed you, and protect you, and nobody questions the bizarre. I can feel safe here. Sure, it's all low-grade construction, dull white walls, and linoleum. Everything smells like pine oil cleaner mixed with a hint of cigarettes, and the only breeze comes from sterile air-conditioning. But I don't live here for the scenery. I live here because it's the only place I have left in this world, the only place where they'll believe in me.
You see, I'm a god.
There you go again, thinking I'm crazy. I'm not, I swear. I go by Sara Vanadi. They used to call me something else entirely, of course, pious lips and tongues caressing the perfect syllables of my name alongside countless prayers, but that doesn't matter anymore. They don't believe in the old titles any longer, so why should I keep them? All that's left of my heyday are scattered myths and a blur of faded memories. Don't trouble yourself wondering who I was. Today I'm just a girl who wants to stay safe and hold on to the last embers of belief that she can find.
"Hey, how are you?" a baritone voice asks, interrupting my daily pity party. It's the staff supervisor, Elliot Russom. He looms over me like a mountain — used to play football before he joined the Inward Care Center — but he's a softy at heart. "I'd like you to meet our newest psych tech."
I look up from the little house I'm building out of Uno cards and into a pair of bright blue eyes. They belong to a cheery guy with a shock of auburn hair he must've spent hours getting to look perfectly tousled. Or maybe he just woke up with it, in which case he has my sincerest envy. He also looks way too young to be chasing a career in a place like this. Wonder where his life went wrong. "Hi," he says in a bright voice. "Nathan Kence. So nice to meet you, um ...?"
He wants my name. For the briefest moment, I want to give him the true one. I want him to look at me with adoration and respect, to make me feel like the goddess I once was. Was, was, was. The longing surprises me. It's been a while since I've felt that ancient ache for what I've lost. But I'll never have it again, so I say, "Sara. Nice to meet you, too, Nathan," and hold out my hand.
He shakes it, seeming perplexed. Elliot smiles — that disoriented look on Nathan's face is exactly what he wants. "You're wondering why she's here, aren't you?" he asks.
It's a common source of confusion. After all, I don't look like I belong in a crazy house. I seem young and happy, like I should be out babysitting or studying for tomorrow's chemistry test. My clothes might be castoffs donated to the ward — a too-large T-shirt decorated with the message Give Blood and faded jeans — but there's a healthy body under all that. One might even think I'm a bit on the curvy side, but what can I say? They liked their ladies a little thicker back in the day, and I was supposed to embody that ideal. No one could have predicted the body-image apocalypse to come.
Now Nathan looks embarrassed, but he has no need to worry — there's a reason why Elliot brings new staff to meet me first. "It's okay, Nate," I say, smiling. "I'm an educational prop."
Elliot rolls his eyes; I'm trampling all over his script. "Sara is the nicest girl you'll ever meet," he says, pretending he hasn't heard me. "But she's here for a reason, so there are two things I want you to understand. First, not everybody who gets committed is an angry lunatic, and second, don't make assumptions about our clients based on how they look."
My smile widens and I laugh. "Aww, Elliot, am I that misleading?"
He gives me a happy bounce of his eyebrows. "Why don't you tell Nathan who you are?"
I clear my throat and fix my eyes on the new hire. Mine aren't the sharp, striking blues he lucked out on, but they're still a captivating forget-me-not hue. They go perfectly with my silky gold hair — almost as if someone planned it that way. "Well, Nate," I begin in a sunny, clear voice, "I'm over a thousand years old. I was born in mankind's dreams and empowered by his beliefs. I'm a goddess."
His eyes widen and he grins. "I've always wanted to meet a god. So, is Sara your real name? Would I know you?"
Oh, I like him. Most new hires give me a nervous look and say something along the lines of "That's nice!" when I tell them what I am. He actually has a sense of humor.
"You've probably heard of me, but I don't give out my true name anymore."
"Well, of course not," he says. "Don't want to get mobbed by the paparazzi wherever you go."
I love it when they play along. "If only," I say, heaving a dramatic sigh. "Belief gives me strength, and doubt takes it away. If I told you who I really am, you'd know exactly who to disbelieve in, and then I'd be just a bit weaker for it."
Nathan looks at Elliot, who shrugs. "She's never told me, either. As far as we're concerned, she's Sara."
"Sara it is. Well, whoever you really are, I'm glad we met," Nathan says.
I'm about to tell him something similar when Carolyn calls to us from the nurses' station. "Ms. Vanadi? You have a visitor."
