Saturday, November 23, 2019

REVIEW: Runed (book) by Kendall Grey

Runed is Norse mythology-inspired urban fantasy with comedic elements.


When Loki wakes up naked and encased in ice, the last thing he remembers is Ragnarok. Much has happened since then, because his body is now that of a mortal human woman, he no longer has any of the runes that gave him his powers, and Huginn, one of Odin's ravens, is a ragged chicken. (I will be using male pronouns throughout this review because Loki indicates multiple times throughout the book that he still thinks of himself as a man, right down to his choice of which public bathroom to enter. Speaking of which, content warning: there's some brief transphobia in that scene.)

The person who finds him and takes care of him is Gunnar Magnusson, an archeology grad student who's due to fly back to the US soon. Gunnar doesn't believe that Loki is really a god and is concerned about leaving this obviously confused person behind, but Loki turns out to be pretty resourceful. The end result is a road trip with Loki, Gunnar, Gunnar's rich stoner friend, and Huginn the chicken.

This was one of my Book Bonanza purchases. I don't think I originally intended to buy any of Grey's books, but she was part of one of the panels I attended, "The Outliers," and my ears perked up when she mentioned her "Loki returns in the body of a human woman" series. Then came several whirlwind hours of walking around, buying books, and getting autographs. I almost forgot that I wanted to visit her table and, thankfully, remembered just in time. I spent the last of the cash I brought with me on this book.

I bought a lot of books at Book Bonanza without actually checking any reviews. Maybe not the best idea. My biggest concern about this book was that it'd turn out to mostly be sex scenes. To my relief, that wasn't the case - although Loki was interested in Gunnar and very much enjoyed learning about vibrators (there's one on-page but not terribly detailed scene in which he uses one), Runed is definitely urban fantasy and not paranormal romance or erotic romance.

Loki's complete lack of knowledge about modern times and, in the beginning at least, modern languages made for a bit of a rough start, but I liked Loki's "voice" and Gunnar seemed like a nice guy. Then Gunnar left for his flight and the story abruptly shifted into high gear. Loki accomplished a lot in a very short amount of time, and he and Huginn were lucky they didn't end up dead.

Loki was generally a fabulous train-wreck, and I enjoyed finding out what he was going to do next. Freddie, Gunnar's rich stoner friend, didn't particularly appeal to me but still worked well as part of Loki's little group - I could believe that he'd follow someone like Loki, if only for the entertainment factor, and his money and car came in handy. Gunnar was a bit more difficult. I liked him, but I had a hard time believing that a responsible guy like him would do all the things he did, particularly near the end of the book. The only way I could even vaguely get him to gel as a real character rather than a convenient plot device was to view him as the sort of person who tended to be a passive follower, prone to ending up in the orbit of wild people like Freddie and Loki.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the next book and am hoping that the revelation at the end of this one doesn't result in some personal growth backsliding on Loki's part. Also, here's hoping that Loki doesn't try to ditch Gunnar for stupid reasons, that Gunnar gets more of a chance to shine, that Muninn gets a speaking role, and that Grey doesn't insert a love triangle into the series. Considering Loki's reaction to Darryl Donovan and my suspicions about his identity, I have a feeling that I'm not going to get my wish on that last one, unfortunately.

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