For nearly thirty years, a young girl named Sara Vanadi has lived at Inward Care Center, a mental hospital, telling anyone who'll care to listen that she's actually a god.
And she's right.
Sara is actually Freya, the Norse goddess of love, beauty, war, sex, magic, and a bunch of other stuff nobody worships her for anymore. Humanity's skepticism and her failure to maintain her religion have left her weak and jaded, which is why she's consigned herself to lying low and scraping by on the handful of followers she can find. It's a pretty crap existence, but it beats facing the enormity of her failure, so she's found a degree of contentment in it.
This all comes crashing down the second Garen, a god-hunter working for a shadowy organization called Finemdi, pops into her life with a job offer. Sara soon finds herself on the run alongside a bewildered orderly named Nathan, her desire for freedom bringing her up against an unbelieving world, corporate gods, and the pitfalls of modern fashion.
The first novel in what appears to be an ongoing series, Freya features a mash-up of magic, philosophy, comic book action, and - through its heroine - a different perspective from the standard YA protagonist, in that gods don't think quite like regular people.
Due to its focus on deities, expect a ton of God Tropes.
Tropes featured include:
- All Myths Are True: Well, at least as far as gods are concerned. There aren't any vampires or other supernatural creatures, but it seems like all gods and any things they're directly associated with (magical artifacts, servants, etc.) have existed at one point.
- Attack! Attack! Attack!: Gods - particularly Sekhmet - seem to prefer this approach to combat. Since they know they'll just regenerate any normal injury, they don't see losing large hunks of their anatomy as anything more than a mild inconvenience.
- Beat It By Compulsion: How Finemdi operates. They know gods are creatures of habit - they have to be, since they match the beliefs of their worshippers - so their entire strategy for dealing with them revolves around exploiting this predictability. Of course, this backfires spectacularly when they cross paths with Freya, since she's become so jaded she can flat-out ignore the demands of divinity, allowing her to surprise them.
- Beyond the Impossible: Inverted. Freya's incredibly weak, but it turns out this actually allows her to do things most experts considered impossible, namely resisting the demands of her divine portfolio in order to backstab her foes at a later date.
- Bilingual Bonus: When Izanami, the Shinto goddess of creation and death kills her warden, she says "Anata no shi wa watashi no yume desu," with no translation provided. Those who know Japanese will realize she's saying, "Your death is my dream."
- Blessed with Suck: All gods have this, if you read between the lines. They've been around for thousands of years and learned enough to generally know the best course of action, but they have to pick the one that matches their nature, even if they know it's a bad idea. This means that anyone who knows their obsessions can use them as a means of manipulation - which is exactly what Finemdi does.
- Blood Knight: Sekhmet, full stop. Freya used to be this, based on a few offhand comments she makes.
- Blood Lust: Sekhmet again.
- Blue and Orange Morality: A lot of gods have this, Freya included. For instance, when Freya abuses her magic to essentially steal luxury items, she mentions feeling bad about it, but not because she's taking something that's not hers - she's offended she has to use her powers at all, as it implies she doesn't deserve those things for free to begin with.
- Chekhov's Gun: A whole bunch of them. There's the piece of Ahriman Garen shows Freya, right at the start of the story, which leads to her seeking out the spot it teleported him and ensures she runs into Samantha Drass mid-escape. Finemdi's space-warping magic comes back when Freya realizes she can break it to kill Impulse Station, and their interconnected shortcut doors come back when Freya uses one to dump lava all over Gideon Drass.
- Chekhov's Volcano: Played with. While you never see an actual volcano to start, Pele mentions creating them is her favorite skill, and it actually gets used as part of Freya's plan to destroy Impulse Station.
- Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Basically the foundation of the book's approach to gods. Belief defines them, physically and mentally, and this is discussed, played with, and even used - particularly by Finemdi - as a tool.
- Convection Schmonvection: Averted. Once Pele's volcano gets going and Impulse Station begins to sink, Freya specifically points out how hot the place starts to get.
- Crossover Cosmology: Oh yeah. Besides Freya, who's a Norse god, the book contains references to a wide variety of pantheons, including the Greek, Egyptian, Aztec, Shinto, Irish, Zoroastrian, and even Gaulish faiths, among many others.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Sekhmet calls this out specifically as a trait of most "evil" gods, in that humanity believes in redemption and balance, to point where even terrifying beings can have an important purpose... except Apep.
- Deadpan Snarker: Garen, especially in the second half of the book, though Freya and Nathan have their share of snark.
- Death of the Old Gods: Basically what's crippled Freya and wiped out a lot of her compatriots - we just don't believe in them anymore.
- Divine Date: Averted. Despite a few nights on the town together, Freya and Nathan remain platonic friends at the novel's end.
