The highly anticipated historical fantasy from Emmy Laybourne, author of the internationally-bestselling Monument 14 trilogy.
Ancient powers. Strong love. Desperate times.
1883. Hanne would give anything to be free of the ancestral Viking curse that overcomes her when she or anyone she loves is in danger. She becomes a Berserkeran elegant, graceful and shameless killer.
When she kills three men attacking their father, Hanne and her siblings must flee Norway and head to the American frontier, on a desperate search for their uncle, the one man who can help Hanne learn to control her powers.
A gripping and emotional story filled with adventure, destruction, longing and redemption.
"Berserker is a triumph, introducing a wholly-new breed of Viking superhero. It's a completely winning, romantic, and heart-wrenching historical fantasy. Your pulse will race from page one of this rich, rugged adventure of a book." Alyson Noël, New York Times-bestselling author of The Immortals series
"[Hanne's] internal struggle with her brutal nature as a berserker is intensely real and will resonate with readers who feel beset by forces outside of their control. A bloody and fast-paced genre mash-up." Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Emmy Laybourne, author of Sweet and the Monument 14 trilogy, is a writer and actress. She lives in Upstate New York with her husband, two kids, and a flock of six nifty chickens.
Read an Excerpt
OCTOBER 1883 NORHEIMSUND, NORWAY
The hog snorted at the two young trespassers in his pen. He kept his massive flank pressed to the oak beams of the fence, staying as far away from them as he could.
The girl, Hanne, kept her eyes on the boar, hiding the knife she held against the folds of her skirt. It was a long, slender blade; old, honed often, and very, very sharp. Her milky-blond hair was plaited in a crown around her head. She wore her oldest work dress and a coarse homespun apron stained rust at the hem. Though she was two years his senior, her brother Knut dwarfed her. He was six feet six inches tall. Barrel-chested but, at fourteen years old, barefaced.
Behind the siblings stood a large round tub, empty and waiting, and a long-handled wooden spoon. Hanne was glad for the cold October air. It tamped down the stench of the pig's mud.
The boar shifted his weight, pawing at the ground. With a sudden scrape and a bang, the door to the old farm cabin swung open.
The bowlegged farmer hurried toward the pigpen.
"Stop!" he called. "Girl! Get out of there!"
Hanne kept her gaze fixed on the hog.
Their father, Amund, came hobbling out of the farmhouse behind the farmer. "Hush now! You'll startle the pig!"
Their father's part in the butchering was to keep the farmer inside until the work of killing was finished. He always brought a jug containing a few pulls of apple wine to share. Neither Amund nor his children wished to be found out by their neighbors, for they were Nytteson.
"Calm down," Amund called to the farmer. "You'll spoil the kill."
"I didn't know you meant to have a girl aid in the butchering," the farmer protested, his face red with fear and anger. "I never would have agreed to it!"
"She's just there to help collect the blood. Don't worry."
The hog snorted and fretted. He did not like this commotion, and he did not like the two silent blond siblings staring at him from inside his own pen.
Amund caught up to the farmer. He raised his right hand, the hand with only two fingers and a thumb remaining, bidding the farmer to slow down. The sight of Amund's deformity was enough to still the man for a moment.
"You won't be sorry you hired us. Now come, let's go have a drink," Amund told the farmer.
"He'll kill her — he mauled my son," the farmer said. "That's why I hired the work out in the first place."
Amund began to speak again, but the farmer changed tactics, calling to the girl, "Young miss, come out of there! Don't be foolish. I'll not let you be killed, not on my land."
But Hanne continued to ignore him. She could feel the anger of the hog growing, his irritation at the farmer's voice edging him toward action. His breath was steaming in the air.
"Knut," Hanne said. "The pig's taking too long. You'll have to provoke him some."
"I don't want to," her brother said softly. Hanne knew Knut would have liked to hold her hand. The bigger beasts scared him. But he wouldn't dare reach for her hand in the sight of their father.
"Get on with it, children," Amund called.
"Come out, I say!" the farmer shouted.
The boar snorted and wheeled around. He was becoming confused.
