A MelanieM Review: Valhalla by L.A. Ashton

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

 

Sakuma has served as a Valkyrie for centuries, smoothly escorting thousands of souls to the grand halls of Valhalla. While the world tears itself apart during WWII, he is summoned to retrieve the soul of a fallen Japanese soldier, Ishii Hiroshi. To Sakuma’s surprise, Ishii refuses his invitation to eternity.

The two meet again and again as the war repeatedly sends Ishii to death’s door, and what should have been a fleeting encounter becomes something much greater for the both of them.

Sakuma is determined to give Ishii the reward he so deserves, but Ishii’s stubbornness may condemn him to an eternity outside Valhalla.

I was lured in by this synopsis, a Valkyrie  sent to summon a soul of a soldier who refuses to die, believing his duty is not yet over.  And the emotional part of this story absolutely won me over.  The bond that grew between Sakuma and Ishii was powerful, based on a shared beliefs, and background even though they were centuries apart.  I found their relationship deeply moving and at the end, it had me in tears.

What kept this story from 5 stars was missed opportunity because, honestly it came close.    Ashton chose to have two Japaneses warriors as their main characters, both of which were shining examples of bushido, also known as “the way of the warrior”, a code of conduct for the samurai, which Sakuma was prior to his death.  In some ways, it is a way of life that both men exemplify to the core.

So why on earth do you mash that up confusedly with Norse mythology?  Surely with all the richness of Shinto major and minor kami, plus some from Buddhism or Taoism, why would you need to twist the maiden Valkyries of Odin  into “integrated” new Valkyries of both sexes. The argument here is because Valhalla had so many new bodies and souls the maidens couldn’t handle them all. Seemed specious and I never bought it. So many holes in this one from people from different religions being sent to a place where the gods of one religion (not theirs) rule.  That part, plus well Valhalla and the Norse religion with Japanese men who were deeply part of their country’s culture if not their emperor and the politics of whatever era they came from (July 7, 1937, to September 2, 1945 the invasion of China by Japan for Ishii).  It never felt like a good fit.  More like that puzzle piece someone kept jamming in that section because they needed it to fit there, rather than because it actually did.   No, for me, using Norse mythology in the place of Bushido and the Shinto religion was just a missed opportunity, especially with the well constructed Japanese main characters so essentially Samurai.

As it is, I still recommend Valhalla for the relationship between Sakuma and Ishii, two soldiers separated by duty and centuries and death.  It’s amazingly touching, watching Ishii persevere over and over battle after battle is heartbreaking and the ending is incredibly moving.  For this amazing romance alone I will be seeking out more stories by LA Ashton and recommending that you read Valhalla by L.A. Ashton.

Cover Art: Natasha Snow.  I love this cover.  Moody with the soldier outlined in the background and the light above which could either be a bomb blast or a Valkyrie.  Perfect.

Sales Links: 

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 68 pages
Published December 31st 2018 by NineStar Press
ASIN B07L9GSLGS

On the New Release Tour with Valhalla by L.A. Ashton (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Valhalla

Author: L.A. Ashton

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: December 31, 2018

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 17900

Genre: Fantasy, Valkyrie, war, WWII, Norse Mythology, gay, historical fantasy

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Synopsis

Sakuma has served as a Valkyrie for centuries, smoothly escorting thousands of souls to the grand halls of Valhalla. While the world tears itself apart during WWII, he is summoned to retrieve the soul of a fallen Japanese soldier, Ishii Hiroshi. To Sakuma’s surprise, Ishii refuses his invitation to eternity.

The two meet again and again as the war repeatedly sends Ishii to death’s door, and what should have been a fleeting encounter becomes something much greater for the both of them.

Sakuma is determined to give Ishii the reward he so deserves, but Ishii’s stubbornness may condemn him to an eternity outside Valhalla.

Excerpt

Valhalla
L.A. Ashton © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Sakuma stared down through the floor, past his feet, through the crack in his dimension. Beyond the collisions and splits of galaxies, Earth’s thrumming pulse called to him. There lay his charges—the human souls he would collect so they might rest easy in Valhalla.