- Divine Parentage: Garen, as well as a large portion of Finemdi's special operatives.
- Double Entendre: The only way Dionysus knows how to communicate. Nearly every other thing he says to Freya is one of these.
- Fatal Flaw: The defining characteristic of all gods, Freya included. They have to obey the requirements of their divine portfolio, even if they know better (though Freya is able to bend the rules a bit, thanks to her lack of followers).
- Femme Fatale: This is Tlazolteotl, the Aztec god of sex and sin, to a tee.
- God Is Flawed: Definitely. Nearly every god Freya meets has issues, and she's right up there with them.
- God of Evil: A few are mentioned, though the only one we get a real glimpse of is Apep, at the very end.
- Gods Need Prayer Badly: The plot revolves around this one. When people believe, gods get stronger. When they don't, they weaken. This is why Freya is so fragile when we meet her at the novel's start - nobody follows her anymore. However, the book does introduce a twist on this concept, which is Freya's discovery that once a god is formed, they can empower themselves on more than direct belief; if they inspire emotions or actions in mortals that fit with their divine portfolio, gods can get a bit stronger for it. Freya uses this to her advantage at Disney World, feeding on the love and adoration of park visitors, though it does run her into Dionysus, who's been doing the same thing on a much larger scale.
- Hair of Gold: Freya again, also by design.
- Healing Factor: Gods get this one in spades. When they're injured, their bodies immediately start reforming based on whatever image their worshippers hold for them (and the more they have, the faster it works). No word yet on what happens when you vaporize one, though we see Freya regenerating missing chunks of her torso without missing a beat.
- Hot God: Freya, of course, but also Tlazolteotl, to her great annoyance.
- Idiosyncrazy: Some of the more single-minded gods fall for this one, and can drive mortals in similar directions, at least if we go by what Garen says.
- Immortality: They're gods. Unless they can be disbelieved out of existence or injured enough without the worship needed to regenerate, this one's a given.
- Immortality Hurts: This one shows up more through Fridge Horror than anything else, though we do see a touch of it with Nantosuelta's eternal suffering in Finemdi's ghastly Hybridization Lab. If you're able to restrain someone that constantly regenerates and can't die, things can start getting very gruesome, very fast.
- Jerkass Gods: Freya meets plenty, and admits to being a bit of one herself.
- Kill the God: Not an easy task considering how resilient this world's gods are, but there are some fairly strong hints Finemdi can pull it off, and by the end of the novel, Nantosuelta does end up killing herself.
- Lampshade Hanging: At the end of the novel, when everyone starts wondering if Samantha survived, Hi'iaka points out she's not the sort to die "off-camera".
- Love Goddess: Freya.
- Mad God: Dionysus, though he manages to suppress it in one scene.
- No Such Thing as Wizard Jesus: Averted, surprisingly enough. Freya straight-up discusses Jesus as a fellow god, which hardly seems contentious... until you realize a major plot point is that gods are shaped and influenced by humanity's belief in them, which isn't quite how Christianity plays it.
- Only Sane Man: Garen. While his superiors are happy enough to bring Freya on-board, he's the only one who thinks she's faking submissiveness in order to double-cross them all. He's right.
- Rage Against the Heavens: Finemdi's made an entire industry out of this, and it's essentially Garen's life.
- Really 700 Years Old: Freya says she's over a thousand years old, though she looks like a teenager. It's hinted that there are plenty of gods a lot older than her, too.
- Really Gets Around: Averted. Freya's reputation is all about this, but she's able to hold off in order to focus on more important matters.
- Red Herring: Samantha gives Freya an artifact that can stun gods and break spells. It even shows up later, when Garen finds it as he's going through her purse, but it never plays a role in the final confrontation. Makes sense, in that it would hurt Freya the most, but still.
- Running Joke: Freya finds herself thrown through an awful lot of walls in the course of the book, to the point she actually calls it out. Her inability to enjoy a steak dinner pops up a couple of times, too.
- Someday This Will Come in Handy: Freya's knowledge of Impulse Station's teleporting doorways is what allows her to finally kill Gideon in the book's climax.
- The Gods Must Be Lazy: Averted. Gods are directly involved with trying to get as many worshippers as they can and crushing anyone who tries to muscle in on their territory. We don't see a lot of this conflict, though, in part because Finemdi's been trying to squelch it for centuries.
- Urban Fantasy: A YA version, but it fits.
- Valkyries: Freya refers to a part of her personality (the bit obsessed with war, vengeance, and violence) as this.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: At one point, Nathan starts wondering why Freya can't seem to take the threat of Finemdi more seriously. She admits that mortals just don't register as problems to her on the same scale as other gods, which is, in the modern age, a very dangerous assumption to make.