Reading the Stones: A Review of The Girl the Sea Gave Back, by Adrienne Young

Scandinavia can at times seem like a harsh and unforgiving land, but people have called it home for thousands upon thousands of years.  Now broken up between Sweden, Norway, and Finland on the mainland, the Nordic people also settled into Iceland Svalbard, Jan Mayen, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands.  This is a setting which as gripped popular culture for years, with many authors choosing to pull from its rich history.  The origin of the Vikings, some of the fiercest raiders the world has ever known, they revered a uniquely flawed pantheon of gods and goddesses.  Unlike pantheons around the world, the gods of the Norse could be killed.  Their names have long since transcended folklore, appearing in everything from science-fiction anime to fantasy novels set in new worlds.  Even existing franchises once known for other settings, such as the God of War series of video games, has moved into the north.  And influence of the Norse is not diminishing.

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Jack of all Trades: A Review of The Harp of Kings, by Juliet Marillier

Folklore is ingrained in cultures around the world and is one of the most common inspirations for fantasy fiction around.  For as long humans have been curious and looking for explanations, folklore has been there to fill in the gaps.  Human minds created thousands of fantastical creatures and unique worlds, separate from our own in an effort to explain the workings of the world.  A family with an unruly child might be nurturing a changeling, while the striking of lightning might signal the fury of a grand spirit.  When items went missing in a house, there were stolen by gremlins or other creatures.  These beliefs used to be common knowledge, known to be true around the world.  But there comes a certain point in every culture when people stop believing, when the explanations for phenomena are found to be mundane.  The belief may be gone, but the influence of these stories lingers.

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A Place in Panduri: A Review of Deepest Blue, by Mindy Tarquini

The history of Italy is a history of vendetta and strife.  The time Italy has spent unified is nothing compared to how long humans have inhabited the boot.  From the fall of the Roman Empire to the establishment of the Kingdom of Italy in the nineteenth century, Italy has consisted of independent city-states, each vying for control of the land.  Even the Catholic Church became involved in the struggle when they ruled the Papal States in the center of Italy.  This long history is defined by vendettas between cities and near constant skirmishes.  The reasons for such strife were usually inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.  Little understood arguments between rival families, heirs running off with the daughters of trade rivals.  Deepest Blue may take place in a magical city sequestered from the world, but the problems plaguing the city are familiar to all Italians.

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