Review: The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky

39603796This one came to my attention through a bit of word of mouth, and it sounded absolutely intriguing! So, I couldn’t resist having a read of it.

So, many thanks to the author, as well as Redhook via NetGalley for the review copy!

A young Inuit shaman’s epic quest for survival in the frozen lands of North America in 1000 AD.

Born with the soul of a hunter and the language of the gods, Omat is destined to become a shaman like her grandfather. To protect her people, she invokes the spirits of the sky, the sea, and the air.

But the gods have stopped listening, the seals won’t come, and Omat’s family is starving.

Desperate to save them, Omat journeys through the icy wastes, fighting for survival with every step. When she meets a Viking warrior and his strange new gods, together they set in motion a conflict that could shatter her world…or save it.

The Wolf in the Whale is a powerful tale of magic, discovery and adventure, featuring an unforgettable narrator ready to confront the gods themselves.

On the hills above the camp, far from curious eyes and listening ears, I flung my song into the sky. The new words came easily to my lips. I sang all through the long twilight, until the sky grew black as peat and spangled with stars. Clouds swirled in, ghostly white in the Moon’s glow, and I danced with them, knowing that Sila the Air moved to the rhythm of my drumbeats.

Wow. This book.

I’m not sure how I’m going to sum this up, because this book gave me all kinds of the feels.

This is the story of Omat, who is a young Inuit hunter and apprentice shaman. As there are very strong taboos about women hunting and women being shamans in Omat’s culture, this is a bit of a difficult situation. Omat holds her father’s spirit, and as such, she is raised like a boy, in fact she doesn’t even realize that she is physically a girl until she’s ten or so. Nevertheless, it is decreed that until she bleeds, she has the spirit of a man, and is therefore a man, and can hunt seals and walrus for her small family. And everything is fine, until strangers arrive and throw everything into chaos. Eventually, chaos brings Omat face to face with people she has never seen before. 

This one took me a little while to really get into. The beginning is a coming of age story, and while I don’t dislike those, and Omat does indeed have a very non-typical coming of age, I still found myself not really 100% sure of how I felt about her character. But I kept on going, because this book sounds very interesting indeed from the blurb.

And suddenly it was 3am, I couldn’t put this book down, I was having a bit of a cry, and I realized that I was a bit hooked on it. This book is really hard to put down once you pick it up.

The prose was lovely, and it was a very well written book. There must have been quite a lot of research involved, and it was all very well put together. There is a fair deal of Inuit language and folklore involved, as well as Norse folklore and mythology and it was truly fascinating to read a fantasy story based in both cultures and how the two peoples are very different but not completely. 

It’s a bit of a difficult read at times, and I mean that in that Omat… generally does *not* have a good time of things in this one. There are some tough subjects at times, like sexual violence, violence against infants and children, and just general violence. But none of this stuff ever seemed like it was in there as a plot device or something bad that happens for badness’ sake. It also uses the idea of gender and what makes a person male or female in an interesting way. It felt very realistic, as far as historical arctic-set fantasy with gods and magic can be. 

When Omat crosses paths with the Norse, and spends time with Brandr, learning about him and his people, this one only got harder and harder to put down. Even with frequent breaks, I plowed through this one in just short of 3 days, and it’s not a short book. The last 1/4 of this book had me in tears. Teeeeaaaarssss!

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Narwhals, the unicorns of the sea, are just some of the animal life that makes an appearance in this one.

All told, I really liked this one. There were times that I wasn’t sure if I’d have to stop. As I’ve mentioned, sometimes books that have heavy themes make me a little antsy, and I have to take many breaks to avoid getting a little too ramped up. This was one of those books (it’s not the first, and it won’t be the last) but at the same time, it was one that I always, always went back to as soon as I could.

Really well done! I loved it. 4.5/5 stars!

Goodreads
Amazon

Thanks again to Redhook via NetGalley for the review copy!

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