I am so absolutely thrilled to finally be able to dish about S.T. Bende’s newest release!
Genre: Upper YA Paranormal/Fantasy (Norse Mythology)
Release Date: TODAY!! April 5, 2016
Become what you believe.
Elsa Fredriksen knows there’s a thin line between love and fear. As High Healer, she rights the wrongs committed by those who choose the darkness. But even Asgard’s secret weapon can’t undo every injury—especially when her fate is completely entwined with the god she’s trying to save.
Elsa’s in love with the Norse God of Justice. But Forse’s heart is ruled by fear—fear that the past will repeat itself; fear that opening his heart will compromise his ability to do his job; fear that he’ll hurt the one girl he desperately wants to protect. Again.
When Elsa faces off against the very monster she once swore to protect, her survival depends on a power she isn’t sure she can control. And when Forse’s worst nightmare unfolds in front of him, Elsa has to decide whether it’s more important to hold the realms in perfekt balance . . . or hold on to the guy she can’t imagine existing without.
“Hold up.” Henrik held out one hand. “Where are you going? And why is Forse about to kill someone?”
We all turned to look at Forse. Sure enough, his eyes were slits, his breathing was sharp, and he had a pulsing forehead vein that rivaled Tyr’s neck one. He positively seethed anger.
“We are going to Svartalfheim,” Tyr answered coolly. The four gods in the room drew a collective gasp.
The mortal took in our reactions with practiced calm. “Which one’s Svartalfheim again?” she asked lightly.
“The worst one after Helheim,” Brynn muttered.
“It’s the realm of the dark elves,” I explained. “When the cosmos was born, the blackest souls were sent to a wasteland—a realm of isolation and soot. Svartalfheim.”
“And you’re all going there?” Mia squeaked.
“Forse, Brynn, Elsa, and I are going there.” Tyr spoke with his chin on Mia’s head. “You’re staying here with Henrik.”
“Elsa doesn’t need to go,” Forse argued.
“You of all people know how delicate this retrieval is. The perp has been a fugitive since…well, it’s been a long time. She’s being harbored by dark elves who demanded Fenrir in her place, and I have no intention of unleashing that beast again. The elves agreed to accept one of the Svartish treasures from the vault instead of the wolf, but they could very well turn on us once we get there. We need a Unifier to make sure this exchange goes peacefully. Right now, Elsa’s all we’ve got,” Tyr finished.
“Um, thanks?” I said.
“You know what I mean.” Tyr turned his gaze to me. “I don’t want to drag you into Svartalfheim any more than Forse does. I know you’re not up to speed on the peacekeeping function, and I don’t like putting you in danger. Not only are you my baby sister, but you’re a Key—you’re one of the gods we train to protect. I hate everything about this. Unfortunately, I don’t have another option.”
“I could go,” Mia offered. Her voice was shaky, but she held her head high.
“No.” Five voices sounded as one. A combination of relief and disappointment flickered across Mia’s features.
“If I’m not ready, you’re definitely not ready,” I reminded her. “I’ll get this one, and once I have a handle on this bizarre skill set I’ll pass the torch to you. I promise.”
“I’ll hold down the fort from here this time.” Mia stared me down. “But I don’t want to be on baking duty with Henrik forever.”
I swallowed. Figure this out, Elsa.
“Hey, there are worse things than baking with me.” Henrik raised an eyebrow. “I never did teach you to make my mom’s chocolate mousse cake, did I?”
Mia looked up with a small smile. “Does she use Mexican vanilla?”
“Tahitian,” Henrik countered. “And I’ve got a stash in my secret cabinet.”
“Now that that’s settled, does anyone want to tell me the name of the perp we’re retrieving from that Odin-forsaken realm?” Brynn chimed in.
I turned to my brother and waited for his answer. When he spoke, his voice was clipped.
The name fell like a lead balloon at a birthday party. Brynn’s mouth dropped open, and Henrik sucked in a breath. I couldn’t see Forse’s face, but the sound of knuckles cracking behind me let me know he wasn’t happy. I could relate.
