Review: The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec

I admit the cover for this one caught my attention immediately. Just lovely.

I LOVED this book. If you like Norse mythology and/or witchy novels, go get this immediately. The only reason I wasn’t done in a day was I started reading it on a family vacation, which meant putting it down to do silly things like hang out with kids in the lake or eating with the fam. I may have stayed up way too late a couple of nights to read, though.

The Witch’s Heart starts with the main character’s burning at the stake. She’s been burned at the stake a few times by Odin and the other Aesir, because she refuses to comply with the Allfather’s orders. So of course I love her immediately. After the most recent murder, she changes her name to Angrboda and retreats to the edge of the Ironwood to hide from Odin and get her strength back. Angrboda doesn’t remember her past before she was the witch who taught Freya and Odin the secrets of magic, but there are clues of an ancient past in the Ironwood and in the old stories that hint at her power and influence for thousands of years. She has two visitors while hiding in her cave on the edge of the world: first is a giantess who helps her create a livelihood and make a new life. Second is Loki, who gives back the heart Odin stabbed out and builds a friendship with her. Loki’s relationship with Angrboda influences the rest of her life as well as the rest of the world, because Ragnarok is coming and Angrboda is…influential.

I’m a huge Norse mythology nerd, and this book hit every button for me. I loved re-reading the full Ragnarok story from Angrboda’s point of view, and I loved that despite the complicated relationships she’s in, she’s ultimately true to her own destiny and won’t compromise for anyone.

Gornichec brought a giant from the Norse pantheon to life in The Witch’s Heart. Her writing is clever, emotional, and occasionally funny as hell. She found ways to organically add in translations of the Old Norse words and names without it feeling like an “as you know Bob” to the reader. I laughed out loud when Boda chastises Loki, “we are not calling our son ‘awesomely powerful magickal stick'”.

The Witch’s Heart is nominally a Ragnarok retelling, but in substance it’s the story of Angrboda’s life. Witch burned thrice for her independence, wife betrayed, mother deprived of her children, woman who finds her way back to remembering how powerful she really is: Angrboda may be my favorite character in quite a long time. This is a multiple re-read book for me, and I can’t recommend it enough.

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