"I — I do?" I never get visitors. Nobody knows I'm here. This must be a mistake. "Excuse me," I say to Nathan, who nods and follows Elliot on the rest of the tour.
I sidle away from my table in the dayroom, careful not to disturb my growing house of cards. As I head for the main room, I catch a bit of Nathan and Elliot's chatter from behind me and smirk at its content.
"... just seems so young," Nathan is saying. "Happy, too. Fit right in at glee club, y'know?"
"Like you're any older?" Elliot replies with a deep chuckle. "I think she's at least eighteen. She has to be, otherwise she'd be on the juvenile ward."
Ha. If they only knew, right?
I walk up to Carolyn with a spring in my step, pleased to hear the centuries have been good to me. She's busy filling out patients' charts but breaks into a smile as I get close. I tend to be on everyone's good side. It's kind of my thing. "There you are. You can head into the cafeteria. I'm so glad someone's actually come to see you."
"Um, me too," I say, eyes flicking to the double doors on the other side of Carolyn's station. My unexpected visitor lies just beyond, probably sitting patiently in one of the center's cheap plastic chairs. "Do you know who it is?"
"No, sorry. Bill just stuck his head in to say there was someone here for you, that's all."
"Okay, thanks." I give the doors a wary look, then square my shoulders and head toward them. Why do I feel so nervous all of a sudden? There's nothing to be afraid of. I'm a forgotten god in a hand-me-down T-shirt and foam shoes, after all. Who's going to mess with that combination?
The moment I push through the doors, I spot my mystery guest. There are several visitors in the cafeteria today, friends and family occupying half a dozen wide tables, all chatting with loved ones of questionable mental health. Bill waves as I walk in, then goes back to his newspaper. There's only one thing out of place, and I'm certain he's here for me: a man in a dark gray suit, sitting at an otherwise-empty table.
He looks up, fixing me with his dark brown eyes, and I freeze. It's not a conscious choice — I feel like a startled deer. He's ... dangerous. A steady sense of menace rolls off him like a wave of heat, a lifetime of cruel experience at odds with the twenty-to-thirtyish years he looks to be around. Part of me wants to hide under a table, but I crush the impulse. Abandoned or not, I'm still a god. Who does he think he is, scaring me like that? I march right over to his table, pull out a chair, and sit in front of him.
"Hi there!" I say, sickly sweet.
A slow smile oozes onto his face. It's creepy on a calculated level, like he's spent a lot of time practicing it in front of a mirror. "Ms. Vanadi?" he asks smoothly.
I resist the urge to shudder. I swear, everything he does is unsettling. "That's me!" I say, keeping up the overly cheerful voice.
"Of course it is," he says. "But why deal in half-truths? After all, we're about to become close friends."
There is no earthly way I will ever become this man's friend. And this is coming from a god built around the concept of friendship, among other things. "Wonderful!" I say. "But I'm not quite following you on the 'half-truths' bit. I'm Sara."
"And yet you were committed here for claiming to be something ... more."
I want to go. This guy freaks me out on so many levels. But I plow ahead, hoping he'll decide to leave if I play the vapid cheerleader just a bit longer. "Well, of course I'm something more! I'm a god of —"
"Love," he says, tongue darting between his lips as he draws out the word. The way he says it makes my skin crawl.
"Um, yeah. Been over my charts, huh? Are you a doctor?" I know he's not. A real doctor would be talking to me in the dayroom, or maybe one of the dormitories. A real doctor wouldn't make people want to shriek if he reached out to touch them, either — and I know I will if this guy so much as lays a finger on me.
"Of course not, Ms. Vanadi. And feel free to drop the act anytime. I know who you really are. Or should I say were? My name is Mr. Garen. I'm here to extend an offer."
Is he lying? I'm so bad at telling — a trusting girl by nature, in fact — that I just assume he is. He seems the deceitful sort, anyway. "This is new," I say, trying not to let my worries show. "Most people have trouble believing they might be talking to a god!"
He sighs and reaches into his pocket. "I see you'd prefer to make this difficult. It's so rare I need to prove myself," he says as he searches. "You people tend to be chatterboxes. Are you afraid of me, sweet — ah!" He withdraws his hand, fingers closed tightly around something, and raises it over the table. He eyes me to make sure I'm paying attention, then opens his fist to release its contents. My brow furrows in confusion. It's a crumpled ball of fabric, maybe satin. There are dark stains on it, as if someone used it to clean their hands after rummaging around in a bag of potato chips.
