I will read basically anything I can get my hands on that is Nordic inspired. Recently I’ve become obsessed with all of things Nordic and so when Titan Books asked if I wanted to read The Witches Heart I jumped for joy! It serves up god meddling, humans who have become entangled with them, and plenty of mythology. Keep reading for my full review plus an excerpt!
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.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
If you’re looking for a Nordic inspired story featuring my favorite trickster god, Loki, then you’ve come to the right place! While it took me a while to get to know Angrboda, I ended up deeply relating to her story. The Witches Heart is driven by action. It has that signature, “the gods can be so aloof” kind of charm that I’ve come to associate with so many stories with gods. Because when you basically live forever, what does the lives of a few mortals mean? But Angrboda seems to straddle this in-between line where she’s not mortal, but she doesn’t (in the scope of this book) try to get involved with the gods.
There’s almost a reflective quality to The Witches Heart as it begins to ask questions about destiny. How much of what we might see comes to pass? And what is our individual role at the end of the day? As mothers, women, and those who can see the future? What legacies will we leave behind? While the pace may unfold slower than you might expect for an action driven story, there’s a quiet before the storm as events are set up. I ended up reading the last third in one sitting alone! Ultimately, this is perfect for those searching for a Norse mythology inspired story!
Angrboda made her home on the far eastern side of Ironwood, where the trees clung precariously to the steep mountains bordering Jotunheim. She stumbled upon a clearing near the base of one such mountain, where she found an outcropping of rocks that led into a cave quite large enough for her to stand in. Upon entering, she realized there was a hole carved into the rock above her, under which sat the remains of a hearth.
It was all eerily familiar. Like it had been waiting for her.
She rebuilt the hearth into a long fire with stones she gathered from the woods. The cave itself was as large as any modest hall in Jotunheim: spacious enough for furniture and with plenty of room for storage near the back, where the ceiling was lower. By day, the inside of the cave was illuminated by the sun coming in through its mouth; by night, she kept her hearth fire lit against the total darkness of her new home.
“A cave?” Loki said, blinking, the first time she showed him inside. “Why not build a hall?”
“I’m hiding. A hall would be too obvious.”
Loki just shrugged at that. She noted that he didn’t comment on whom she was hiding from— ven though he was one of them. She knew she should’ve been worried as soon as he’d revealed his association with Odin, but something told her that he wasn’t what he seemed, and that instinct was what kept her from fleeing to find another cave every time he departed hers.
Angrboda saw him now and again after that first day, whenever he would come by Ironwood. He was a natural shape- changer, as she soon discovered, and he could make rather good time from Asgard to Ironwood when he took the form of a bird, and he didn’t just drop by for nice banter. Sometimes he stayed a night or two, comically snoring facedown on her floor using his balled‑up cloak as a pillow.
She rarely slept.
She didn’t know how much time had passed since they’d met by the river, but her light ash brown hair had grown long and straight and fine; she often put it in a thin braid draped over her shoulder or pinned it back in a loose bun at the nape of her neck. Her cave- weller- ale skin had healed quickly after her burning, giving her the look of a much younger woman, but the dark circles under her eyes were ever present.
She’d put her heart back where it belonged, too, by leaving her body enough to numb the pain but staying connected enough to move her hands. She’d opened the wound where they’d speared her, and so there remained a vertical raised scar between her breasts.
But it still felt like something was missing from her. Like that hole in her heart had not yet fully healed.
She got along fine regardless. There was a stream that branched off the river beside which she’d first met Loki, and it meandered near enough to her cave that it wasn’t a hassle to go back and forth to fetch water and wash what few articles of clothing she had. She’d accumulated a meager pile of furs on which to sleep, too, but not enough food to eat. Animals were scarce in Ironwood.
One day she was out checking the snares she’d placed among the trees, and when she saw that they’d yielded nothing, she wandered over to the stream to catch some fish. For hours she sat by the bank, bored out of her skull and with no bites on her line. She had nearly dozed off against a tree when suddenly an arrow whizzed past her head and planted itself in the bark three inches from her face.