Oh dear gods. We’re going after Runa.
The room swirled in a violent vortex, and Forse gripped my arms to steady me. As he righted me in my chair, the world slowed to a standstill. Runa was more than just Forse’s psychotic ex-girlfriend. She was the monster who committed the crime—the one that changed everything.
When I finally found my voice, it came out dry and scratchy. “We’re going after Runa.”
“Yes.” Forse watched me carefully.
“And you’re charging her with high treason.”
“Yes,” Forse repeated.
Forse kept his hands on my arms as I breathed through my rage. “Elsa, if you don’t want to go with us we can—”
“We can what?” Tyr interrupted. “We can’t let the dark elves keep her—her crime was against Asgard, and she needs to answer to our realm for what she’s done. Not Svartalfheim. You of all gods know that.”
“I’m not letting her hurt Elsa!” Forse exploded. The words echoed off the marble countertops, piercing the normally calm kitchen.
“I’m not letting her hurt anyone!” Tyr yelled back. “And the only way I can ensure that is if I bring her to Odin!”
“Enough!” I interjected. With my emotions under control, I re-opened my abilities and sent waves of calm at Forse and Tyr. Their chests continued to rise and fall with angry breaths, but their auras reflected a slight decrease in rage. It was the best I could do. “Forse, I understand where you’re coming from. But Tyr’s right. Runa needs to be brought to justice. And since that’s you”—I tapped the justice god with my pointer finger—“and since I’ve got your back whether you like it or not, I’m going with you. Tyr’s spot on; we don’t want this exchange going bad. We can’t let her hurt anyone else. I need you to have that faith in me you promised you would.”
“I believe in you, Elsa. I’ve always known you have what it takes to master this job, even before you believed it yourself. You’re incredibly powerful, and you can do anything you set your mind to. But there are so many forces working against us these days. If anything happened to you, I’d never forgive myself.” Forse pressed his forehead to mine. His concern was sweet, and normally I’d have melted into a giggling mess at the contact, but right now I just couldn’t go there.
“Let’s make sure we’re all safe then. We’ll bring Runa in so she can be prosecuted to the fullest extent of Asgardian law.” I shot Forse a look brimming with confidence I didn’t actually possess. Since the energetic fireballs shooting between him and Tyr suggested they still operated at a six on the anger scale, it was clear I was a woefully ineffective Unifier.
And I had the job of my life ahead of me.
Holy ko, this was so much fun! While the action wasn’t as all encompassing this time, it was by no means missing. Many of the scenes that were most intense were inside Elsa’s mind, or Tyr’s, and of course there were many instances where I couldn’t guess what Runa would do next but I wasn’t even sure I wanted to find out, so horrid was her disturbed soul. Or so I thought…
I would have loved to spend more time getting to know Elsa and Forse before this book, but what we do know we learn naturally, it isn’t forced upon us in a contrived way, but rather brought about through memories and conversations they share. I really appreciated S.t. Bende’s way of allowing us to find out more about the overall Aere story while still engaging us with each couple as we go along. It’s got to be completely confusing to keep such a huge story arc straight while also writing individual journeys. I’m convinced Bende’s some sort of word ninja, secretly putting together her books while no one is the wiser to her shenanigans. They’re so emotionally satisfying, even when I’m left wishing I had more to read, I never regret the time already spent doing so. I’m absolutely ecstatic there will be two more to go, I could spend all year with this crew!
Find S.T. on Twitter @stbende, her website (www.stbende.com), or Facebook (www.facebook.com/stbende). While you’re at it, introduce yourself to @UllMyhr and @TyrFredriksen — when they’re not saving the cosmos from dark elves, they love meeting new friends . . . especially the human kind.
Want to connect with fellow Norse god fans? S.T.’s readers have created a Facebook group! Head over to the RagnaRockstars page to chat with other readers, talk with S.T., and get access to exclusive content… including Ull POVs and sneak peeks at upcoming Ære Saga books!
Connect with ST Bende at:
TUR is currently available for FREE to newsletter subscribers!