Book Review: THE WITCH’S HEART by Genevieve Gornichec

Title in red on black next to knotwork heart
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: Standalone

Synopsis:

Book cover for THE WITCH'S HEART: title in red on black above a red knotwork heart

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. 

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Review:

Norse mythology, particularly Ragnarok, has been retold a lot – the complex tangle of myths and stories that contradict each other from so many people retelling it over the centuries is a web that draws many writers in. THE WITCH’S HEART chooses to focus on Angrboda, a seer and witch who also happened to be Loki’s wife (one of them) and the mother of monsters who play a crucial part in Ragnarok.

I loved seeing it from the perspective of a woman who’s often a footnote in the stories. I’m not usually big into character-centric stories as I really like bit, complex plots and moving parts with lots of action to keep track of, however the tangle of Angrboda’s relationship with Loki and her children was so good. While her drive to protect her children was central to her story, she was so much more than just a mother or a wife. She was a woman who had suffered and wanted a simple life (despite her mess of a husband throwing a spanner in the works every time, and often unintentionally because Loki.)

Her life, the day to day living, the fear and determination to protect her children, the conflict of emotions and interests brought on by Loki’s frequent arrivals and departures, took centre stage. The large events of myth happen off page, related back to Angrboda by one of her friends, or Loki if he has to hide from the consequences. It actually helped heighten her fear, because talking about the events brought the world a little closer, let the threat of Odin (and frankly, half the gods who get progressively more threatening as pieces of Ragnarok are revealed or Loki annoys them) in but disrupting the peace and calm Angrboda has fought to create.

Now, I’m not a student of Norse mythology, but I know there are a lot variations out there. I don’t know if it’s part of the myths or not, but Angrboda starts off with a different name, and later on gives a lot of different names to people when asked. It felt like a really fun nod to the fact that, with mythology, often the same events can be attributed to a half dozen people.

As for Loki, imagine if Marvel/Tom Hiddlestone’s Loki was let loose to do all the chaotic mess he creates in myth – both charming and infuriating (yet still in a charming way most of the time) all at once. It was so obvious why Angrboda fell in love with him, and also why her friend Skadi was constantly threatening to chop off his balls. The tragedy was inevitable, but there was still this hope that he wouldn’t break her heart.

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