Hanne didn't want that. She wanted him mean and focused. "You've got to make him charge you," she hissed to Knut. "Come on, now! He must attack you."
Knut made a weak movement toward the hog.
"You must do better than that! Hey!" she yelled. She picked up a clump of mud and threw it at the animal's head.
The boar snorted and pawed the ground.
"Yell, Knut!" she ordered.
"Yah! Pig!" Knut yelled. He feigned a dart forward, startling the animal.
The hog lowered his head and, finally, charged Hanne's brother.
A cry went up from the farmer, who rushed forward to help. Amund held out his crutch to restrain him, smacking the man across the chest.
Moving as fast as a lightning strike, Hanne put herself between the hog and her brother. The reek hit her as the beast's tremendous bulk bore down on her. She threw herself forward, grabbing the pig around the neck. Her body was yanked parallel to the ground by the momentum, and her legs snapped up. The hog swerved around Knut, trying to run away from Hanne, but she hooked a leg over the pig's side.
Her sense of the animal's anatomy sharpened, as it always did before the kill. Her pupils were fully wide, as if she had black eyes, not blue; and she knew without looking where the jugular vein lay.
With one arm clutching the pig's neck, she used her other hand to sink the thin blade into the flesh under the pig's ear. The knife seemed to move on its own, slicing through the fatty meat until Hanne's wrist was buried deep in the pig's throat. There. The jugular was severed, and the blood began to fountain. Hanne's hand was pushed out by the geyser of hot, slippery liquid.
The hog came to a skid, body jerking, legs still trying to charge.
"Get the bucket!" Hanne called to Knut. The farmer wanted the blood collected. If it wasn't stirred while it was hot, much of the sweetness would be lost and the sausage wouldn't taste as good.
Knut wiped tears away from his eyes with his sleeve as he hustled over. He was shaken by the killing — he always was. But he brought over the blood pan and set it down.
Hanne pushed off the hog's slick back. She dropped the knife into the wide front pocket she'd sewn in for this purpose. She wiped her hands on her apron.
Knut now did his part. He grabbed the boar by its hind feet and lifted it up. He grunted and strained, his face becoming red as he angled the beast's head to send the blood into the waiting tub.
"Ah!" the farmer cried out in wonder. To lift a hog that way was impossible for most men. Even two or three men would have to drag a beast that size on the ground. How could this boy lift it?
The farmer began to recite the Lord's Prayer. Amund snorted. "You'll see," he said, waving his stump at the pan of blood. "Best blood sausage you'll ever make. And the meat! Delicious."
Hanne knelt in the dirt beside the tub. She brushed off her hands and reached into the tub to locate the spoon. She pulled it out and began to stir. The blood splashed, then slowed to a steady flow. It ran like syrup, but the width of the stream swelled rhythmically with the final heartbeats of the swine.
The pig's eye was glossed over, even though his forehooves still twitched.
Knut's muscles strained and shook. He was sweating freely now, steam rising from his broad back like mist off morning waters.
Hanne became aware of the hunger building in her belly. Her father had brought her two loaves of brown bread and a half round of cheese in an old gunnysack. He knew the price she would pay for using her Nytte, her gift.
Knut hefted the boar up again, resettling his grip on its hocks.
The stream of blood was thinning now. Soon Knut could rest the hog, and then the butchering would begin.
Hanne saw the carcass begin to stiffen. Sometimes, when her father was not watching, she would sing to the beast as it died. This made Knut feel better, and if Hanne allowed herself to admit it, it comforted her as well.
Today, their father watched, leaning against his crutch. He had an eye on his children while the farmer brought a cauldron of boiling water outside with shaky hands. Amund spoke to the farmer quietly, promising a discount if the farmer kept Hanne and Knut's working methods to himself.
Today the hog went without a blessing.
THEY HAD TRAVELED to Norheimsund by foot. The road was nothing but a cart track, and the journey had taken them two hours.
