by Emmy Laybourne
Series: Berserker #1
Published on October 10, 2017 by Feiwel & Friends
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Young Adult
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? With Berserker, Emmy Laybourne, the author of Monument 14, presents her vision of an American west studded with Viking glory.
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I had such high hopes for this book. To be honest, I was sold the second I read “old Norse gods” in the synopsis. I’m such a sucker for anything related to Norse mythology so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Berserker. And while it wasn’t a bad read by any means, it didn’t really spark any strong interest in me either.
So. Berserker is a weird mix of a Western and fantasy. We have cowboys and unusual powers with their roots in Viking culture. It’s a little odd but I figured I could get behind it, if it was done well. This wasn’t done. . . badly? I felt like a lot of work definitely went into writing this book, especially as it falls more in the realm of historical fiction than anything (in my opinion, at least). But I treat historical fiction much like I would fantasy. Because it’s not our modern world, I want more detail as a reader to fill in the blanks, to really wrap my head around this “strange new place.”
I didn’t get that with Berserker. This world came off as a pretty face and nothing more. I never really went into the West or walked the roads of Norway. I wanted to but just didn’t have that depth I look for in a book like this.
The same goes for the characters. Hanne drove me through the roof. She constantly brought the entire mood down and there was no reprieve. Her character’s purpose was to make this power of hers, her Nyette, out to be the worst thing that ever happened to her and she now has to overcome it. Except. . . she doesn’t, not really, so I really wasn’t behind her to succeed.
Owen is a nice guy but he bored me. I wanted him to reach his dreams but mostly because of the two characters, I didn’t mind reading through his eyes as much as Hanne’s. But nothing really happened with Owen until the two characters connect and from there it turned into a romance between characters I really didn’t care much about so that subplot did nothing for me.
The thing is, I didn’t hate this book. For starters, the entire premise is so unique. I love the idea of combining what would be two genres almost into this one book. Plus, I really don’t see a lot of historical YA right now so that sets Berserker apart on the shelf too.
It came down to whether I was entertained or not. This is a very quick read and the pace kept it going the whole way through, but once I finished I was pretty meh about the whole experience. I’d say give it a go if it sounds interesting to you! Just didn’t work out for me.