Emmy Laybourne: Berserker

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.

I don’t really know how to feel about this book. I was sold immediately by the synopsis when I got the email from NetGalley. Vikings and cowboys and old Norse Gods? Sign me the heck up.

And it does have all of those things. Unfortunately, the character development just isn’t that deep. At first, I thought we were going to get some really intense stuff, since the dad is an alcoholic, and the mother abandons her children because of their Nytte gifts. There could have been some serious OOMPH added to the character dynamics there. But really, aside from some pretty gnarly sister rivalry, it’s pretty bland.

I liked the story itself though. It’s fast-paced, and the concept is good. The Norse lore is really interesting, and I like how she brought in the history of the northern and midwestern US–how it was homesteaded by people from different European backgrounds.

I probably won’t continue the series, if there is one (it’s labeled Berserker #1 on Goodreads), but this was a fun, out of the usual read from a culture I don’t get into much.

Feiwel & Friends and NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links.


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