The Witch's Heart is a beautiful and emotional gut punch of a story that completely enraptured me and left me unable to put this story down. This is a Norse myth retelling about the witch Angrboda, who is punished and cast out by the gods and eventually, unpredictably and surprisingly, falls in love with the trickster god Loki.
Although this story centers around a lot of events that include Loki or are a result of Angrboda's marriage to Loki, this isn't necessarily a book solely focused on telling a romance about the two. Rather, it is, overall, a story about Angrboda as a woman who must stand up for herself, for her children, and must follow her own heart and her own path to do what she knows is right and what she wants to do. This is about a woman learning to be her own woman and basically not allowing her fear to take control of her life--she is the one in charge. The story is told entirely from Angrboda's perspective, which really allows the reader to get inside her head and experience her struggles and inner conflicts as she also faces them. She's someone that has been through a lot of suffering and tragedy, yet has become determined to restart her life anew, free from the gods, and do things her way.
Then there's Loki, and I can't tell you how much I loved Gornichec's depiction of Loki. He was so spot on with how I feel this trickster god would act. There's such a lack of responsibility or really caring about the things he does or the consequences that come out--he really just sort of acts first and deals later. And it's not that he's this horrible, callous, unfeeling god in an evil way, he just... is how he is. There isn't really any malicious intent in what he does, he just acts. And in very small, subtle ways you can begin to see where he does care about things and how to pick out those acts from others. We also get to meet Norse characters such as Skadi, Thor, Odin, and so many more throughout, all of which sated my curiosity and desire to see how the gods lived their lives during this time.
Angrboda and Loki's relationship was truly a delight to follow, from its unlikely origins to its amazing in-between and all the unpredictable yet undeniable chemistry that exists between them. I loved watching this relationship evolve, including both the good and the many bad moments that exist. They are one of those couples that don't quite make sense, but somehow undeniably work so well together. The dialogue between the two is one of my favorite things in this book and I am so impressed by Gornichec's ability to make it feel so exceptionally natural and realistic--it really felt like I could be reading two partners shooting remarks back and forth at one another. It's messy and frustrating and beautiful all at the same time.
Outside of the characters we also get to explore the world of the Norse gods and the antics that take up much of their time. Gornichec's depiction of this felt fresh yet also classic and full of tradition at the same time. Her characterization of each individual god or goddess depicted felt as if it could be the real story, especially when considering the actions of each god or the situations they are a part of. Angrboda's children, especially, made it abundantly clear that we were living in the realm of the gods and that things that might seem a bit odd to us are accepted as just how the gods are and that they are things that happen.
Lastly, I'd just like to touch on Gornichec's prose and pacing, both of which felt perfectly executed. Her prose is almost lyrical in its beauty in some passages, and elsewhere it still flows effortlessly and made this book difficult to put down and walk away from. Gornichec's writing was light and witty when it suited, but also tragic and heartbreaking where it suited as well, and I applaud her ability to capture such a strong range of emotions in such a realistic and authentic manner. Her pacing, also, felt perfectly plotted and developed and maintained a very steady, thoughtful pace throughout. Nothing felt rushed, nor did anything feel drawn out or overdone. The pacing picks up slightly near the end when everything comes to fruition, but it is a natural and well-crafted step that fits well.
Overall, I've given The Witch's Heart five stars. I don't always make book comparisons, but if you enjoyed Circe at all, you will almost certainly love this book. And even if you didn't like Circe, you should still give this book a chance! It's so beautiful and made me so happy and entertained the entire time I was reading it.
*I received a copy of The Witch's Heart courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*