I give him a puzzled look. He motions at the ball, encouraging me to open it and examine its contents. I hesitate, then reach out with questioning fingers, curious. Just before I'm about to touch it, I get a flash of hideous imagery, a split-second vision that sends my hand shooting back to clutch at my chest.
Blood. Cracked skin and suffering. Flesh caught between long teeth. Pain, dismemberment, and death, all inflicted with a sadistic glee that takes my breath away.
"It's a piece of Ahriman," the man explains, sweeping the ball of fabric off the table and back into his pocket. "A particularly foul Zoroastrian god we're keeping under lock and key. He's not a very big fish in this day and age, but he still has enough believers to make him quite the threat. Every part of him carries the taint of destruction, as you can see."
I'm too shocked to say anything. I can't remember the last time I've felt the presence of divinity. He's not lying. He knows exactly what I am.
The oily smirk returns. "I represent an organization of ... concerned citizens, let's say. We deal in deities, Ms. Vanadi. We contain or destroy those who would do harm, and recruit the rest. You were once —"
"What I was is none of your concern," I say, putting on my best angry face. "I don't have a clue how you found me, but I have not meddled in your affairs, and I expect you to extend me the same courtesy."
He spreads his hands and makes a token effort to look apologetic. It's about as insincere as you can get. "I'm sorry, Ms. Vanadi, but you really are quite rare. I could go into all the nice perks you'll receive, but let me break it down a bit more simply: Join us ... or die."
My mouth drops open. He's threatening me. He knows who I am and he's actually threatening me. I don't think this has ever happened before.
"Spare me the vengeful-deity act," he says, waving a hand to dismiss my ire. "I've seen it all before. Here's the deal, 'Sara.' We're well aware there's precious little anyone can do to put you down permanently. You still have a handful of believers here and there, and they'll put you back together, won't they?"
I cross my arms and glare at him.
"Of course they will," he says, answering his own question. "So this is what will happen: Accept my offer, and we'll see to it you have all the believers you need. You'll be a true god again, not some stray begging for scraps. Deny me, and we will make the world disbelieve you out of existence."
My heart drops into my stomach. I dearly hope he's lying now. Is it even possible? Sure, disbelief hurts, but it would take the concentrated doubt of thousands to erase me entirely. That means convincing all those people I exist, and then getting them to think I don't. Sounds pretty damn hard to me. "How on earth do you plan to do that?" I say, aghast at the idea.
He chuckles, and my anger returns. I really wish I had something heavy to smash that grin off his face. "Oh, you of all people should know how cynical today's masses can be," he says. "I won't get into specifics, but do you honestly think we can't find a few skeptics out there to point at you?"
I have to kill this man.
He's right, of course. This is why I don't give out my true name. Nobody believes anymore, and if this little "organization" of his has the means, then it could be the death of me. I need to strike first. My options are limited, though. My power is low. All I can do at this point is meddle with body chemistry, and getting this scumbag to feel attracted to me is about as far as you can get from my goal.
"That's it?" I say, deciding to stall for time. "I walk out of here with you for the vague promise of worshippers?"
He shrugs. "It's usually all I need to say. You're a rather desperate lot, these days."
I have to fight to keep from wincing at that. Of course I miss the age of legends, when whole pantheons rose and flourished. I miss my friends, and I miss being loved. But not enough to turn my back on what we believed in. This man seems to be forgetting that my kind valued freedom and rebellion, that we were a rough-and-tumble bunch who would rather die than follow orders from smug bootlickers like him. If he thinks he can buy my servitude, he has another think coming.
"The world's changed, and we can't follow," I say. "Look, I'll level with you: I don't want to work for you, and I don't want to die, either. I just want to be left alone. My time is past. I've been in this hospital for ..." I pause, trying to count. The Inward Care Center has been my life for so long I've seen the staff go from pagers to cell phones.
"Twenty-seven years, by our estimates," the man says. "I assume the workforce hasn't caught on thanks to your talent for emotional manipulation."
"Whatever," I say, reddening. He thinks he has all the answers. I really do hate this man. "I'm not going anywhere, Mr. Garen."
He gives me a sour look, then sighs. "You don't want to be on one of our teams? Fine. We have other uses for gods. But despite what you believe, you are coming with me. We'll just have to go about it the hard way."
He gets up and fishes around in his pocket again, but instead of the little satin ball of nightmares, he retrieves a long, thin piece of metal. It flashes briefly in the light of the overhead fluorescents, and I see it's a large needle. Bill glances up from his paper and frowns when he notices the object. I can tell he's about to say something — shoelaces aren't even allowed on the unit, for safety reasons — but before he can open his mouth, Garen holds out his left index finger and stabs it.
