The very second I read the blurb for this one, I knew I would be all over it, so when I saw it pop up on NetGalley one day, I couldn’t resist putting in a request. I made a huge squee noise when I learned I was approved for it.
So thanks to the author, as well as Ace via NetGalley for the review copy!
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 know things,” she said. “You may have heard.”
“I may have heard that your knowing of things was what got you stabbed and lit on fire, multiple times.”
I love love love Norse mythology, and a few of my favorite parts of it are both Loki being ridiculous (see: Sleipnir) and the lead up (and actual… like event) of Ragnarok. Loki, as it happens, has a lot to do with that as well. So does Angrboda, in a way.
This is a retelling of Norse mythology (obviously), and is the story of Angrboda, who was a jötunn (giantess), and the mother of three of Loki’s children: Hel, Fenrir, and Jörmungand. In this retelling, Angrboda was also Gullveig, a witch-woman who the Aesir stabbed the heart out of and then burned three times. Our story starts just after that, when she takes up residence in the Ironwood and takes on the name Angrboda, which means ‘bringer of sorrow’. While living in a remote cave in the Ironwood, she receives two visitors fairly often, one is Skadi, the huntress, who trades her potions for provisions and who she becomes fast friends with, and the other is Loki, who returns her heart to her. She has three children with Loki, and then begins have prophetic dreams. Horrible dreams which appear to show the end of all things. Then the shenanigans really start.
“Do you find this odd? I find this odd. Why is he a wolf?”
“We’re odd. He’s odd. Does this displease you?” Angrboda asked evenly, not looking up.
“Not in the least. I’m just… confused.”
“I was arguably more confused when you showed up here as a mare and gave birth to a horse with eight legs.”
I really enjoyed this book. The language is largely more modern than the story it tells, and is anglicized, but I thought this was really fitting for the story itself. The prose was lovely and very easy to sit down and read for hours and hours at a time. It doesn’t hold back on the sheer ridiculousness of some of the mischief Loki gets himself into, and the magnitude of suffering, death, and destruction that Norse mythology tends to get into. But, despite those things, it tells a sweet, and sometimes bittersweet story. It tells mythology how it is, while still weaving this wonderful story of sorrow and love around it.
I was expecting to absolutely hate the relationship between Angrboda and Loki (and cheer for the blurb’s hinted relationship between Angrboda and Skadi – queue Sapphic Longing) but I did not at all, at least, not until it was clear that I should absolutely not cheer for the continuation of that relationship. I wasn’t expecting some of the dialog to be so hilarious, but I have so much stuff in this book highlighted because it made me chuckle. I suppose I should have expected the trickster god to be a little funny.
“Jormungand,” Loki said.
“We are not calling our son ‘insanely powerful magical stick.'”
“Yes, we are. It’s a great name.”
The story caught me in the feels a couple of times too, when things that were anywhere from plain ol’ sad to actually a bit horrifying would happen. Angrboda is a character who was easy to cheer for. I wanted her to survive, and thrive, and find her happily ever after, even as her world changed, and life went on. Having a fondness for mythology, I do already (mostly) know what happens, and so you would assume that I would have some feels shields up, but no. Oof, my feels.
Again, I absolutely loved this one, and if you like Norse Mythology, or mythological retellings, you will very likely like it too. It was a fantastic read. I might just get this one in audio too because I can imagine it would be a wonderful listen as well! 5/5 stars!~