He felt the tug in his chest, the pull of someone destined for his collection, and spread his wings wide before plunging through the rift that linked their worlds. With wings tucked at his sides, stars became burning streaks of light. The universe blurred and twisted, an orb of hazy blue its only clear constant.

Earth had erupted into a time of war, and Sakuma and his fellow Valkyrie labored for the sake of human souls. They saw the hidden crevices and shadows of war no one wanted to see. The world wilted before their eyes, and the bloodstained present turned the future bleak, and dark. But they also saw triumph, and sunrise after sunrise starting the day anew. They saw the look on every soldier’s face as they realized death wasn’t the end.

It was worth it.

Sakuma punctured Earth’s atmosphere, and the smells of the lands and seas gusted against his face. His eyes softened at the reflective sparkle of the ocean; it was a beautiful sight, an unchanging thing that rose and fell under the press of the moon rather than the press of humanity.

The ground approached fast. Sakuma felt the tremble of the soul before his eyes could discern who it belonged to, but then—yes. Sakuma’s wings flared outward, body halting so immediately it dissolved the idea of impossibility.

Tanks, empty bullet shells, and discarded guns were strewn across the ground. Machines and bodies littered the battlefield as if they carried the same value. The acrid stench of gunpowder resisted the wind and hung in the air, a trail left in the wake of Axis and Allies. Sakuma looked down at his charge. The man stared up at him, eyes wide and unblinking. He was bleeding, his uniform more crimson than not, and he shook with such ferocity that Sakuma could hear it in his breaths.

Sakuma knelt down and offered his hand. The man blinked, his lashes coercing loose the tears still clinging to his eyes.

“You’ve done well,” Sakuma told him. He held his outstretched hand steady as his wings flapped at his back. “Let’s take you away from this.”

The soldier gawked at Sakuma’s wings before bringing his eyes down to the offered palm. He immediately grabbed hold, the sensation firm and warm against Sakuma’s skin. Good. He’s ready.

Sakuma curled his fingers around the man’s hand and lifted. As the soldier rose, the flesh of his hand fell away and lowered to the ground. What was left gripping Sakuma’s hand were tendrils of light in the purest, lightest blue.

Strings of energy knit together to form fingers, and arms and shoulders wound away from the confines of a body to become iridescent limbs. Sparkling light ghosted from the soldier, lifting past his body as his human form sighed its last breath. The human didn’t notice the transition. He only smiled, and that smile was lit with the radiant energy of life. Sakuma grabbed his other hand to steady him, and there was a discernible purr of peace.

Sakuma spread his wings, took a breath, and shot them into the air.

He kept his eyes up as they sailed through the Earth’s sky and broke through the seal of the atmosphere. But once they were careening through space, breaking apart time and dimensions, he liked to watch their faces.

Every man thought he knew true beauty. And then every man saw the infinite expanse of space, and they realized they’d been wrong.

Gas, dust, and rock were turned perfect and ethereal in the silence of space, backlit by millions of stars. Galaxies wound into spirals, blues warmed into reds around a sun, purple and green congealed in overheated leftovers of a supernova.

Sakuma watched the faces of the humans he brought, their newly transcendent form experiencing their first taste of eternity.

Eventually, he left them at the gates of Valhalla. There they could take the seat reserved for them—a place promised to true warriors for the rest of time.

Hands now freed, Sakuma turned to gaze into the black. Somewhere beyond that void, there was a pulse. Another life had found a heroic end. Sakuma smiled, spread his wings, and plunged back toward Earth.

Purchase

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Meet the Author

L.A. Ashton is an LGBT+ author writing LGBT+ fiction. They enjoy rock music, traveling, and anything else that adds color to their daydreams. They believe in the healing properties of art and of having a cat firmly stationed on one’s lap. Their official site can be found at http://www.LAAshton.com.

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