Instantly, the room goes silent. Every client and visitor sprawls onto the tables, limbs askew. Bill slumps forward in his chair and begins snoring. Beyond the double doors, I can hear clatters as staff and patients alike tumble to the floor. Garen just smiles, pockets the needle, and sticks his finger in his mouth to keep it from bleeding on his nice suit.
He's just put the entire care center to sleep.
"Doesn't work on immortals, of course," he mumbles around his finger before pulling it out and looking it over.
"So what does that make you?" I ask when I find my voice. The calm in it surprises me.
"Oh, I'm no god." He gives me a nasty grin. "I did say we had other uses for you."
Okay, on that unbelievably sinister note, it's time to leave. What's the plan, Sara? I look him over, wondering if I can take him. Ordinarily, I'd assume I could. I can do more than hold my own in a fight, and like he said earlier, we gods are remarkably hard to kill. I get the feeling I might need a bit of an edge this time, though. He knows too much about me already, and I'm probably not the first god he's tried to recruit. I hate to admit it, but I know exactly what's needed here. It's painful, but in my weakened state, it's the only option.
Excerpted from Freya by Matthew Laurence. Copyright © 2017 Rovio Entertainment Ltd.. Excerpted by permission of Imprint.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Twilight Dreams,
Chapter 2 The New World,
Chapter 3 False Lives,
Chapter 4 Razor's Edge,
Chapter 5 A Lovely War,
Chapter 6 All's Fair,
Chapter 7 A Different Speed,
Chapter 8 Handle with Care,
Chapter 9 Thick As Thieves,
Chapter 10 Eyes on the Prize,
Chapter 11 The Long Haul,
Chapter 12 Uninvited Guests,
Chapter 13 Little Secrets,
Chapter 14 Party Crasher,
Chapter 15 Want of a Nail,
Chapter 16 Hotfoot,
Chapter 17 Twisted Roots,
Chapter 18 Best Intentions,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Can't wait for more.
In her heyday, Sara Vanadi was Freya, the Norse goddess of love, beauty, war, and death. But it turns out gods get their power from belief and in the twenty-first century there aren't a lot of true believers left. Sara Vanadi has spent the last twenty-seven fairly comfortable years living in a mental hospital. Sure the clothing options are limited, and maybe it's not the most happening place. But it turns out it's a great option for a former goddess who needs to keep a low profile. Sara's twilight years are ruined when a representative from the shady Finemdi corporation tracks her down to make an offer: join the corporation and receive new believers or die. Sara chooses option three and goes on the run with her unwitting accomplice (and first worshiper in decades) Nathan in Freya (2017) by Matthew Laurence. Freya is Laurence's debut novel and the first book in a series. This book is narrated by Sara/Freya who thanks to her unique position as a god offers an interesting perspective on the modern world. She is also unapolgetically curvy and comfortable negotiating traditional feminine roles (she loves fashion and food) while also taking on the role of hero as she fights bad guys. These flipped gender roles are expanded further with Nathan who is comfortable taking on domestic roles and acting as sidekick while he and Freya try to take on the megalithic Finemdi corporation. Laurence begins this novel with a clever premise that is expanded thoughtfully as the book progresses. Freya explains her own origins and the internal logic of gods from her pantheon and beyond surviving into modern times (this includes fellow Norse gods, Hawaiian goddesses, some figures from Egyptian and Hindu mythology, and Jesus among others). Despite the presence of larger-than-life gods and the high action beginning, Freya starts slow with Sara and Nathan going on the run and then literally standing still as Sara explains her position as Freya (something she chooses to withhold from both readers and Nathan for the first chapters of the novel despite the title eliminating any chances of a big reveal) and gathering the pieces they will need to go into hiding with new identities. Freya uses her some of her remaining powers as a god to gather the resources she and Nathan will need but even for a goddess things come together a bit too easily. Freya is a novel that is fun and filled with action. Although the execution is interesting, the story is poorly paced with little time spent on characterization for anyone except the titular narrator. This novel will have the most appeal for readers (especially reluctant ones) who enjoy mythology and action. An obvious stepping stone for fans of Rick Riordan's novels looking for something new. Possible Pairings: Antigoddess by Kendare Blake, Temping Fate by Esther Friesner, The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton, Wildefire by Karsten Knight, Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips, The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater