The Serpent & The Dead by Anna Stephens

An extraordinary duo of Asgardian Heroines battle across the Ten Realms, in this epic fantasy adventure set in Marvel’s Legends of Asgard

In the midst of a bloody conflict, Lady Sif, the valiant Asgardian warrior, watches her close friend die in glorious battle – but her soul is not taken to the eternal halls of Valhalla. Furious and petrified that the afterlife for her and all Asgardians is in peril, she enlists the aid of Brunnhilde the Valkyrie, the fearsome warrior entrusted with conveying worthy souls to the heroes’ afterlife. Together they scour Asgard for answers. Rumors abound of towns being attacked by a horde of soldiers who cannot be killed. Someone is building an immortal army and stealing Asgardian souls… A worthy challenge for two of Asgard’s mightiest champions!

Gosh these cracking books are coming thick and fast aren’t they?

This is another one that I thoroughly enjoyed and couldn’t get enough of! In fact, I devoured this in two sittings as I could just not put it down until it was done with it.

The Serpent & The Dead is the latest addition in Aconite’s Legends of Asgard series set in the Marvel Universe written by Anna Stephens. 
I have to say that prior to this, I had read Anna Stephen’s The Stone Knife, and with this book she had firmly cemented herself as one of my favourite authors who writes complex and rich narratives, so I was immediately drawn to this book to see what she could produce in the Marvel Universe.

And boy, was I not disappointed!

I am so glad that I read this book as it showcases Anna Stephen’s versatility as a writer and perfectly compounded why I have so much admiration for her writing. 

The Serpent and the Dead is a pacey Action/Adventure story featuring Lady Sif and the Valkyrie Brunnhilde in a tale of friendship, mystery, and action. 

From the very beginning we are thrown headlong into the story as we join Lady Sif in the middle of a battle sequence. When the book initially opens Lady Sif is engaged with giants in a skirmish in another part of Asgard. However, the giants are not behaving as they normally would and seem to be targeting certain individuals, one of these being Lady Sif’s friend, Gyda. Ultimately, Lady Sif’s comrade and friend is killed. But, for some inexplicable reason, her soul is stolen from her body at the point of death, and is whisked away to somewhere that is not Valhalla.

Obviously, this leaves Lady Sif pretty distressed, as all souls who die in battle are promised eternity in Valhalla and her mate did not transcend to the Hall of the Gods. In a bit of a state, she asks Brunnhilde, the leader of the Valkyries to check out whether her friend is where she should be. 

When Brunnhilde discovers that Gyda is not sitting in the halls of Valhalla quaffing ale and mead, she investigate the reasons for this and also finds a deeper mystery. This is not the first time that this has happened, and it seems to be occurring undetected with alarming frequency. As a result, Lady Sif and Brunnhilde are thrown together to unravel the mystery of the missing souls, and the main culprit is obviously our friendly neighbourhood trickster, Loki.
What follows is a journey through Asgard, and subsequently to Jotenheim, to discover who is responsible for stealing the souls of the Asgardians before they die. 

Whilst this is set in the Marvel Universe, the settings of the book feel like classical Norse Mythology. We get to see what is outside of Asgard and how the people of that realm live as Sif and Brunnhilde, along with Brunnhilde’s partner Inge follow the breadcrumbs to solve the mystery.

As I said earlier, the book shows Anna Stephen’s versatility as a writer as she comprehensively builds the world outside of Asgard and adds her own flourishes, for instance when the party go to Meadowfall or to the jump gates. 

Be prepared, this is an action book, and it never lets up from the beginning, swiftly moving from one battle scene to another without giving you pause for breath. And this is one of the things that stands out in the book. Anna Stephens writes blood pumpingly good action sequences. I had seen many examples of it in previous books, but The Serpent & The Dead shows her skill at this magnificently. There were many a time that I was reading I found that I was holding my breath till I got to the end of the sequence that she was writing. 

Add to this her skill of writing characters and relationships with such depth and clarity they virtually walk off the page, everything just clicks together.

And somehow, whilst the book is nonstop action, Anna Stephens manages to fashion a relationship between the three women, getting across the deeply loving relationship between Brunnhilde and Inge and form lasting relationships with the characters without it being contrived or mawkish is absolutely stunning. Throughout the book, the relationship between Sif and Brunnhilde grows and is central to the plot. And let’s not forget, they are all badass.

As the book reaches its climactic plot, you do get some inkling of the fact that things are not what they seem, as Anna Stephen’s does give some hints. 

However, I am not one of those people who sit there being all smug, saying that I had figured it out. I didn’t! And I am glad I didn’t as it would have spoiled the cracking ending. 

If you want supersonic action and adventure, you won’t go far wrong picking up this little number. 
The Serpent and the Dead is available now!
As Always, thank you for visiting the site
And happy Reading!


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