A very competent Norse fantasy debut that makes you care about the protagonist and brings a fresh flavour to the genre.
I really enjoyed this Norse inspired world from Alex S Bradshaw that brings a real fresh twist to the largely Vikings-inspired genre.
There are a lot of parallels with Norse Mythological beliefs (the belief system sort of is Norse mythology) – a nameless God is even called The Trickster God. There are differences and variations however that show Bradshaw has made the right decision in carving out his own with a very strong inspiration, rather than using the existing mythology. The best of both if you will.
When a fallen warrior dies, sometimes in the right conditions they’ll become Windborn, with different superhuman abilities from one Windborn to the next. In this respect it blends your typical Viking revenge tale with Marvel like Norse superheroes, and this is handled really well. It adds that extra dynamic that makes this book really unique and well thought out.
While you might expect these super Vikings to rule the kingdoms, they serve only as pawns, as servants for the rulers in power. This is because when you become Windborn, you lose everything – titles, land, status and perhaps most importantly, freedom. Because you have to die to become Windborn, they are viewed by society and by law as being dead, basically.
As a result, the best they can hope for is to gain a prominent position in the service of a powerful king. Refusing to serve gives them a status as an outlaw and everything that entails – usually death. Permanently this time.
This makes things interesting because even the good guys abide by these laws, whereas the antagonist, Hraki believes the Windborn should enjoy more power and status.
The book excels in its antagonists, of which three stand out in particular for different reasons and I really enjoyed hating two of them!
One of the main themes is revenge and I feel Bradshaw really builds the tempo and the stakes to make you more and more emotionally invested, desperate for our protagonist Edda to succeed. From the start, our relationship with her is strong and relatable and we really feel her loss and grief that stays with her throughout the book, driving her on.
It makes us emotionally invested at the start, though I did think after this maybe the next 20-30% of the book moved a little more slowly.
Perhaps this is necessary to set up the remainder though, and somewhere leading up to the 60% mark everything hurtles along at speed, with a full on entertainment factor full of action, vengeance hunting, axe blades and polar bears (and a very good dog).
Towards the end of the book a very brutal execution hits you out of nowhere. There are dark themes sure, but I was still surprised by it! So readers who don’t like full on brutality might want to skip the scene.
Overall, this was an extremely competent debut that does something new with Norse Fantasy and felt really fresh. The writing style and narrative voice is so professional you’d think this was a seasoned writer of 10 books – maybe part of the credit can go to the editor, Sarah Chorn – but I was seriously impressed with how well it flows. Great work Mr. Bradshaw, and I look forward to reading more from you in the future.
Thankyou to Alex Bradshaw and Storytellers on Tour for the opportunity to read an advanced review copy of this book in exchange for the review.
Drowning is only the beginning…
Edda Gretasdottir is a raider, a fell-handed shield-maiden, feared along every coast. Hers is a life woven in
But she never wanted to walk the warrior’s path. All she wanted was freedom, to earn enough gold to buy
her family their own remote farm, and to escape their oppressive chieftain. Now, she has enough plunder
so that she can finally hang up her shield and live in peace.
That peace is stolen from Edda, however, when raiders burn her home, destroy all that she loves, and toss
her, wounded and bleeding, into the ravenous ocean.
But the fates are cruel and this is not the end for Edda: she rises from the bloody surf as a Windborn, a
cursed warrior whose supernatural gifts are a poor exchange for everything she has lost.
Fuelled by rage and armed with strange new powers Edda will hunt for whoever sent the raiders, for who-
ever is responsible for taking everything from her. She will show them the sharp edge of her axe… or die
Windborn is a dark, character-driven Norse fantasy packed with emotion, deadly foes, and vicious battles.