Choosers of the Slain (The Valkyries, Book 1)

Written by Ann Chamberlin
Review by Kristina Blank Makansi

Brynhild, a young woman from the tribe of the Angles, escapes her fate only to see her best friend die a cruel death, a human sacrifice to ensure the bounty of the harvest. Guilt-ridden, Brynhild can barely face the priestesses who come to foretell her family’s futures and is shocked when they declare she will be a Valkyrie. After this prediction, her life changes, and when Odin finally comes to claim her, she rides off without even a glance back at her childhood home. After defying the odds and surviving rigorous training, she becomes a Valkyrie only to discover that, for all her desire to follow Odin, she doesn’t always agree with his decisions about who deserves the god’s support. When another Valkyrie leaves the sisterhood for a man who is fighting for the wrong side, Brynhild is angry and confused. And when she sees firsthand the devastating results of Odin’s fickle choices, she second-guesses the God himself. Ultimately, she, too, defies him and must face the consequences of thinking for herself – and thinking like a woman.

Based on the Old Norse Poetic Edda, Choosers of the Slain offers a well-researched look at the tradition of the Valkyries. In Chamberlin’s hands, key female characters are fully rendered and easy to sympathize with. Sometimes Odin’s honorifics, author word choice, and style seemed awkward and even repetitious, but once into the rhythm of the story, I kept turning the pages, anxious to see how Brynhild would grow into the woman she is surely meant to become. Of course, with the cliffhanger ending, we’ll have to wait for the next book to see how her future plays out.