Published: February 9, 2021
Publisher: Ace Books
Pages: 368 (Hardcover)
My Rating: 3.5/5.0
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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.
I was totally unable to resist a book where Loki falls in love with a powerful witch named Angrboda. Loki is a mythological figure that just about everyone is familiar with – the trickster god, shapechanger, and mischief maker. Angrboda on the other hand, is mentioned only once in mythology (the Prose Edda) where she is described as the mate of Loki and mother of monsters.
This particular re-telling or interpretation begins when Angrboda goes by another, older name and falls afoul of Odin because she refuses to teach him any more of her magic. She is burned at the stake three times and her heart is torn from her chest. Because she is an ancient and magical being, she survives this horror and flees to a dead wood. Loki returns her heart to her and she places it back inside her own chest. Thus begins the unusual love story of Angrboda and Loki. While she recovers in her cave, Angrboda befriends the huntress Skadi and they remain close and each a source of comfort for the other. Angrboda bears three children over the course of many years – Hel who is half dead, Fenrir the wolf, and Jormungand the world serpent. They are part of a prophecy that brings about Ragnarok.
Honestly, the book doesn’t focus a great deal on the prophesied Ragnarok until quite late in the book. Up until that point, it’s just Angroboda living her quiet life, waiting on Loki to show up to visit, and each time he leaves another child is on the way. Skadi doesn’t know who this mystery man is for many years, though she holds quite the grudge against both mystery man and Loki. Loki is my least favorite character in the book and it’s not entirely because he’s an absent father figure and not great husband material. He just doesn’t feel quite right in the context of the story even though he is the trickster. Loki just doesn’t seem to mesh with the style and tone of the book (in some instances worse than others) – it almost feels like forced comic relief that utterly fails at being humorous.
Overall, I found this to be a pretty good story that had surprisingly emotional moments. I actually teared up a bit at one point! The love of a mother is well illustrated even if certain other elements fell a bit flat. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how much I loved the deep lore and mythology of the book as well. I am entirely a sucker for Norse or Viking inspired fantasy books and it was great to get one where the main character isn’t one of the well known gods or goddesses.