Their path homeward to Øystese was downhill, but Hanne felt so tired. It was as if she were wading through mud with leaden skirts. By the time they reached the outskirts of their town, the light was beginning to go blue, and Hanne tucked her hands into her armpits to warm them. She ought to have brought her mittens. The lanolin from the good lambs' wool would have soothed her chapped fingertips. The mittens were the last thing her mother had made for her, and she was trying to preserve them. They wouldn't last forever.
Hanne was thinking of what she might barter for some nice, soft yarn. Her sister, Sissel, needed mittens, and Knut needed new socks. She could send Knut to work for the Pedersens one morning early, before their father awoke. Amund didn't like loaning out the services of his children, unless the coins came directly to his pocket. But Knut's work as a farmhand was what was keeping Hanne and her siblings fed for the most part. The stingy allowance Amund gave Hanne to cover groceries and dry goods was never enough. Never half enough.
Her older brother, Stieg, could use another pair of socks as well, to take with him to America. He said there was no more room in his bag, but Hanne could fit in one more pair of socks. Stieg was planning on taking his books with him and Hanne thought he wouldn't need books as much as he would need socks.
Hanne was thinking about Mrs. Pedersen's good black wool when they walked around the bend of a hill and came upon another party. Climbing up toward them were three students returning to their homes. She remembered them from school. Oskar Oleson, his little brother, and Linnea Solberg.
Oskar's bright eyes sparked as he recognized her, and he grinned that old, side-cracked grin she had loved to see at school.
"Good evening!" he said to them.
"Yah, yah," Amund said. "Give us the path. We've been working all day."
The three students stood to the side.
Hanne kept her eyes on the ground. Amund hobbled past them. Hanne saw Linnea's soft, pale hand clutching Oskar's arm. Two sets of books were bundled together, hanging from a book strap in Oskar's hand.
Knut lumbered past them, giving them a nod and a shy hello.
Oskar's little brother skipped ahead, his smile happy and carefree.
"Are you well, Hanne?" Oskar asked as she walked by him.
Hanne glanced up, startled, meeting his eye. She saw Linnea's nose wrinkle in distaste. Hanne realized how she must smell. Raw pork and offal.
"I'm well enough," Hanne said. She did not ask after his health.
"We see your brother Stieg at school. And Sissel, but you and Knut do not come. Why is this?" he asked.
Oskar's eyes followed her father's retreating shape. Amund's wretched, bent form did nothing to deny his bad temper.
"I'm needed at home these days, and Knut is not much for book learning," she said.
Oskar placed his hand on Hanne's arm. She jerked away from his touch. He dropped his hand to his side and spoke in a low voice. "But, Hanne, are you all right? Are you ... treated well?"
Hanne darted her eyes to her father, hobbling down the darkening path. She didn't dare stop any longer.
"I am fine, Oskar. Thank you for asking."
She looked up at his face, his brows knit with concern for her, and remembered how he had hung around in the schoolroom at recess instead of playing with the other boys outside, how he used to bring hawthorn leaves into the schoolroom and stick them in her braids, just to tease her. He was a kind young man and smart.
And out of reach for her, now until forever.
Linnea tightened her grip on Oskar's arm.
Hanne tore her eyes from Oskar's face and stumbled behind her father and her brother.
"You're slower than me, for heaven's sake," her father groused when she had caught up. "The next time we work, as soon as the door to the farmhouse closes, get the animal moving! What were you waiting for?"
"I'm sorry, Father," she said.
"You want people to know what we are? To come hunt us out with pitchforks the way they did our ancestors?"
She must have scowled or made an unpleasant face because her father stopped and pointed his walking stick at her.
"I didn't make you a Berserker, girl," he snarled. "It's not my fault Odin 'blessed' our forefathers with the Nytte."
Hanne did not like to speak of the Nytte at all, much less outside and so close to town. She nodded, keeping her head lowered. After a moment, her father resumed the slow walk home.
The Nytte was an ancient blood-gift, a pagan, Viking gift, from Odin to his three favorite kings, to be carried in their lineage. A child with the Nytte on both sides of his or her family might manifest one of six eerie powers at puberty — or might receive no Nytte at all.
