Berserker by Emmy Laybourne

Happy Monday! I know, those are two words that don’t go together usually, but it’s October and it’s not a thousand degrees, so it’s pretty happy.


Title: Berserker {288 pgs.}

Genre: YA Fantasy/Historical Fiction-y

Publication Date: October 10, 2017


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?

To say that I’m a bit into Norse mythology would be like saying that I’m sort of into reading. The stories, the gods, the goddesses, the absolute messes that these beings get into…it’s all so magical and frustrating and bloody, so it’s not wonder that tiny Bree devoured whatever books she could find on Norse mythology.

Poor Hanne. She didn’t ask to be a berserker, and she didn’t ask to kill those who want to harm those she loves. But she this is what she does, and one traumatic kill forces the family to move to America. Her two brothers, Stieg and Knut, and little sister Sissel pack up as much as they can, hop on a boat, and are dumped off in America, where they travel halfway across the country to the Montana territory to try to find their uncle, also a berserker, who can maybe help her control her gift.

Yes, that’s all in the summary, but what the summary doesn’t tell you is about Rolf and Ketil, two men dispatched from Norway to find the Hemstad children. Their boss, a man who “collects” the Nytteson {people who have these certain gifts}, wants to protect the children. At least, that’s what he tells Rolf, his oldest friend and a man who only wants to do right by the old gods. Then there’s Ketil, and I would honestly throw him in the dumpster if I could, but he’s a fictional character. The problems of reading a book, I swear. But Ketil is Rolf’s constant partner – not by Rolf’s request – and his idea of getting information out of people is to kill first and ask questions never.

Ketil is the worst.

Then there’s also Owen Bennett, a cowboy trying to make a living for himself since he’s the bastard son of a wealthy rancher and his cook. Owen wants nothing of the farm where he grew up, so he decides to become a cowboy, something that he’s actually good at. He comes across the Hemstad’s at their lowest moment, and he offers his services, hoping to get a little bit of money and a new life out of this.

This is where the movie trailer man comes in: But Owen gets so much more than he bargained for.

Is it wrong for me to say that I loved Hanne berserker? Everyone talked about how thin she was, how tiny, and then she rips apart a man within half a breath. Like, come on. It’s pretty awesome. But there wasn’t really a character in the book that I didn’t have some kind of strong reaction to. Stieg only wants the best for his brother and sisters, and he puts them before himself, always. Knut, sweet baby Knut, is a huge giant, but couldn’t hurt a fly. Sissel is the typical little sister: whiny, annoying, and in need of a good whack every now and again. Owen is fantastic, even when he’s having his moments where he feels left out and angry {something, as the youngest child, I totally understand}. I even wanted to hold an old German couple close to my chest, even though they were only in two or three chapters. The characters are all so alive, and the way that each of them react to this adventure in America speaks volumes about them.

Oh, also, Ketil is the WORST.

Berserker comes out tomorrow, so go on out to the bookstore {online is great, too – and the library!} and grab this book. It’s entertaining, terrifying, and heartwarming all in one go. Really, isn’t that the best kind of book, though?

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