This story is rooted in a disagreement between the gods of the Norse and the gods of the Plains Indians. But the cooler heads of the metaphysical world have decided that the good old ways are counterproductive, and have decided to short-circuit the old violent methods of their contemporaries by inserting an element of negotiation into the mix.
Enter Naomi, plain, normal human being, trying to make her way through life as a lawyer, but not really suited to the cut-and-thrust of the legal profession. Her decision to become a mediator makes her perfect for the astral job. The gods, as usual, play out their drama using the other characters in the story as their avatars. The fun part is that two of the characters are Loki and Coyote, who play the trickster role for their respective pantheons. This leads to some entertaining antics, and contributes to the playful feeling of the conflict. The other characters are well fleshed out and sympathetic, and a vein of gentle humour runs through the book.
But perhaps you can see the problem with a plot where the main character is a mediator; it is not likely to create a great climax for the story. The moment the daggers are drawn (figuratively speaking) and the male egos start splashing around the room, Naomi puts on her mediator’s hat and calms them all down. Which is as we wish affairs would turn out in the real world, but it doesn’t make for great battle scenes.
Likewise with the romantic side of the story. Naomi is a calm and undemonstrative sort who allows herself to be inveigled into an association she really doesn’t seem to enjoy with the representative of the opposing side in the conflict. So there isn’t that much pain when she is rescued from his clutches, and the relationship with her new love comes about so naturally that there is little sexual tension there, either.
So what we have is a gentle New Age fantasy, in which even the harshest of the Old Gods can be persuaded to sit down and air their grievances in a civilized way, if only the right woman can be found to help them control their rambunctious male egos.
It isn’t much of a spoiler to reveal that by the end of the book the first skirmish has been averted. But the next battle – this one to bring Jehova back into line – is about to begin. The all-destructive war of Ragnarok has not been prevented. Plenty of scope for Naomi’s mediating talents; the Pipe Woman Chronicles contains four more books.
When it comes to handing out stars, I think they are meant to combine two different opinions: how I reacted to the book, and how I think the average reader will react. So, while I enjoyed this book immensely, I think most Fantasy readers will find it a bit low key and in need of a notch more tension and excitement. Highly recommended for the gentler, more thoughtful sort of reader. Four stars out of five.