Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Berserker, by Emmy Laybourne

Our library has a great selection of Teen fiction; sadly, there are not enough hours in my day to devote time to reading everything that looks great – just the same, I have flown through two titles over the weekend, and no, I didn’t skim-read because they were weak; I just couldn’t put them down until I’d finished, so there!

‘Berserker’ merges a tale of the Old West in 1883 with Norse Mythology. In Ancient Times Odin, King of the Gods bestowed on his three favourite kings the Nytte, a mighty gift of six super powers to continue through their lineage: in Norway 1883, the Nytte resides in three of the children of Amund, himself a wonderful Shipwright who has lost his Gift and has turned to drink. Three of his four children have the Nytte: Stieg, the eldest is a Storm-Rend. He can control the wind. Knut, the second son is an Oar-Breaker, endowed with superhuman strength and a gentle heart, but Hanne – Hanne the third daughter is a Berserker, compelled to kill anyone who threatens the life of those she loves. Sissel, the youngest girl has no gift at all.

It has long been Stieg’s dream to emigrate to America; he wants to start a new life in a new country; he wants to be a schoolteacher and to live as far from the strictures and constraints of the Old Country as he can; when he is established, he will send for his siblings. They shouldn’t have to spend the rest of their young lives in poverty while an old drunk takes whatever they earn to swill down his throat.

Tragically, Amund is threatened by men who want the money he owes them, and Hanne feels the danger to a loved one: she answers the call and slaughters them with joyful efficiency – until the bloodbath is over and her normal self prevails: she must give herself up – she has butchered three men – God will never forgive her! But in this case, the Old Gods are present and ready to look after those with the power of the Nytte: Stieg and his siblings manage to find enough money for them all to take ship to America, there to try to contact their Uncle Hakon in Wolf Creek, Montana: he is a Berserker and will be able to teach Hanne how to control her terrible gift.

Ms Laybourne has melded hardscrabble pioneer existence with old Norse legend very successfully, especially when the family is pursued by those who would try to harness their talents for cruel and crooked motives. The suspense is always kept at a satisfyingly high level and, while the ending is satisfying, it’s not REALLY the end; I believe ( I HOPE!) a sequel’s on the way.


Find this book in the library

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