The Witch’s Heart

I know very little about Norse mythology. In fact, to an embarrassing degree what I do know comes as much from Marvel movies as anything else. But that gave me enough to know that a witch in a long relationship with Loki would probably have an eventful life.

Angrboda, the witch in question, is the main character of Genevieve Gornichec’s novel inspired by Norse mythology. Angrboda is mentioned in the Norse Eddas and, based on my small amount of reading, Gornichec is building on the little bits of presented available about her as the mate of Loki and mother of monsters.

As the book begins, Angrboda has just come back from the dead at the hands of the Aesir (i.e., Odin and the o,ther gods). She retreats to a cave in the forest where she eventually encounters Loki, who comes and goes, much to the annoyance of Skadi, a huntress who loves Angrboda and takes care of her when her husband will not or cannot. As Angrboda raises her three unusual children, she finds that her connection with Loki and his place as Odin’s blood-brother makes a quiet life, safe from the Aesir, impossible. And then there are the prophetic dreams.

The middle section of the book puts Angrboda in a state of dreamlike wandering, with Ragnarock always on the horizon. The section was perhaps the least easy to enjoy, but, on reflection, it was effective at showing the passing of time and the general weirdness of Angrboda’s situation. And there is a lot of weirdness in this book, as is appropriate for a book inspired by Norse myth. This is a story where a guy gives birth to an eight-legged horse and everyone just pretty much shrugs.

Not being familiar with these stories, I had a good time seeing how they unfolded, and I’ve enjoyed looking up some of the characters to see where the author got her inspiration. I’d recommend this book to people who enjoyed Madeline Millar’s Circe and similar retellings of myths. This seemed like a much loopier story to me, but I think that could be because the stories it’s based on were new to me. I’ve heard about Circe enough that the weirdness feels pretty ordinary. Not so here.

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2 Responses to The Witch’s Heart

  1. Ruthiella says:

    I remember a little bit about her children from Gaiman’s Norse Mythology which I listened to a couple of years ago. I wonder if the less I know about the original myths the better a novel based on them will work for me. I didn’t much like Circe but I loved The Song of Achilles and I wonder if familiarity was the problem in part.

    • Teresa says:

      I wonder how much of an effect familiarity would have. In the case of Circe, I felt like Millar expanded on the known story enough that it wasn’t entirely predictable, but I don’t know how much that’s the case here. From what I’ve read, I think she combines a few characters to create Angrboda’s storyline.

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