As promised, here is the first of our book reviews:
Ragnarok is about the end of the world, and The Witch’s Heart is a captivating retelling of Norse mythology centering on Angrboda, her family, and their fated roles in her own prophecy of the end. Guinevere Gornichec specifically derived this tale from the Prose Edda and Poetic Edda, as well as a small and enticing further reading list included in the afterword.
Angrboda herself is only mentioned within the original mythology once, through her villainous role as Loki’s mate and the mother of monsters—the giant wolf Fenrir fated to devour Odin at Ragnarok, the Midgard Serpent Jormungand who would come to slay Thor, and the half-dead ruler of the underworld Hel. This lack of concrete content on Angrboda gives Gornichec the creative liberty to tell her own tale while still following the narrative of Ragnarok with splendidly detailed accuracy.
The protagonist of the novel is actually a conglomerate of five powerful but briefly mentioned women throughout the mythologies, artfully woven together by Gornichec into Angrboda. For those of you heavily invested in Old Norse mythology, this is where the narrative’s biggest and most creative diversion from popular belief exists: that Gullveig/Heid is Angrboda.
Within the original mythology, characters change their names or go by multiple names with confusing frequency. A popular belief is that the seeress Gullveig, who is burned thrice by the gods of early Asgard and reborn every time before becoming Heid, is quite possibly the goddess Freyja, or rather eventually becomes her. Gornichec’s decision to make Gullveig and Angrboda one and the same is both creative and believable, especially in the context of her narrative.
Accuracy to source material aside, Gornichec’s writing holds nothing against you either if you are completely new to Norse mythology. Her characters are relatable and perfectly capable of standing on their own, fully explored and filled with complex emotions and intentions. At its core, The Witch’s Heart is a moving and modern story about love, motherhood, fate, and choice.