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They are all summoned to Asgard, land of the Viking gods, and told they must go on a perilous journey to restore the gods to youth. If Freya refuses she will be turned into an ivory chess piece but, if she accepts her destiny and fails, the same terrible fate awaits her. Horrid Henry 20th Anniversary Edition.

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The Sleeping Army - Francesca Simon

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Tech news. Her mission — and she is given no choice but to accept it — is to go on a perilous quest to save the gods. What follows is a terrific journey through the world of the Norse myths, a harsh northern landscape sparkling with magic. There are encounters with wolves, giantesses and ghosts, and a chilling visit to Hel, the Norse underworld, where Freya meets the region's namesake, a goddess whose bottom half is rotting away. Freya is an engaging and well-realised stand-in for the reader, at times querulous and frightened and desperate to go home, at others showing all the courage and stamina required of the best quest heroines.

There is plenty of humour of the dark Viking kind, but that's in keeping with the Norse tradition of laughing in the face of adversity and only to be expected from the author of Horrid Henry. Children will love the banter, the darkness and physicality of the tale, and will gain insight into a religious view that certainly doesn't tell people to turn the other cheek. It will be a reasonably challenging read for them, but it's a proper children's book and original to boot.

My one quibble would be that Freya's parents aren't used enough — apart from that, Francesca Simon has certainly delivered the goods.

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