Elsker was written by S.T. Bende and first published in 2013. It’s a paranormal romance story about an eighteen year old girl who finds her destiny bound to that of a Norse God. The novel forms the first part of series and is followed by Tur (2013), Endre (2013) and Tro (2014).

Kristia Tostenson has never been the most adventurous of people. She’s quiet and has been ostracised from others in her hometown because of her strange visions. On an impulse (and with a little push from her best friend Ardis) she applies to spend a year studying at a university in Wales. She doesn’t believe it will change much but she has to do something – anything – to escape small-town Oregon and see the world.

It’s not long after she starts her Mythology course that she first meets Ull Myhr. Ull is handsome and strapping but seems to hate her. He does nothing but glare at her during lectures and Kristia has no idea what she could have done to offend him so. Yet when the two eventually talk, they immediately hit it off and a whirlwind romance follows.

Yet there is a problem. Ull is a Norse God, destined to sacrifice himself at Ragnarok to save humanity. He’s torn between his duty to his people and sacrificing his divinity to be with Kristia. Not wanting to force Ull to choose, Kristia frantically searches for an alternative. The only way that she can think of is to become a Goddess herself, yet this means she must make a difficult choice. To become an Asgardian means that she must leave her human friends behind and risk her own life at Ragnarok…

Elsker is a difficult novel to review. It’s really easy to rave about a good book and rant about an awful one. It’s a lot harder to talk about a book that was just dull. To speak of positive things first, Elsker was at least well written. The prose felt natural and had few grammatical errors. While it wasn’t greatly accurate in its portrayal of what it is like to attend a university in the United Kingdom, it also didn’t really do anything to frustrate me as a reader. That’s part of the problem. It didn’t really do anything.

There is no action in the story at all. No tension or sense of urgency. Even Twilight managed to raise a sense of threat by regularly placing Bella’s life in danger. In Elsker, there are frequent references to Ragnarok but the novel never indicates what this will entail beyond the deaths of most of the Asgardians (the only one definitely fated to die seems to be Balder but he’s still live and kicking at the end of the novel). There isn’t even any indication that Ragnarok will happen soon, as three of the Gods are idling their way through university and seem more concerned about planning their winter break.

The only vaguely threatening to occur in the story is when Kristia is visited by a dark elf. This character appears in her visions a couple of times, ominously saying that he will not allow her to be with Ull. Yet half way through the story, this character stops appearing and so nothing contests her growing relationship. It seems strange to me that this little plot cul-de-sac was even included at all. Hopefully it with have some bearing on the sequel.

If you like your romances to be slow and meaningful, this also won’t be the novel for you. To compensate for the lack of plot, the romance in this story happens staggeringly fast. After a couple of dates, Ull is already sending Kristia so many bouquets of flowers that her flat resembles a “flower shop”. Within weeks, both Kristia and Ull are so in love that each would willingly give their lives for the other. In less than a semester, they are engaged and planning their summer wedding. This is possibly the fastest escalation of events that I’ve ever read and it felt incredibly unbelievable.

It was also a bit over saccharine for my tastes. Despite the characters ages, the romance was entirely clean. There is a lot of talk about remaining pure and not putting out until marriage. Despite being eighteen, Kristia is even shy about kissing Ull. Due to the fact that the characters are at university, this all felt rather childish. There’s nothing wrong with being a little prudish but it felt a little at times like the novel was preaching abstinence as some kind of high virtue, which seems to go against the fact that half the cast were essentially thousand year old Vikings.

The characters in the story were also fairly typical. Kristia was the perfect Mary Sue with powers that she initially thought to be a hindrance but rapidly prove to be vital to the defence of Asgard. Ull is the brooding deity who seems reluctant to let Kristia do what she wants because he perceives the need to protect her. The most jarring thing that I found about their relationship was that they never listened to each other. Not even once.

As soon as she finds out that it’s possible, Kristia jumps on the idea of becoming a Goddess (perhaps being a little keen to leave her friends, family and human life behind). Yet Ull will not allow her to do this because he does not want her to meet his fate at Ragnarok. On the flip side, Kristia wants Ull to retain his status as God of Winter (and his fate at Ragnarok), even though Ull seems pretty adamant that he would be far happier to live out a mortal life. What kind of future is there for two people who can’t even come to an agreement about where they will live? Were it not for the emergence of a handy prophecy to resolve the debate in the final few chapters, would the two have remained fixed in their opinions until one of them died?

I don’t really have anything more to say about this story so I’m going to wrap up now. While not a terrible novel, Elsker is just so bland that it’s forgettable. It borrowed a lot from other popular paranormal romance stories but lacked any sense of threat or drama. The eBook is currently free on Amazon if you’re curious but there are far better novels in the genre out there. If you’re looking for a Viking themed romance story that’s a little different, try reading Julie Anne Lindsey’s Prophecy instead.

Elsker can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook from Amazon.co.uk

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