Welcome to my stop on the blog tour! I’m absolutely delighted to share my review of The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec, alongside a wonderful extract from the book.
The Witch’s Heart
When a banished witch falls in love with the legendary trickster Loki, she risks the wrath of the gods in this fierce, subversive debut novel that reimagines Norse myth.
Angrboda’s story begins where most witch tales end: with being burnt. A punishment from Odin for sharing her visions of the future with the wrong people, the fire leaves Angrboda injured and powerless, and she flees into the furthest reaches of a remote forest. There she is found by a man who reveals himself to be the trickster god Loki, and her initial distrust of him—and any of his kind—grows reluctantly into a deep and abiding love.
Their union produces the most important things in her long life: a trio of peculiar children, each with a secret destiny, whom she 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.
Angrboda must choose whether she’ll accept the fate that she’s foreseen for her beloved family—or rise to remake it.
Angrboda is a witch. When she refuses to give the God Odin visions of the future, she is burned thrice and her heart cut from her chest. But Boda has a power inside her she does not yet fully understand. And not even fire can take her life.
Recovering from her traumas, Boda flees to the Ironwood, a forest at the edge of the worlds, remote and empty save for a huntress called Skiad and the quiet pulse of nature just beyond her cave. Then one day Loki, the trickster God, finds her and returns her half-burned heart. His mind is sharp and his words are quick. Despite his brother trying to murder her, Boda is drawn to him, his wit and camaraderie. Friends become lovers, lovers become parents. Their three children are strange, monsters many would call them. However Boda loves them, watches them grow and enjoys their quiet life.
But soon she has a prophecy, of the end of everything. The worlds on fire, men and Gods alike wiped from the universe. And she must protect her home and her children from oblivion, change the prophesy, change the ending. And quick.
Boda is a woman with many faces: witch, wife, mother, healer, storyteller. As the tale unfolds, we discover new and important facets of her character, we see her as a witch, casting spells, concocting potions and remedies, then we see her turn her intelligence and ingenuity to survival, living off the land, bartering for a living. Then we see her has a wife and mother, her fathomless love for her children allowing us a glimpse of a very tender part of her heart. I adored it.
The author’s prose is superb, weaving together a thrilling yet poignant story with whip-smart dialogue and well-developed characters. I particularly enjoyed Loki’s scenes. The author has captured him keenly, his clever, witty, but often insidious mind. I also loved Skiad, a huntress who befriends Boda. These characters are so wonderful, and I enjoyed their company as if I was truly there with them in Ironwood.
I love Norse mythology, and I particularly love retellings and re-imaginings of old tales and myths. So I was excited to dive into this book. It was everything I could have hoped for and more. The author spins the old tales anew and gives a fresh, intimate and powerful glimpse at characters lost, forgotten or simply overshadowed. This is a feminist tale at heart, rich, raw, bittersweet and atmospheric. I love Boda and when the end came, I did not want to leave her.
I devoured this beauty very quickly over two days. When I wasn’t reading, I was anticipating my return to Ironwood. A sure sign of a truly wonderful book. The Witch’s Heart is a magical, breath-taking, sweeping journey, a powerful, poetic meditation on motherhood, sacrifice and survival. Highly recommend!!
She gave him a sidelong look, amused. “What do they call you, then, Sly One?”
“I’ll tell you if you show me your face.”
“I’ll show you my face if you promise not to recoil in horror.”
“I said I’d tell you my name. I can’t promise anything more. But trust me, I have a strong stomach—I was going to eat your heart, after all.”
“My heart is not so full of vile things, I promise you.” Nevertheless, she lifted the hood, revealing heavy-lidded blue-green eyes and the brown stubble of her burned hair. These had not been Gullveig’s colors, but Angrboda figured that she should leave that particular name and all its associations behind her and never mention it again.
This was a new phase in her existence. She was going to keep the witchery to herself from now on, thank you very much. No more seid, no more prophecies, no more getting into trouble. She’d already had enough of that for several lifetimes.
“And here I thought you were going to be some hideous ogress hiding under there.” He raised his hands and curled them into claws. “Angrboda Troll-woman, so ugly that men flinch away in terror to look upon her face.”
She rolled her eyes. “And what’s your name? Or do you intend to break your promise?”
“I intend no such thing. I am a man of my word, Angrboda. I’m the blood brother of Odin himself,” he said loftily, and put a hand to his chest.
Ah, there it is, she thought. She did not remember Odin taking a giant for a blood brother when she was in Asgard. But then again, that could have been centuries ago, for all she knew—she remembered very little of her time in Asgard and next to nothing from the time before that. Perhaps her strange visitor just hadn’t been present in the hall where she’d been burned.
Or maybe he was and was watching it, rapt. Like all the rest.
“And I can’t believe,” he went on, “that you would besmirch my good name by implying that I’m an oath-breaker—”
“I would have to know your name in order to besmirch it, would I not?”
“You’re besmirching the idea of my good name.”
“The idea of your name itself, or the idea that it’s a good name?”
He blinked at her and mouthed the word Oh.
“I shall make up a name for you if you don’t tell me what it is,” she said.
“Ooh, very interesting.” He wrapped his arms around his knees like an excited child. “What did you have in mind?”
“You won’t like it, that’s for sure. I’m going to call you the worst name I can think of, and use my witchy magic to make everyone else call you that, too.”
“ ‘Witchy magic’? Oh, I’m so frightened.”
“Don’t make me make you eat this,” Angrboda said warningly, holding up her cloth-
“Hmm, maybe that’s what I should’ve done in the first place.” He sat up straighter and gave her a mock-predatory leer. “Maybe I’ll gain your power. Here, give it back.”
She held it away from him when he reached for it and said, in her most ominous voice, “Or maybe something much, much worse will happen.”
“How do you know?”
“I don’t. I’m only saying.”
“Well then, I suppose I can’t blame you for wanting to hang on to it after what happened.”
“I won’t be parting with it anytime soon—that’s for certain.” She put her heart back in her lap and looked down at it. Not ever again.
A few moments passed. When she looked up at him again, he was giving her a crooked smile. She returned it hesitantly—she didn’t know what her smile looked like now, if it was grotesque or unbecoming or just frightening.
But his smile only widened, betraying none or all of his thoughts.
“My name,” he said, “is Loki Laufeyjarson
To purchase a copy of this book, you can follow the links below:
About the Author:
Genevieve Gornichec earned her degree in history from The Ohio State University, but she got as close to majoring in Vikings as she possibly could, and her study of the Norse myths and Icelandic sagas became her writing inspiration. She lives in Cleveland, Ohio. The Witch’s Heart is her debut novel.
Check out her website here.
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With thanks to Sarah, Titan Books and Netgalley for my blog tour invite and ARC, which I received in exchange for an honest review!