Odin had bestowed the Nytte upon these kings, Hanne's aunt Aud had told her once, to create unstoppable raiding parties. Shipwright, Oar-Breaker, and Storm-Rend — these gifts were meant to help the Vikings cross the seas. Once ashore, the Berserkers and the Shield-Skinned warriors were nearly undefeatable. They massacred the enemy while the Ransackers found and looted any treasure to be had.
What good was it now, to be one of the Nytteson? They were not Vikings. They did not sail to foreign lands to plunder and pillage. They were just commoners, trying to hide their differences and earn a living.
Hanne looked back over her shoulder. She saw the silhouettes of her former schoolmates approaching the top of the hill.
Pity how that family's gone to seed since their mother left, Linnea might be saying to Oskar. You'd think Hanne would be able to keep up with the laundry, at least. I'd never be seen in a dress that dirty!
For one moment Hanne allowed herself to imagine what it would be like to be Linnea Solberg. To have a head full of history or mathematics and be walking home arm in arm with Oskar. She imagined how it would feel to be striding over the hill to a fine, strong home and not down to a dark, damp stone house that was slowly falling to pieces.
Linnea would sleep on clean sheets and, in the morning, put her feet into stockings that would be mended with elegant darning, if they had any holes to begin with. As for Hanne, her heel was scraped raw where her sock had worn through.
Hanne walked on, hating her dirty dress; her old, mended shoes; her coarse wraps. She hated her jealousy, and she hated who she was, for her Nytte, her "gift," was the reason their mother had finally given up and gone away.
Sissel had decorated the table by placing some branches of elm into one of the milk pitchers. There were autumn leaves clinging to the branches, the way elm leaves did. They had dried golden and were meant to reflect the candlelight, but to Hanne they just looked dead — her elder brother, Stieg, was going away.
The money Amund had received for Hanne and Knut's work slaughtering the pig was quickly drunk away, so Hanne had had to call in favors from their neighbors so they could give Stieg a proper farewell. She knew she should have felt excited for him. He had saved for three years to make the voyage to America, but she had dreaded every krone he'd put in the can. He was leaving Øystese in the morning.
Stieg spent the day outside, working with Knut. They were walking the farm, Stieg reminding Knut of everything he must do now that he would be running the farm himself.
Stieg had also stayed outside so as not to be in his sisters' way. They were preparing a celebration dinner for him. A grand farewell. Hanne knew he wanted, even needed, her to pretend to be happy for him. She would try her best to be convincing.
Sissel was humming as she laid the table. Hanne had used the tabletop to roll out the tynnlefse dough hours earlier. The table was from her father's side of the family, very old, the work of a Shipwright, no doubt. The legs were two broad panels in the shape of an X, each carved with intricate knot work. At the foot of each thick leg, the patterns ended in the flat face of a dragon. When Hanne was little, she would crouch under the table while her mother sang church hymns, rolling out dough. Hanne had liked to trace the snout of each dragon. The flat, round eyes. The curved fangs. She liked to imagine the beasts were her friends and answered only to her.
The top of the table was polished smooth by hundreds of years of hard use. Now Sissel set out their mother's prettiest napkins, the ones with the red stitching. Hanne stirred the lamb and cabbage stew — Stieg's favorite — and watched her sister limp around the table.
Sissel was too thin; everyone said so. Her hair was so blond it was white. It hung lifelessly in two thin braids that Sissel pinned up across her head, the ends tucked in, so that no one could see how straggly and fine they were. She had the habit of patting her head to make sure the ends were not sticking out. Every time she did it Hanne wondered — who was there to see?
Sissel was not a good worker — she complained often of being tired, cold, hungry. Her bad leg always ached from the dog bite she'd received when she was ten.
But Sissel was excited about the going-away party for her brother. She could set a table well enough, Hanne noted, even if she claimed to be too weak to work to make the meal that would be served on it.
Excerpted from "Berserker"
Copyright © 2017 Emmy Laybourne.
Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Emmy Laybourne is one of my favorite writers. With Berserker, she’s created another page-turner that I never wanted to end.
