Title: Berserker (Berserker #1)
Author: Emmy Laybourne
Pub. Date: October 10th, 2017
Genre: YA Fantasy/Historical Fiction
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Formats: eGalley/Netgalley & physical arc won from a Goodreads Giveaway
Rating: 3.75 Stars
Are Hanne’s powers a gift from the old Norse gods, or a curse?
Her brother Stieg swears their powers are a gift from the old gods, but Hanne Hemstad knows she is truly cursed. It’s not Stieg’s fault that their father is dead, their mother has left, and their brother Knut has been accused of a crime he didn’t commit.
No, the fault lies with Hanne and her inability to control her murderous “gift”–she is a Berserker. When someone she loves is threatened, she flies into a killing state. The siblings must leave Norway for the American frontier or risk being brought to justice.
Aided by a young cowboy who agrees to be their guide, Hanne and her siblings use their powers to survive the perilous trail, where blizzards, wild animals, and vicious bounty hunters await.
Will they be able to reach their uncle, the one man Hanne believes may be able to teach her how to control her drive to kill? With Berserker, Emmy Laybourne, the author of Monument 14, presents her vision of an American west studded with Viking glory.
Berserker wasn’t at all what I was expecting & for a minute there I wondered aloud what exactly I was reading? the answer took me by surprise & intrigued the hell out of me enough for this frightful bookworm to read through the bloody scenes. I can only describe Berserker as Norse Mythology meets the American Frontier with hints of the classic novel Of Mice and Men & guess what bookworms?!?! IT WORKS!!! part of the reason I think that it did is because Laybourne has created her own lore in this world instead of using everything we know about Norse Mythology. The opening scene really sets the tone for this short read, bloody and raw. Our MC Hanne & her siblings (with the exception of the youngest) all have been gifted/cursed with special abilities from the Viking Gods. It is believed that the Viking God Odin gifted three of his favorite Kings with special abilities known as The Nytte. This gift/curse doesn’t come without its consequences, there is a big price to pay as a result of using their ability. The odds of inheriting The Nytte are greater if both parents are descended from these kings & such is the case for our MC & her siblings. They don’t know the names of each ability or even if they quite believe in the origin of these abilities but they’ve learned to use them to make a living. Hanne is a Berserker which is the only gift that is focused on taking life whenever someone she loves in danger. While in Norway, her father has her using her “gift” to slaughter pigs for local farmers (detailed in the book) because her technique leads to better quality meat. A incident on the farm triggers Hanne’s Berserker abilities ending in tragedy & the need to go on the run. While on the run they manage to catch the interest of a man who has made it his mission to find Nyttes daughters & sons with a keen interest in their abilities. Although this mans intentions are not readily made known, Hanne doesn’t trust him & will keep her siblings running to put as much distance as possible between the law & this stranger.
*In order not to spoil anything, i won’t be including each characters Norse gift/curse…besides it’s more fun finding out for yourself along the way 😉
Hanne- The MC aka the Berserker & sort of the matriarch of the family. She loves her family fiercely & her abilities have sharpened her senses to the point where if any danger is even headed their way she is ON IT! Hanne doesn’t see The Nytte as a gift but rather a curse she can’t control & when it strikes it leaves her mortified at the end results. When I picture Hanne there is only one Goddess that comes to mind…Lagertha!
Stieg- not sure if he’s the oldest or second oldest to Hanne but either way he is more of the patriarch of this family. Stieg is a intellectual with a passion for knowledge & conversation. He knows more than one language & will never pass up the opportunity to teach. Stieg also has a ability that he uses sparingly whenever in dire straights. What I liked about Stieg is that he wasn’t made out to be the stereotypical bookworm, he’s just as much down to have fun as he is to hit the books. Also, his ability is pretty bad a** 😉
Knut- Knut reminded me most of Lennie from Of Mice and Men which meant that I was already on Over protective mode upon meeting him. Tender hearted standing at 6’2, Knut also carries The Nytte & it is tied to his physical strength. There’s no way you won’t love him when you meet him 🙂
Sissel- my least favorite of the siblings, she is the youngest and most spoiled. Sissel is all about comfort and finding a good match for marriage, in other words being taken care of. Sissel is described as frail in physical appearance & very likely to have had The Nytte skipped her. This being book 1 in the series, I can’t help but wonder if Laybourne has special plans with this sibling…
Owen- The cowboy the siblings pay to safely guide them to a uncle who could possibly help Hanne control her Berserker abilities. He is actually one of my favorite characters in this book, its just him and his dog Daisy until he meets the siblings. Owen loves Daisy to pieces & has trained her to help herd cattle with dreams of one day training pups on a farm to do the same. He minds his business & lives a simple life until chaos is introduced and he has a decision to make…
I managed to fly through my reading of Berseker because of my general interest in Norse Mythology & the ease with which Laybourne used the well known mythos as a jumping board. This is a VERY bloody read & had some cringe worthy passages that surprisingly engrossed me. Why the 3.75 rating? well for starters, this is still a good rating in my book & translates into a 4 star rating on Goodreads. The siblings were for the most part traveling in this book trying to reach their uncle to help Hanne & I enjoyed that adventure very much. However, my only complaint is how neatly the ending was presented compared to how bloody, chaotic, and raw Berserker was for the most part. Berserker could also easily be viewed as a stand-alone which really left me thinking where the series would take Hanne and her siblings. I’m still curious & have every intention on continuing on to read the next book. It may very well be that in the sequel the siblings find a way to reverse or at least stop the consequences of their abilities…So, I do have questions bookworms which means I’ll be returning to this world when the next book is released 😉
HUGE thanks to Feiwell & Friends, Netgalley, Goodreads, and Emmy Laybourne for the ARC copy of Berserker.
Hello Bookworms! Happy FriYAY! have any of you read Berserker? has it made its way onto your radar? If you’re a fan of Norse Mythology, Berserker will probably intrigue you & Laybourne will surprise you with her twist on Viking lore. It’s a bloody gripping read! 😉
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