Thursday 29 April 2021

Book Review | The Witch's Heart by Genevieve Gornichec

Publication Date: May 4th 2021 by Titan Books
Format: Netgalley ARC
Target Audience: Adult 


Trigger warnings: death, blood, violence, murder, attempted murder, abuse, pregnancy complications, death of a loved one, injury, grief


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.


My Thoughts

"If stories are all I'll leave behind when I'm gone... what happens when there's no one left to remember them? It seems to me we'll all be forgotten in the end."
The Witch's Heart is a Norse mythological retelling of the tale of Angrboda, a witch, and her relationship with Loki and the dire consquences that this relationship has that ultimately leads to the events of Ragnarök. My knowledge of Norse mythology is pretty much all taken from Marvel movies so I was very excited to be approved for an ARC on Netgalley (for the UK publication, it was published in the US in February) and to dive in to what others have described as a "compelling read".   
I've mentioned that I'm not well versed in mythology and so whilst I knew who Loki and Thor were, I didn't have a clue about their origins or the roles they played in the major events. Throughout the book I was constantly looking up who the different characters were and how these locations and objects all fit in to the narrative but I didn't mind doing it. It showed that Gornichec is extremely familiar with the original material and she's created a reimagining rather then a retelling. Angrboda, our main character, is apparently only mentioned once or twice in the Old Norse textbooks but the author has extended her story and fleshed it out magnificently all while keeping true to the source. 
Angrboda is a fierce warrior of a character with noticeable flaws but her undying love for her children is what really made me love her. What she was willing to sacrifice to protect them was so heartbreaking and emotional to read about, no spoilers but I felt like I was getting punched in the gut a few times whilst reading. Loki is not the Tom Hiddleston version you may know but he still maintains that charm and mischevious nature and his and Angrboda's relationship is complex and wrought with difficulties. I adored Skadi, the huntress, and her friendship with Angrboda was one of my favourite elements of the book, they are devoted to each other and have forged such a strong bond. Their relationship does develop romantically although it's squeezed in towards the end which was a shame as I would have liked it to have been more prominant. 
The writing has that storytelling feel to it that works perfectly with the subject matter. It's a very layered story and the author does well to build it from a love story into an action packed, epic battle between gods. The plot is tight and follows the source material well but still manages to make it feel like an original story, a testament to Gornichec's writing. I loved being thrown into the world of Norse gods and monsters, the magic is wonderful and it's just a vivid and enchanting tale. 
Apart from some slow moments and feeling slightly overwhelmed at first by all the characters, this is a captivating mythological reimagining that will leave you satisfied. A creative examination of Norse gods that displays themes of love, loss, grief and sacrifice perfectly. 
* I received an ARC copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes included in this review are subject to change. Massive thank you to Titan Books for providing me with a copy. 

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