Retellings of mythology are having a moment it seems. The Witches Heart by Genevieve Gornichec appears to be this at first but it is so much more. Gornichec weaves together the loose threads of Norse mythology that have passed down to the present, creating a woven tale as thick as nalbinding (an old technique of knitting with one needle). The Witches Heart tells the story of Norse mythology not from the perspective of the gods but from the perspective of one unexpected—Angrboda, mother to Hel, Fenrir, and Jormungand. A woman who wanted nothing to do with Odin and the gods after being burned thrice and her heart plucked from her chest. It is only when Loki returns her heart rather than eating it, that the long tale of Ragnorak and the Norse gods begins. The rich prose mimics an oral tale, grabbing you at the beginning and carrying you along like a boat on a river. I loved the descriptions of Angrboda and her children with the joy, worries, and sorrow all present. The world may think of them as monsters but in the end, they are her children and she their mother. She feels nothing but unconditional love for them even as the end of the world comes and they play the roles delt and pressed upon them. The Witches Heart presents the rich world of Norse mythology through the eyes and words of a witch mother and it is ever stronger for it. There is little I dislike of this book, having devoured it within two days like the great wolves devour the sun and moon. The tagline of the book is “Men die, gods die, she lives on.” It fulfills it with a twist. The ending is bittersweet bringing tears to the eyes even as one rages at the injustices of death. Why must this one die while this one lives? Why must the end of the world come? Why must one bear children only for them to die? What is the point of life if one is not remembered in some way? Folk tales allow one to live on beyond their mortal death, resonating through time like waves. That is the very purpose of mythology with gods and goddess battling in other planes of existence while mortals worship and believe. The Witches Heart is a grand entry into the genre of mythology retooling and the burgeoning interest in Norse mythology once again. If you liked Circe by Madeline Miller, Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman, or Natalie Haynes’ The Children of Jocasta, then this is the book for you to choose next.
When a banished witch falls in love with the legendary trickster Loki, she risks the wrath of the gods in this moving, subversive national bestselling 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.
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.
"A deep journey into the mists of the ancient Norse world of gods, monsters and humans, who shape shift from one to another. But the heart of the story is a witch’s passage over many lifetimes and the ultimate sacrifice she makes for those she loves. A timeless tale of great power and artistry."--Margaret George, New York Times bestselling author of The Splendor Before the Dark
“Ms. Gornichec subverts the mythology from inside, knowledgeably and provokingly. Whatever the Elder Edda may say, the heroines of The Witch’s Heart will not be a delight to “wicked women” alone.” --Tom Shippey, The Wall Street Journal
“Rich and artfully woven, The Witch’s Heart takes the familiar tales of Norse Mythology and tells them from a fresh, honest perspective… Angrboda is an unforgettable heroine, and The Witch’s Heart a debut to be reckoned with.”--Hannah Long, author of Hall of Smoke
"The Witch’s Heart is a unique novel that transforms the faceless names of an epic tale into living, breathing, sympathetic characters. With a witty and spirited protagonist, this book will surprise and delight from beginning to end."—Louisa Morgan, author of A Secret History of Witches and The Age of Witches
"As epic as it is engrossing, The Witch’s Heart is a testament to the ferocity of one mother’s love and the lengths she’ll go to protect those she loves. Utterly unforgettable.” —Alexis Henderson, author of The Year of the Witching
"This fascinating novel approaches Norse mythology from a brand new perspective; here old villains are now heroes, and the motivations of gods, giants, and witches are rarely what they seem... Gornichec plumbs the depths of what we will endure for family, belonging, and meaning, and traces the limits of love, friendship, and vengeance."--Linnea Hartsuyker, author of The Half-Drowned King
"Angroboda's story is a delightfully nuanced, queer, and powerful reminder of love and survival on your own terms. Read this book when the world is ending; read this book when you are looking for the world that comes next--I'm so very glad I did." - A.J. Hackwith, author of The Library of the Unwritten
"Intense and magical...The sense of place and real physical needs of the characters created a grounded, beautiful world, which made the more fantastical elements of the story feel all the more realistic. The prose was stunning and the protagonist someone I wanted to spend all my time with...I will enjoy re-reading this book for years to come." --Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
“A retelling of the Norse legend from the viewpoint of a woman often left in the margins, this book deserves to be a classic. For readers of Madeline Miller’s Circe and the Marvel version of Loki.” – Library Journal (starred review)
“A feminist reimagining of the Norse myths surrounding Ragnarök…melding together the wide range of Nordic legends, this is a story of tenderness and betrayal, friendship and loyalty, family and monsters, beginnings and endings. Offer this beautiful reimagining to fans of Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology (2017) and Joanne M. Harris’ Loki novels.”–Booklist (starred review)
“Gornichec’s spellbinding story breathes life into a minor character from Norse myth, delving into the complexities of Angrboda’s familial relationships and the lengths to which she’ll go for both love and vengeance. This powerful fantasy is sure to win Gornichec many fans.” – Publishers Weekly (starred review)