Merry Happy Valkyrie
by Tansy Rayner Roberts
Lief Fraser has mixed feelings about returning home to Matilda, the only Australian town where it always snows at Christmas. As a TV weather presenter, it’s her job to report on the strange holiday phenomenon… but as a local, it’s her duty to preserve Matilda’s many magical secrets.
Then pretty Audrey Astor rolls into town to shoot the ultimate romantic Australian Christmas movie with her film crew. Sparks fly, secrets unravel… and soon everyone will know exactly how Mt Valkyrie got its name.
I don’t read enough books set in Australia, I’ve especially never read anything set in Australia during the festive season, so when Twelfth Planet Press released the first of their new festive novellas with a story promising Norse mythology in Australia, I knew I had to give it a try. Twelfth Planet Press are a publisher I really like, and I enjoy keeping an eye on what they’re bringing out.
Sadly, I didn’t end up enjoying this one as much I’d hoped I would.
Merry Happy Valkyrie takes place in the small Australian town of Matilda where, every Christmas, they are guaranteed snow even though the rest of the country is enjoying the summer. Lief is a TV weather presenter originally from Matilda, the town that has a supernatural secret behind all that snow, and when her bosses discover she’s from the place that would make for a perfect Christmas broadcast, she’s forced to return home with her colleague who she must keep the secrets of Matilda from.
There’s a lot about this story that I like. I love the setting, which reminded me once again that Australia is a country I neglect in my reading and I shouldn’t, and the romance at its centre is an LGBT+ romance and I love stories that feature queer women. I also enjoyed that while there is a romance in this book it’s a pretty small part of the story, and the story itself is focused more on Lief’s return home.
This novella starts out with plenty of potential, but by the end of it fell a bit flat for me. I think there was an awful lot explained to me rather than shown to me, particularly the truth behind Matilda and the relationship between Lief and her love interest, Audrey, and I was left with quite a few questions about why and how all this stuff was happening. For example, one of the side characters was used by the villain, but it was never explained why the villain chose that person or how they were able to use them in the way that they did, and the romance simply wasn’t believable to me. I didn’t feel the chemistry, and for the most part I thought Audrey was kind of horrid.
There were elements of Audrey that made her a compelling character, but there wasn’t enough time or space for me to get to know her enough for me to learn to like her. In fact I thought Lief had more chemistry with her colleague, Piper, who began to feel like a character who didn’t really need to be there as the story wore on. Considering the length of this novella, it felt a bit confused to me to introduce Piper from the beginning and then introduce Audrey half way through who, it turns out, has far more of a history with Lief. We got to know Piper a lot better, in terms of her mannerisms and the kind of person she is, and in a story selling itself as a festive romance I don’t expect to know a side character better than I know the love interest.
There was simply an awful lot of characters and lore and backstory stuffed into a story that’s only around 80-90 pages long, so I think if the story itself had been longer I would have enjoyed it more and felt less like I’d simply had a novella thrown at me with the hopes it would stick.
So sadly this one just didn’t work for me. The ideas behind it I liked a lot and this is certainly an author I’d be interested in trying again in future, but unfortunately this one wasn’t the fun, festive SFF Romance I hoped it would be.