Author: Marie Brennan

Review – The Waking of Angantyr

Posted December 17, 2023 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – The Waking of Angantyr

The Waking of Angantyr

by Marie Brennan

Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 493
Rating: five-stars

The bondmaid Hervor is used to dead men whispering in her sleep. They’ve been doing it for as long as she can remember; it’s the living she has to watch out for. And when a new arrival at her holding triggers her into a berserker fury, she’s forced to flee the contract that enslaves her and into the arms of an uncertain future.

Unchained from the living, Hervor goes in search of a way to silence the dead, but it will take much more than grit and determination to make that happen. She’ll need the help of a ruthless Viking, an ailing jarl, a mad witch, and more—for the treachery that killed her ghosts isn’t nearly as dead as they are, and the path to peace must first traverse a river of blood.

In The Waking of Angantyr, Marie Brennan brings to life the story of Hervor, a Viking woman who claims her father’s cursed sword (Tyrfing) and seeks to avenge his fall. Around the details of the saga, Brennan embroiders a larger story, giving us the details of Hervor’s experiences, the things that drive her, and the terrible consequences of her heritage and her path to revenge. I was only vaguely familiar with the original details, so it’s not always obvious where Brennan’s embroidery begins; it comes together well to present a satisfying story.

Mostly satisfying, anyway; one can’t help but regret some of Hervor’s choices and mistakes, and think about the what-ifs along the way. I don’t think the book should have ended any other way, to be clear, but at the same time I’m wistful about the could-have-beens and the paths not taken. The dissatisfaction I feel isn’t about Brennan’s storytelling or ability to shape the plot, but rather about Hervor’s lot. I don’t quite know how to describe this, but I hope it comes across: I can think it’s a wonderful story as it is, while at the same time, wishing Hervor had been able to have more.

I ended up reading this alongside my wife, and we both pretty much raced through it, eager for each new step in Hervor’s journey; there’s no point where Brennan really lets the character rest and let out a breath, so I found the same experience as a reader. You want to get to where Hervor’s going and figure out what on earth the next step could possibly be.

I don’t think you need to know Hervor’s story already to appreciate this one (my wife didn’t know it), but if you do, it adds that interesting dimension of seeing how Brennan fleshes out the story, and makes the supporting characters vivid and human, breathing emotion into it. There’s also that sense of inevitability you get with reading Arthurian retellings, where each moment is cast into sharp relief by what you know will come. I’m very tempted to re-familiarise myself with Hervor’s story from the original sources, and then read this again with attention to that.

I originally gave this four stars, but I’m just habitually stingy like that. For the rate at which I read this, and the joy I took in it, it has to be five stars.

Rating: 5/5

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