This is an amazing novel!! I truly enjoyed it and it couldn't put it down!
Simply stunning mix of Viking lore, YA drama and a loving portrait of the Old West. There is a reveal in the middle of the book that is totally awesome. You will love this book!
This is a fantastic read! My class LOVED it and can't wait for more!
I loved this book. I love Emmy Laybourne. Conclusion: I love Emmy Laybourne books. Disclaimer: Nobody paid me to read this book and I bought it myself. And I would do it all again.
When I read the blurb for Berserker, I was immediately intrigued. Norse mythology and Vikings have always been subjects that I have been interested in. I thought (actually still think) that the Viking society was fascinating. I also think that Norse mythology is fascinating too. When I saw that the different powers that Hanne has are a gift to from the gods, I needed to read this book. I am glad I did because Berserker is a book that was well worth my time reading. Berserker starts off in Norway. Hanne is a simple farm girl who has a horrible secret. If she sees anyone that she loves harmed in any way, she flies into a killing state. That state is called a Berserker and the Vikings from which Hanne is descended from made the term famous. Hanne is able to keep her gift a secret until she witnesses her father being murdered. It is then that she flies into Berserker mode and kills the men who murdered her father. With her mother long gone, it is up to Hanne’s older brother to keep the family together. When Hanne’s younger brother is accused of the murders, Hanne decides that traveling to America is the only way to keep him out of jail. It is also the only way to keep their powers secret. But, there are outside forces who are searching for the siblings. And they have the means to capture the kids and return them to Norway. The question is, will they? Or will Hanne and her siblings be able to settle in America and live out their lives in peace? I felt awful for Hanne for about 90% of the book. Her family feared and loathed her. Which was not right. She had no control over what powers she would get. It was an unlucky roll of the dice that she got Berserker. Hanne needed reassurance from her parents, not for both of them to turn their backs on her. Even her siblings feared her. They also blamed her for their mother leaving. I wanted to reach through the book and hug her, I felt that bad for her. But, once she got to America, she started to change. She started coming out of her shell and started realizing that she could learn to control her powers. It was a very powerful thing to read. I loved how the author wove the fantasy and historical elements of this book together. It made the book so very interesting to read. I could picture myself on the train with the Norse immigrants. I could see them being treated as 2nd hand citizens because of how they were dressed. I could see myself with them as they crossed the Atlantic on a ship. And when they had to go through Ellis Island to be allowed into the country. I do have a gripe with Berserker. It was the storyline with Rolf, Ketil and their mission for the Baron to gather more Nytteson. The Nytteson were people who had powers like Hanne and her brothers. It as not resolved and that bugged me. The author did attempt to end it with Rolf but I was left very dissatisfied. The end of the book was fantastic. Actually, the word I am thinking of here is wild. Everything that transpired in the ending was intense. I did think what happened to Ketil was very fitting. I also had my reservations about Rolf. With the way the book ended, I am hoping that a book 2 is in the works. I would love to read it. Berserker is an intense fantasy, historical fiction, young adult book. It had a great plot. It also had great characters. This is a book that I could see myself reading over and over. **I chose to leave this review after reading an advance reader copy**
As soon as I saw that Berserker was being promoted as Norse mythology meets western novel, I knew I had to read it. To my delight, it turned out exactly as promised and Emmy Laybourne did a fantastic job of weaving those two disparate genres together. Berserker was a surprisingly touching story that was full of adventure, family, and magic. After Hanne murders some local villagers who were attacking her father due to her Berserker nature, the Hemstad siblings have to leave their hometown in Norway and follow their eldest brother to America in hopes of escaping prosecution. Owen, a young cowboy hiding secrets of his own, agrees to help them cross the treacherous frontier and get to their uncle's house. While the plot was relatively slow and straight-forward, it was also interesting enough that I never got bored. The story unfolded naturally and