Book Review: ‘The Witch’s Heart’ By Genevieve Gornichec

Review by Lauryn Angel

Thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the figures of Thor, Odin, Loki, and other Norse gods are familiar to most people. But Marvel’s take on the Norse pantheon is hardly correct – for example, Loki is Odin’s brother by blood-oath rather than Thor’s adopted brother. Thor and Loki are both married – Loki even has two wives: the goddess Sigyn and the Jotunn Angrboda. It’s Angrboda who is the subject of Genevieve Gornichec’s novel, The Witch’s Heart.

Angrboda is the witch of the title, but her story starts long before the events of this novel. She is credited with teaching magic to the gods, but her refusal to do Odin’s bidding has earned her death by burning three times over, with her heart removed for good measure. Yet she still lives, and this story begins when Loki tracks her down to return her heart to her. Thus begins their hidden love affair and eventual marriage, and Angrboda bears him three children: Hel, Fenrir, and Jormungandr. The children’s unusual nature causes Angrboda much worry, and that worry is not unfounded, as Odin and the other gods want to control them.

It’s hard not to compare this novel to Madeline Miller’s Circe, as there are a lot a parallels between the two. And readers who enjoyed Miller’s novel will likely enjoy The Witch’s Heart as well. While I love Circe, I enjoyed Gornichec’s novel quite a bit more, as I prefer Norse mythology to Greek mythology, and Angrboda is one of those figures who is not fleshed out very well in the Edda. I have always been curious about her. Loki does play a prominent part in the story, but we do not see him perform the mischief he is famous for. Instead, we see him match wits with Angrboda, who is more than his equal. But the real story is with Angrboda and her female friends — including the huntress Skadi and a giant she-wolf – and her children.

I absolutely loved this book, and I look forward to reading more from Genevieve Gornichec!

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