“I’ve seen how the end begins.” Her voice was a hoarse whisper as the words tumbled out. “I saw everything in the Nine Worlds. I saw the Aesir, the giants, and shades and dwarfs and men. I saw Yggdrasil, and the dragon who gnaws its root. I saw a wolf so big that his jaws could swallow armies whole, and a great serpent rearing out of the water, and I saw the sun and moon go dark as the wolves who chase them finally swallow their prey, and I saw a ship crewed by dead souls.”
The Witch’s Heart captivated me from the first page. THIS BOOK DESERVES ALL OF THE ACCOLADES. I love getting a deeper, more personal look at mythological beings. This book focuses on Angrboda, a Jötunn and lover to Loki. When it comes to her story, I’ve only heard scraps, even though she was known to mother the three most destructive beings in Norse Mythology. Genevieve Gornichec brings Angrboda to life and makes her a dimensional person, more than an infamous giantess, more than the bringer of grief. Through her eyes, we also get a look at Loki. I’ve always been fascinated by him, but many people don’t have the patience and tenderness towards him that Angrboda has. We see him through the eyes of a friend, of a lover. This book shines a light on both of them that is often left out of Norse mythology.
Through Angrboda, we get to see Loki’s mischief against the Gods play out. We see the tricks he plays and his reaction to the consequences. I’ve always enjoyed Loki and thought he deserved a bit more appreciation for being as quick thinking as he is, and Angrboda appreciates him as exactly as a wife might; exasperated and charmed, all at once. In turn, Loki appreciates Angrboda, in his own way. He sees her wisdom, her strength after being a shunned woman. Angrboda has an ability to adapt and I think it makes sense that she would be drawn to Loki, and him to her. Angrboda and Loki have both been punished for being far too clever, though Angrboda is punished for being reserved in that cleverness and Loki is punished for using it for mischief.
More than just the romance and crackling dynamic between Loki and Angrboda, this is a book about the strength of women. Angrboda is shunned from Asgard, her teachings are credited to others, she’s tortured… and still she rises. She makes a life for herself, she’s survived. She thrives, creating a bartering business for herself and a home. Gornichec paints Angrboda with masterful strokes, through her writing we see a woman who is bold, able to withstand fury of literal godlike proportions. Angrboda’s known for her iron demeanor, but our author slowly unravels a tenderness at her core. The Witch’s Heart embodies the essence of femininity; a woman’s ability to adapt to her surrounding, to be steely when faced with trials, and nurturing at other times. It’s a tale of motherhood, friendship, destruction, sacrifice, and rebirth.
“I loved you then. I love you now. I will love you until I die. And even after, whatever comes then, I will love you still, even though you’re a fool and you’ve used me the same way that Loki has used you. But I suppose that makes me a fool as well.”
Though I enjoy Loki as a god, he is lacking when it comes to nurturing Angrboda. He appreciates who she is, as I mentioned before, but he isn’t the best husband. The relationship between Boda and Skadi, a huntress, is much more worthy of admiration. These two women care for each other deeply and Skadi never backs down from telling her friend what she doesn’t want to hear, but needs to hear. Boda sees Loki with rose-colored glasses and Skadi sees him more evenly. The friendship and love between these two is a true heart warmer.
When it comes to motherhood, we see Angrboda take on a role that is much like a modern day stay-at-home mother or a single mom dealing with a barely-there dad. She deals with all the hard parts; bedtimes, education, getting her children to eat balanced meals. Loki sweeps in whenever he wants and piles his kids with sweets and loves and departs just as swiftly as he came in, leaving Boda to clean up the sticky fingers and be the strict parent in comparison.
Our author has a way of including a multitude of Norse myths, sometimes in passing conversation and other times, with more focus on them. We hear so much about Loki’s antics and of course, about the prophecies pertaining to their children. There’s a healthy dose of humor mixed in, I was constantly laughing out loud or grinning while reading. There’s also an undercurrent of dread that we feel through Boda when it comes to her children’s fates. Every emotion was pulled from me and I found myself wanting books from each of our characters’ perspectives by the end of The Witch’s Heart. The heartache, the love, the fear, betrayal, and humor all came together to make a PERFECT novel. The resilience of one woman and the way she opens her heart to others again and again. Gods play their games but Boda stays steady and true to herself. I LOVE this book. This book starts steady and ends up racing at breakneck speed towards Ragnarok and the conclusion. I truly believe this will fall under my top five favorite books this year. The Witch’s Heart doesn’t simply retell the story of Angrboda, it IS the story that people will turn to for many years to come when referencing her. This is art, a true masterpiece in Norse Mythology.
The Witch’s Heart is out now. Thank you to Netgalley and Ace/Berkeley Publishing Group for the opportunity to review!