I liked how the author took the time to fully explain the world and to develop the relationships between the characters. There were also a few plot twists toward the end that have me excited for future installments in this series. I loved how Emmy Laybourne laid the foundations for her world. The Nyettes, the special powers that are bestowed upon some Norse families, are extremely powerful but come with a high price. I liked that there was a limit on the powers and that Hanne struggles to come to terms with hers. While this novel isn't gory, the author does an excellent job of portrayed the violence that Hanne can unleash when not in control of her powers. Additionally, I loved how the family dynamic between Hanne and her siblings was explored, particularly in regard to their various powers. There's also a tiny bit of romance that you'll be rooting for because they're so adorable together. The relationships between the characters were the strongest part of this book for me and I loved seeing how each character developed over the course of their journey. I'm very intrigued by the premise of this series and will definitely be reading the sequel. Berserker was an enjoyable read that I would recommend to fans of YA, Norse mythology, and westerns. *Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This was an excellent book! I was really quite surprised by just how much I ended up liking this one. I try to go into books as blindly as possible so I didn't read the summary of this book too closely and as a result, I was really quite surprised by some of the turns the story ended up taking. This was the kind of book that I found myself reaching anytime I had a moment to spare. I am so glad that I took a chance on this gem of a book. Hanne and her siblings posses a gift. Or maybe a curse depending on how you look at it. Hanne doesn't see it as a gift. She is a Berserker which means that anytime someone she cares for is in danger she loses control to the Nytte and people die. Hanne doesn't want to be someone who kills so she really struggles with this gift. She must eventually flee Norway with her siblings after one of her murderous rages. I really liked the characters in this story. Hanne was so easy to like and her struggle with her different sides felt authentic. Her elder brother, Stieg, has his own gift which proves to be rather useful to the family. Stieg is a really even tempered and intelligent man. Knut also has a gift and is the quietest of the siblings but he possessed a certain wisdom. Sissel was the youngest sibling and the most difficult of the group. I am not sure that I really cared for her character but I think she added a needed element to the group. When I started reading this book, I had no idea that the story would soon shift to the American frontier. The change in setting was really well done. I could completely envision the small towns and wilderness that this group encountered. I think the combination of the frontier setting and the Norse mythology worked perfectly in this little story and I found it to be really exciting. There were a few sections of the book that were a bit more violent that I would have expected but it worked well with the story. I would highly recommend this book to others. This book is listed as being the first in a series but this story stands on its own. This was the first book written by Emmy Laybourne that I have had the chance to read but I am eager to read more of her work including future installments in this series. I received an advance reader copy of this book from Macmillan Children's Publishing Group - Feiwel & Friends via NetGalley.
Berserker by Emmy Laybourne centers around Hanne Hemstad and her family. Their family line has been gifted/cursed by the Norse Gods and Hanne's power gives her the ability to be a berserker. When they are forced to leave Norway and seek haven in America we learn more about her family, their gifts, and their heritage. For me Berserker started off a bit slow but picked up after a bit. The characters and their family interactions and character development were definitely a strong point for the book. I think Ms. Laybourne portrayed Hanne as a character who was very weight down by her heritage and has serious troubles finding the good in it, which was realistic, but burdensome. Overall I recommend Berserker and look forward to the next book in the series as the ground work has been laid for something that can grow and develop into something that can be dynamic, historical and magical. (I voluntarily reviewed an ARC of this book I received for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my open and honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.)
A truly original blend of Western myth and Viking lore! A great read!!
