The Witch’s Heart By Genevieve Gornichec 2021 Penguin Random House

After being thrice burned by the Aesir, the witch Gullveig flees to Ironwood without her heart. With few memories of the time before, she takes the name Angrboda and becomes the witch of Ironwood. When the god Loki returns her heart, Angrboda enters a marriage that results in three children called monsters. She forms a close bond with two Jotun who visit Ironwood: Skadi the huntress and Gerd. After facing her greatest betrayal from those she loves the witch must use powers she lost when she became Angrboda and play her own part in the coming of Ragnorak.

This is my favorite fictional depiction of Angrboda. Most of the time she is shown as either evil or conniving (or both).  This is a beautifully written portrait of a woman with little past as she faces a brutal future. Her children of Hel, Jormungand and Fenrir are seen with a mother’s love, as not monsters but children who don’t always understand the world around them.

Loki has become quite popular in fiction, and his representations range from charming asshole to lovable trickster who makes bad choices. I would say this is one of the better depictions—Loki’s love for Angrboda and their children is plain. But he still makes bad choices.

I would have liked to have seen more of Sigyn, who is a character that moves the plot but is rarely seen herself. I dream of a novel like this in Sigyn’s point of view. Skadi and Angrboda’s relationship grows through the novel, and takes a new turn that I enjoy.

The first part of this novel I enjoyed more than the later part, although there is a nice twist at the end. Angrboda’s betrayal brought tears to my eyes.  Past a certain point for the most part it followed the Eddas. While it was an interesting take, I am honestly getting tired of fiction based on Norse paganism centered around Ragnorak. I don’t think being so focused on the world’s end is a good thing, although that would be a different post. Honestly, there is enough material in Norse lore I feel a good story could be written that doesn’t center on Ragnorak.

When a story is based on mythology/ fairy tales, I like stories with a new twist or different perspective.  The Witches Heart is the latter, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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