Author: Genevieve Gornichec
Narrator: Jayne Entwistle
Audiobook Length: 12 hours 4 minutes
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.
The Witch’s Heart takes familiar characters from Norse Mythology and transforms their story into an original tale. Angrboda (or Angrboða) is known as the “one who brings grief” and “mother of monsters,” along with many other names/descriptions. She is mentioned in the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda. Genevieve Gornichec takes what could have been a simple retelling and gives it new life. The characters were all given just enough depth to balance them between being realistic yet still mythical. Bits and pieces are placed in history and modern tales, even going as far as to be somewhat featured in the God of War video games, but the full tale is not known. The author did a fantastic job of creating a story that belongs among the other “full” tales in mythology.
Angrboda is a witch that has died many times and yet she still lives. She resides in partial isolation as she has her friend, Skaldi that she became closer with and looks out for her. She ends up becoming acquainted with Loki. The two of them have excellent banter and eventually become married. They have three children together that are not human. The first is Hel, the goddess of death, who is half-dead. The second is Fenrir, a wolf, and the third is Jömungandr, a serpent. Loki comes and goes between his life with Angrboda and Asgard. His personality is both enjoyable and frustrating as you would typically expect Loki to be. He makes a ton of mistakes, yet you still feel for him in a way, which makes him an interesting morally grey character.
The story starts off slower as we are introduced first to Angrboda and her general life. We see Skaldi and get to know some of her backstory where she is a huntress and wants revenge for the death of her father. (We get to know even more, but it is better to read it as to not spoil anything.) We are then transitioned into Angrboda’s life with Loki before each child is introduced one by one. It is not fast-paced throughout and instead is more of a steady uphill climb to reach a more dramatic peak once the main events happen and are set into motion. For me, it was a little difficult to become hooked with the slower start, but I did find myself connected to the characters and wanting to learn more. Angrboda’s love for her children is phenomenal as the world may see them as monsters, but she loves them all the same and would do anything to protect them.
The three children are believed to bring about Ragnarok. For those who watch Marvel movies, there are some similarities between the two versions of the same event. Angrboda wants to protect her children, but she might not be able to forever. A chain of events is set into motion that increases the pace of the story as Ragnarok and the fate of the children hang in the balance. The style of how the author built up the events reminded me of The Song of Achilles, where the ending is prophesized, but it might not have a happy ending involved. The choices the characters make along the way could either change the course or could end up exactly where they thought they were going to be in the prophecy.
The writing is poetic yet accessible and is just overall written very well. As I did listen to the audiobook version, I found that the narrator, Jayne Entwistle did a great job. I was unsure of her style at first, but you soon find yourself not being able to picture the story without her voice. I will admit that I sped up the reading a little at the beginning, but I did slow it back down to “normal” speed once the events began to pick up. Another thing that harder to get into was the book is divided by parts with long sections and not in the more traditional chapters. The story still flowed well, so it was not a huge issue. I love the character growth in this novel and it made me very curious to read more from this author!