“The Goddess Embraced” is a fittingly epic final to an epic trilogy (or is it the end? Will the story continue?). Despite all the characters’ efforts to avert the prophecies, the world hurtles towards Ragnarok, forcing everyone to make desperate choices, Sigrun in particular.
The world building of the series has been impressive throughout, and that continues in this book. The level of detail shown to the mythology and technology of Edda-Earth, which is one part alternative reality, one part steampunk, one part hard scifi, and one part epic fantasy, sets this series apart from your run-of-the-mill fantasy, and for me is definitely the highlight of the books. Readers be warned: this is not a short or simple work, so if the idea of being introduced to a number of Native American gods, or reading about the intricacies of physics-based spellcasting, or learning about the development of weapons systems, doesn’t warm your heart, you’re probably not going to like this, but if you DO like that kind of thing, if you enjoyed GRRM’s multinational political intrigue in ASOI&F or the detailed technical descriptions in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy, you are likely to enjoy this as well, and as someone who enjoyed both those things, I can’t recommend this book and this series enough.
This book in particular also delves into the a problem that is set up in the previous books: what does it mean to be human, what does it mean to have free will. The characters, again, especially Sigrun, spend a lot of time pondering these questions, as circumstances keep pushing them to rise above/leave behind their humanity, and do what they seem fated to do. The issues raised are complex and significant, and the characters consider them deeply, although they have a hard time coming to any conclusions other than that humanity is special because it’s special, and should somehow be different and have more rights than either gods or non-human animals, whatever that means in a world in which erstwhile humans are being transformed into both superhuman entities and the semblance of animals. For the most part the characters are of a deeply Western, rationalistic mindset–they and the book scream INTJ to me :)–and they keep running up against things that challenge this, without quite having their core convictions shaken, although giving the reader plenty to chew over.
I don’t want to give away the big reveal at the end, hints of which keep being dropped throughout the book, so I’ll just conclude by saying that if you’ve read the first two books in the series, you should definitely read this one as well, and if you’ve stumbled upon this one without having read the previous books, you should go and start at the beginning and enjoy this epic series in its entirety.