The time is now, but the world is more than a little different. The United States were settled and established by Scandinavians who worshipped the Norse gods--who are very real and very active in the world. And so you get Tessa Gratton's new series, The United States of Asgard, and the first book, The Lost Sun.
The Lost Sun is narrated by teen Soren Bearskin, born a berserker like his now-dead father, who is seeking ways to keep his innate berserker rage under control--or get rid of it entirely. When a new student, Astrid, daughter of a famous seer, comes to Soren's boarding school, he is instantly drawn to her, and she to him. Soren tries not to make too much of it, until tragedy strikes: Baldur, god of the sun, doesn't come back to life after his annual ritual death. People all over the United States begin panicking. Astrid tells Soren she has divined how to find Baldur and foreseen her and Soren's role in finding the lost god. And so they run away from school and begin a road trip across New Asgard to find the lost god and return him to his father, Odin.
But of course, things don't go smoothly. Their quest is beset by run-ins with bullies, conflicts with trolls, and collisions with both prophesy and the politics of the gods. The Lost Sun is all about painful choices and the ways our pasts and the expectations for our futures impact how we grow up. Soren is haunted and burdened by the death of his father. Astrid is famous because of her mother, but she's also overshadowed by her mother, as well as driven to get closure on her mother's mysterious disappearance. Both have had their futures prophesied, both have roles they're expected to play, and the weight of their pasts and their divined futures drag on their need as young adults to make their own lives.
I liked The Lost Sun a whole heck of a lot. For an alternate history fantasy, it's very down to earth, almost gritty at times, a road trip down the back roads of a strange America that never was or will be. But it's also laced with delicious poetry and mythic magic. It's mysterious and epic. Tessa Gratton manages to balance these aspects perfectly, creating the first in what will clearly be a terrific, enchanting series.