Author – Genevieve Gornichec
Pages – 368
An emotional, spell-binding story that hits you right in the feels – strong women and expertly woven Norse Mythology pull you into a wonderfully unique tale in which your own heart goes through everything the titular one does.
The Witch’s Heart is the first book on my blog to be awarded with the phenomenal rating (see above – it’s my way of giving something a super 5 star). I don’t give this rating lightly and only expect to give it once or twice a year tops! This book is beautiful.
And so is the cover, though that doesn’t impact the rating. This is such a wonderfully written book with powerful themes and such a feeling of magic and mythology, when you finish it you just want to wrap yourself in a blanket like, “now what do I do?”
A Woman’s Strength
Genevieve Gornichec has done an incredible job of this Norse Mythology
retelling original story. I believe this is the first book to really focus on Angrboda as a main character and she’s been really brought to life here. I honestly love the character Genevieve has created.
That’s pretty fortunate, then – we are with Angrboda almost all of the way through the book, so it was essential she be a likeable and relatable character – as much as an ancient witch can be of course.
What I absolutely adore about Angrboda is that she’s a badass protagonist, but her strength comes from her love, her passion, her determination against adversity, her understanding and tolerance, her forgiveness and morality, her selflessness. She’s someone who will fight tooth and nail for those she loves and make any sacrifice necessary. No matter how many times she gets knocked down, she keeps moving forward. I believe in Angrboda and the resilience, love and the struggle against a world engineered against her, we can see a metaphor for many women, especially mothers. It is admiration rather than sympathy we feel most strongly towards her, and it reinforces an admiration for the womens’ experience in general.
It isn’t a prerequisite to know Norse Mythology in order to enjoy this story. There’ll be a lot of readers who will relate to a mother’s love or simply enjoy the fantasy elements, but I really must emphasise that having prior knowledge really takes your enjoyment to the next level.
You don’t have to be an expert (I’d recommend Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology for a short, accessible and entertaining introduction to the stories) but having that understanding of the mythology just enables so many brilliant moments in this book.
There were several times when my face lit up with a smile because I loved the way Genevieve approached the mythology, or her take on some of the aspects within them. Especially towards the end of the book, this interweaving of the mythology is done so cleverly you can’t help but applaud in your mind as you read.
You can also tell that an awful lot of hard work and effort has to have gone into making the story coherent when running alongside the mythology and that’s something I’m convinced other readers familiar with the mythology will be particularly impressed by. It’s one thing to dream up and work on an original story. It’s another to have that story abide by existing guidelines within the mythology, running parallel and intertwining with your own story. That’s whilst also putting your own spin on those events. That is a huge challenge! And Genevieve is successful here on all counts. I guess what I’m trying to say is it just feels so professionally put together and planned.
The Witch’s Heart is unlike many other Norse inspired stories. There are few axes, no Vikings, no real action sequences. Even a particularly well known mythological battle is only summarised. I would personally have loved to see the author’s take on this battle in a little more detail as I think she could have burnt your already burning heart to a crisp in doing so – maybe it’s a good thing she doesn’t then afterall?
With this in mind, if you are looking for an edge of your seat whirlwind of action, despite featuring the likes of Thor, it might not be the read for you. But this isn’t Thor’s story.
Characters to Fall in Love With
What you will find is a tremendous amount of heart, emotion and a refreshing approach to Norse mythology, where the silenced women in the background come to the forefront, where the author makes you feel Angrboda’s desperate love for her children; monstrous to some, but perfect of course to her.
Speaking of whom, I really enjoyed watching Hel, Fenrir and Jormungand grow, and witness their origin story to an extent. It’s through Angrboda and her children that this bucks the recent trend set by Marvel of the Aesir Gods as these cool heroes and reminds us that those on the other side of their pride, envy and wrath have a very different experience indeed.
I also like that Loki is portrayed as a very grey character here. He’s not completely misunderstood – he has a tremendous amount of faults and the more you begin to love Angrboda the less you will end up loving Loki – the ultimate man child. Despite this there is depth to his personality and who he is and some readers will still take his side whilst others will hate him. A sure sign of a well written character.
The best character and a stand out hero of the book in my opinion though, is Skadi. The mythological huntress adds her own impactful elements to the book that really fit well into The Witch’s Heart and Skadi’s position in the mythology. Genevieve plays on Skadi’s existing story- turning up at Asgard armed to the teeth to demand recompense for the death of her father – and maintains that aggressive passion that provides both heartwarming and humorous moments, aswell as serving to mirror what we as the reader are often feeling, or shouting at the page!
Witch’s Reader’s Heart
By the end of The Witch’s Heart, I’d have ran through a brick wall for Boda. I’d become attached to the warmth of this crackling fire, a story worthy of the Skalds. It had became a comfort read, despite not always feeling particularly comforting! The last few pages would be read preferably with a furry pet and/or loved one to grab hold of, for the ending is written so beautifully, with such melancholy and bittersweet words, I got goosebumps. A book’s never made me feel like that before.
The Witch’s Heart is one of my favourite books, one I’ll treasure, and look forward to reading again, wrapped up in a blanket with a hot steaming mug, preferably around a hearth fire in a tiny old pub.
This is the definitive tale of Angrboda:
Genevieve Gornichec’s Norse Saga.
The Witch’s Heart is out now in the US & Canada. It will be released in the UK on 4th May, and is available to pre-order now!
When a banished witch falls in love with the legendary trickster Loki, she risks the wrath of the gods in this moving, subversive debut novel that reimagines Norse mythology.
Angrboda’s story begins where most witches’ tales end: with a burning. A punishment from Odin for refusing to provide him with knowledge of the future, the fire leaves Angrboda injured and powerless, and she flees into the farthest reaches of a remote forest. There she is found by a man who reveals himself to be Loki, and her initial distrust of him transforms into a deep and abiding love.
Their union produces three unusual children, each with a secret destiny, who Angrboda is keen to raise at the edge of the world, safely hidden from Odin’s all-seeing eye. But as Angrboda slowly recovers her prophetic powers, she learns that her blissful life—and possibly all of existence—is in danger.
With help from the fierce huntress Skadi, with whom she shares a growing bond, Angrboda must choose whether she’ll accept the fate that she’s foreseen for her beloved family…or rise to remake their future. From the most ancient of tales this novel forges a story of love, loss, and hope for the modern age.