I'm also apart of the street team for this book so make sure to check out my other social media as well to see some exclusives. Hanne along with her siblings are Nyette meaning they have a gift or a curse that was given to their ancestors by the Norse Gods in Viking times. Hanne is known as a Berserker meaning that she will do anything to protect those she loves if she thinks they are being attacked. We have older brother Stieg who can control the weather. Younger brother Knut who is super strong and then baby sister Sissel who has yet to have the Nyette gift. Their father also has the gift and made beautiful ships before his gift turned into a curse the older he got. As for their mother she had no idea about it until they started showing that they had gifts, and then after a horrible tragedy happened to Sissel she left because she just couldn't handle it. This left them to fend for themselves due to their father having a drinking problem. Stieg and Hanne had to handle all of the responsibilities and tried to care for their younger siblings as best as they could. But it's now time for Stieg to go to America and he'll send for them when he has enough money to. It all changes one night though when Hanne goes Berserker and they all must flee. This is when things got good. Not only did we see the siblings work together from this point on we also get to know more about why their ancestors were given these gifts and how they were supposed to be used. Once they make it to America it's time to find an uncle who is supposed to be able to help them. But getting to him might just lead them all to their deaths. I have nothing but good things to say about this book. It held my interest from start to finish. By the end of it I loved all of the siblings and Owen who I was a little unsure of at first. I'll be the first to admit I don't really know much about Mythology or anything like that. I know the basics of Olympus, etc but anything outside of that I am completely clueless on. So this book while not only really interesting because of learning about the Norse gods and the gifts they gave their people to help them thrive. It was also interesting how it was worked into the old west and how now maybe even people here were going to start having it as well because of them immigrating away from where they were originally from. Four siblings trying to start a new life in America.Three of them with super abilities. Two people hunting them, and one helpful cowboy this book was packed full of history and adventure. I already want to read the next one in this series!
"Berserker" was an interesting and unique story about four brothers and sisters who possess Nytte. Nytte were "gifts" given from the Norse gods to select bloodlines, and they show themselves upon puberty. A Berserker is one of the Nytte where the person is compelled to protect their loved ones by attacking whoever threatens them and murdering them. When the gift takes over, the Berserker is unaware and unusually skilled. Hanne is a Berserker, and she resents her gift- unsurprising, since it was the final straw that caused her mother to leave them. When her father is threatened (and then killed), Hanne is drawn to protect him by murdering his three assailants. Not sure what to do in the wake of the deaths, the children flee to America where they hope to locate their uncle who is a Berserker and may be able to help Hanne control her gift. They are pursued by some men who collect people with Nytte and train them for unknown (and likely sinister) purposes. After being confronted by them, Hanne makes her brothers and sister jump off the train early to escape. They soon meet Owen, a cowboy in search of work. They hire him to guide them the rest of the way to where their uncle lives. The first section of the book was a little tedious and difficult to follow as explanations come slowly about the Nytte and background. Once they begin traveling with Owen, the book really picks up and becomes engaging. I found it much better in the second part than the first. Owen and Hanne are drawn to each other pretty quickly, and I would have liked more scenes building up their relationship. They seemed to have little interactions as she was hesitant to get close to him and her siblings took up most of the attention. Regardless, their relationship was sweet. It was interesting to see Hanne evolve in the second part of the book, to begin to overcome her self-hatred and fear of the Nytte, and move towards the inevitable conclusion. The setting was also creative, combining fantasy/magical-type powers and Norse mythology with the wild west/cowboy life. Overall, it was a creative and enjoyable story. I am very curious to see how the series will continue (with one of the siblings maybe?). Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher through netgalley. All opinions are my own.
Thanks to NetGalley and Feiwel & Friends for the opportunity to read Berserker by Emmy Laybourne! Hanne has inherited Norwegian Berserker powers and supposedly this is what drove her mother away. Hanne lives with her drinking father, two brothers and a younger sister. Her eldest brother Steig wants to move to America, get a teaching job and bring his siblings to America when he has enough money. Hanne’s story alternates with Owen Bennett’s, who’s treated badly by his family because he’s the product of Mr. Bennett’s past affair. Hanne is overtaken by the Berserker powers when she senses that her family is in danger and she kills the three men that mean to cause harm to her family and her father ends up dying also. The four siblings run away from their home. Meanwhile, two men, Rolf and Ketil, are sent by a Baron, their employer, to hunt down any Nytte, anyone with Norwegian descent that has inherited Viking strengths. They all travel to America. Owen meets the siblings when he saves Sissel from a moving train so she can be with her family. Owen becomes the family’s guide. Along the way to their uncle’s home in Montana, the group braves many setbacks and they also meet Ketil and Rolf. The story comes full circle with much action and adventure involved and the loyalty of friends and family is what I enjoyed the most in this book. 4 stars for a suspense filled mythological adventure! *I received a complimentary copy of this book for voluntary consideration.