By Libba Bray
Holy cow! (I know, I know, lame…just had to do it). What an odd experience reading this book has been. It’s hard to summarize the plot with just a few lines, but here goes: A sixteen-year-old who contracts mad cow disease goes on a (perhaps delusional?) quest with a dwarf and a yard gnome (who is in fact the Norse god Balder) to save the universe and find a cure to his disease. Oh, and there’s a punk rock messenger angel in there too. And a magic trumpet owned by a possibly dead jazz legend. And fire monsters and a Wizard of Reckoning. And a trip to Disney World.
Bray cleverly borrows the fundamentals of the plotline from Don Quixote (complete with a Chevy Rocinante playing the part of his faithful steed), but even with the fascinating plot twists, it took me about 200 pages to really get invested in the story. I’m up for Norse gods posing as yard gnomes and quests to save the universe with pit-stops made at spring break party houses. But I was waiting to care about the characters, which took a while for me. It wasn’t until Balder arrived that I really started to enjoy the ride. And enjoy I did after that, as the adventure twisted into a journey of self-discovery, realization, and wonder.