‘Angrboda’s story begins where most witch tales end: with being burnt. A punishment from Odin for sharing her visions of the future with the wrong people, the fire leaves Angrboda injured and powerless, and she flees into the furthest reaches of a remote forest. There she is found by a man who reveals himself to be the trickster god Loki, and her initial distrust of him-and any of his kind-grows reluctantly into a deep and abiding love.
Their union produces the most important things in her long life: a trio of peculiar children, each with a secret destiny, whom she 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. Angrboda must choose whether she’ll accept the fate that she’s foreseen for her beloved family-or rise to remake it.’
Today is my stop on the blog tour for The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec!
The Witch’s Heart is a tale that takes its inspiration from Norse mythology, which I confess did make me expect a rather formal or heavy tone, but I was very pleasantly surprised to find it a much lighter and brighter affair, the dialogue natural and engaging, while the prose is beautiful and quite direct in nature, making it very easily to envision the physicality of characters and the world around them. I have to say that the dialogue between Angrboda and Loki is of my favourite things about the book, often humorous and blunt, with a rather modern feel and perspective that brings the both of them to life. Ultimately, I made the mistake of picking up The Witch’s Heart at 11:30pm, intending to read perhaps thirty pages, and it was well over two hundred before I could put it down (and that was only out of the necessity of sleep!). I loved it and I’m going to have to read it again very soon!
Angrboda’s relationship with Loki is a difficult one that at times seems simple in its acceptance of all that is not quite normal about it, yet it is all too easy for the reader to feel conflicted about it and Loki’s treatment of her. The worst of it is that he never does seem to lie to her, too blunt and open in his observations and his lack of understanding of the consequences of his actions, but she knows too well that much of what he does is deception and for his own gains. That he loves her and his children is something that, in most instances, seems unquestionable, but this goes hand in hand with the knowledge that everything he does is with himself at the forefront of his mind. He manipulates those around him with ease and an often unsettling openness about it, and while it’s obvious that Angrboda is an intelligent woman, that she doesn’t always make the best choices for herself becomes more evident as Loki waltzes in and out of her life – and those of their children – playing at husband and father as he pleases. They accept that their relationship doesn’t look like a ‘normal’ one, and it’s Angrboda who could rage and let jealousy consume her, only she doesn’t, choosing to focus on her children, knowing full well that there will be no changing Loki. Does she really even want to change him? It’s only when the worst thing he has ever said is about their children that she finally seems to see the extent of what he is and start to decide who she is going to be.
I think it’s quite obvious from the outset who the voice is that Angrboda hears and is afraid to listen to, whether literally or metaphorically, as there is a good measure of well-crafted foreshadowing early in the novel, and, in my opinion, it adds another layer to her character as the story unfolds, in that there are untold reasons for her behaviour that even she isn’t completely certain about, yet there is a sense that she truly does know and is unwilling to acknowledge them. It’s interesting to consider just how much of her ‘slow’ recovery is a result of Odin’s punishment and the repeated burnings, or because she simply cannot bear to understand who she was and regain the power that has caused her so much distress – and only causes her more and more as she recovers the depth of it. That the reader catches on to who she is and what is likely to happen before she does essentially grants them her prophetic powers, and one of the most interesting features of the narrative is seeing her put together the pieces and what she does with the information.
Another aspect of the novel that I loved was Angrboda’s relationship with her children and her absolute acceptance of who they are and what forms they take. They are the most important people in the world to her and her simple love and acceptance of their natures impacts how the others in the story see them, meaning they are not deemed to be odd and abnormal by the few who know of them – not until it is their own father who missteps and brands them monsters. Their supposed fates are what drive her to reclaim herself and finally make her see the truth of the world and her choices more clearly, both in terms of what has been taken from her and what she has to give.
The Witch’s Heart is a beautiful, immersive read, written in an addictive style that leaves the reader wanting more. I enjoyed it immensely and highly recommend it, particularly for those with an interest in mythology. Thank you, Titan Books, for sending me an e-copy of the book for review (the book in the image is one I purchased myself) and for the opportunity to be part of the blog tour!