“No Longer Hidden” is a loose retelling of the Scandinavian folk tale, “East of the Sun and West of the Moon”. I was unfamiliar with that tale before reading this book, and after, I went in search of the original to see what parts held true to the fairy tale, and which were embellished by the author. I’m actually pretty pleased with the things Acquila chose to incorporate from that tale vs. embellishing vs. making up completely. In this version, the tale takes place at the end of the Viking days where the belief in gods like Odin and Thor was just as powerful as the Christian God. Both were seen as real and powerful. Our main character, Linnea, is the middle princess and a Christian and is promised to a Norwegian prince, but when he disappears, her fate is uncertain. When the evil Norwegian king casts a curse on Linnea’s youngest sister until her family agrees to let him marry her, Linnea leaves her home in Sweden on a quest to save her sister by offering herself to the Norwegian king and bring peace to their kingdoms in the process. Along the way she encounters, bandits, a helpful guide, trolls, witches, magicians, and monsters of legend. All of which stand between her, Norway, and saving her baby sister.
It’s a cute fairy tale but it does feel rather slow, which is bad for a short book. In just over 200 pages, it took me awhile to finish this as my attention wasn’t fully captured until about 70% of the way through, where things really escalated and Linnea finally faces off with her foes. The slow pacing comes down to Linnea being painstakingly shy, which makes her appear wimpy and rather weak despite the fact that she is traveling across the country pretty much solo to save her sister and her kingdom. It’s a noble quest, but Linnea was such a fearful character for most of the story, that it started to get on my nerves. She does get better towards the end, and I wish flashes of her strong spirit had been more present so that transition at the end would have felt a bit more organic. Another rather minor thing that kept me from getting swept up in this ancient fairy tale, was the modern language. I’ve read Thor and Odin retellings before, and those authors really try to capture that old world feel where these gods were still reigning supreme, using the old names for the locations and times and customs, which really helped make that setting feel real. Unfortunately, Acquila doesn’t do that for this tale. Using the modern day names for Norway and Sweden and time etc. kept me a bit aloof from the ancient world I was supposed to be entering.
Overall, the writing was presented in a simplistic manner, which fits for a children’s fairy tale, but the dialogue was a bit overly simplistic for my tastes. Haakon and Linnea sounded a bit similar, and their mannerisms too modern for me to find them believable. However, and again, this does make it work well for a middle-grade fairy tale retelling. There is violence, but it’s all fantasy based and not told in great detail, and all the romances are rather innocent, so there isn’t any mature content to worry over. I genuinely believe that “No Longer Hidden” would find great success with a younger audience and with the way the author does a great deal of telling rather than showing with what’s happening and the characters emotions, it’s easy for younger readers to understand the story and follow along with what all the creatures are who plague our characters path.
Honestly, this is a cute little story, but it was a slow read for me, the pacing not really kicking it into high gear until late in the book, and it took me a long time to like Linnea. I get it, not all princesses are self-confident, and I kind of liked that she was pressured into doing the right thing by her over powering sister, but I also wanted her to own her bravery a bit more and not always second guess herself or fidget with her braid all the time. I would have liked it if the book was written in a way that was more in tune with the time period it was trying to capture, but given that it isn’t, I think it makes it easier for readers as young as 10 to pick up and run with, which could be an excellent thing as so few of these kinds of retellings make it into young readers hands. And while the last 30% of this book really saved it for me (I really enjoyed the final encounters), it was just a bit too slow and the writing too simple for me personally which is why I am giving it 3 stars. I did like the creativity of choosing “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” as the folklore story being retold and I encourage anyone with young readers or an affinity for Norwegian fairy tales to give “No Longer Hidden” a chance. And thanks to the author for providing me with a copy for review!
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