Review Details

Review type: Book

Title: The Waking of Angantyr

author: Marie Brennan

Publisher: Titan Books

The Waking of Angantyr

Reviewed by: Stephen Frame

Other details: Paper back £9.99

The Waking of Angantyr by Marie Brennan

Stephen Frame

The Waking of Angantyr has everything going for it: Vikings, berserkers, blood magic, Norse gods, fights, more fights, treachery and feasting. Yet, it doesn’t quite hit the mark. (Caveat: my partner read it and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m under oath to include that in this review). So what you get for your money, at the outset, is a straightforward tale of a person haunted by the ghosts of the past. However, in this case, the ghosts are entirely real, and the person is Hervor, a bondsmaid in a Norse holding, who is forced to flee for her life after she kills one of her jarl’s housemen in a berserker rage.

Cast adrift from the only home she has known, a home where she was cruelly mistreated and where she would have been unlikely ever to work off her bond, she goes in search of a way to silence the ghostly voices which torment her. This quest is what makes for the heart of the story. Along the way, Hervor meets and is helped by a Viking captain, a witch and an ageing jarl. She also meets a fair number of people who want her dead or to take her back to face justice in her former home, which would amount to the same thing. As she progresses from one encounter to the next, the mystery behind the ghost voices is gradually revealed, as is Hervor’s past, which leads her down a road to vengeance.

So, there is a lot going on in this story. Enough to keep the pages turning, but it does feel an awful lot like a box of standard fantasy elements bolted together, one after the other. Enjoyable enough but not quite enough to make you want to stay up past bedtime to read the next chapter. In places, the plot feels contrived, such as when magic is used to get Hervor out of tricky situations. There are too many instances of Hervor just “doing stuff” that doesn’t add much to the story arc. Towards the end of the book, the plot starts to feel a touch forced, as if the author felt the need to squeeze in just one more twist after the story has reached a natural conclusion.

That aside, there is still plenty to like. The characters are well-drawn, though I found Hervor something of a cold and distant protagonist. The historical detail is rich and brings some excellent colour to the book. The dialogue leans towards stilted at times, with clunky use of swear words here and there. And there are a lot of exclamation marks! If you can get past those, this is a chunky adventure story that works hard to earn its keep. Recommended for any fans of Norse-based fantasy.

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