Book Review: “Shield-Maiden: Gambit of Blood” by Melanie Karsak

Hello!

I am still impressed with myself on what I was able to accomplish in the month of July. I started off in the best of indentations, but then I got sick, and I did not read for like five days in a row. I wasn’t very happy about it since I had successfully read every single day the previous month, so what really surprised me was getting to 30 books on my 2022 goal, and I finished not one, but TWO series!

After I completed “The Road to Valhalla” series, I knew I wanted to give the spinoff series another shot. I’ve sort of read the first five pages of the novella back in December, but I wasn’t into reading about the Vikings at that time, and so to be able to get back into the story of Ervie, was almost like full circle, well it will be once I get through the novella itself, which is next but knowing me, I’m probably already done with it by the time this post goes up. I have done reviews on novellas in the past, but I’ve decided to not do one of “Winternights Gambit”.


An orphaned descendant of Loki.
A princess without a kingdom.
A shield-maiden plagued by the shadows of Valhalla


Born to rule two jarldoms, Ervie should of had a life of ease. But fate has not been kind. Her parents’ jarldoms destroyed in the wars of a previous generation; Ervie is set adrift in the world. Taking refuge in the lands of the famed King Gizer, Ervie finds a temporary retreat from her aching sense of loss. But when Gizer’s warband is summoned to defend one of his staunchest allies, the journey promises more than just battle for Ervie.

As it turns out, the Norns have been weaving.

Once, Ervie’s parents were considered the most powerful practitioners of Norse magic in all of Scandinavia. That same magic has been sleeping under the shield-maiden’s skin. Soon, this descendant of the trickster god will find herself on a path to reclaim what was lost…and follow her destiny.

Fans of Vikings and The Last Kingdom will relish The Shadows of Valhalla series. This sweeping Viking historical fantasy retells the story of the second legendary heroine named Hervor—called Ervie by those who know her well—the inspiring shield-maiden from the Norse Hervarar Saga.

Readers of The Road to Valhalla series will love this next-generation tale in a beloved Viking world.

taken from Goodreads.

The one thing I am still kicking myself about, is that I should have waited at least a day after I finished with “Under the Dark Moon” to begin this book. I was not in control of my emotions so any mention of Hervor, Hofund, Svafa, and even Sigrun, made me cry again 12 hours later! I was an absolutely idiot but, in a way, I knew this book would have some of the beloved characters mentioned in that series. I just underestimated my thoughts at the time and after I finished one chapter, I made myself stop and take a break from it all but was right back in within a day or two later.

Ervie. Princess of Reindeer. Daughter of Blossoms.”

For this story, we follow Princess Hervor or Ervie as she prefers to be called; although I think she may accept her namesake and the legend of the shield-maiden Hervor later on, but we’ll see about that. Anyways, Ervie is very far from home, after the death of her mother Blomma, she left her twin brother Prince Loptr and grandfather King Hofund in Grund behind to escape all of her reminders. You could see her pain a mile away and it hurt you as the reader just as much Ervie in a way.

Four years later, she’s found a place among Kind Gizer and Queen Kára’s brood of boys: Dag, Bjarki, Kettel, Gauti, Thorir, Wigluf, and only daughter Eyfura in Skagen. She fights on the battlefield with the same brutality and stamina as the brothers and claims her prizes humbly. She doesn’t just have a good relationship with Gizer’s kingdom, but with her cousin Prince Angantyr, son of Prince Heidrek of Grund and Princess Helga of Jutland, who was originally called Prince Heidrek at the end of “Under the Dark Moon” The name change fits him well, but he isn’t as loved by his grandfather King Harald, but then again you can’t quite blame him for it. He was mostly cared for by Lady Svafa and this time she got to keep her memories. However, by the time we see these characters, Svafa is very blind and old, but she radiates love and joy to everyone around her.

“What lies deep in the Myrkviðr, a dark place where none of these daring warriors dare to enter?”

The first Act of this story was huge, it’s actually the bulk of the plot itself but I really think there were a lot of filler information as well. I understood the reason why Melanie included so many familiar characters, especially Prince Heidrek, as they are all needed, and they become reasons for Ervie to find herself in Myrkviðr. When she makes her way there, the forest is dense, but she finds it inviting at the same time. When we get to this section, Ervie started to remind me of Yrsa, and her bears and cave on the ledge. By the time we enter this phase, we hit 65% overall and I became fairly worried on how much information would be available for everyone. I still think there were missed opportunities on while King Ormar and Audr were training Ervie and why the King chose not to discuss the invasion of The Huns with Audr and Ervie.

The biggest surprise of the whole thing was the entrance of Prince Hlod as that was a brilliant twist to not only Ervie’s storyline but what could ensue for King Hofund, his heir Loptr, and also Prince Angantyr, as there is even more news about King Harald and his family. Once this was revealed to the reader, you are instantly wondering how it will all play out, and I will say, I understood why so much material was in the beginning, but I still say there were some that did not belong there at all or yet.

Have you read the first book of this spinoff series, “Shield-Maiden: Gambit of Blood” yet? I’d like to know your thoughts about it in the comments section below.

snowflake

Book Review: “Shield-Maiden: Under the Dark Moon” by Melanie Karsak

Hello!

This July saw me end two books and their respected series, the first was Melanie Karsak’s “The Road to Valhalla” set and it wasn’t an easy thing to accomplish because I really enjoyed the familiarity of the characters and the Norse mythology as a whole, but once I hit 75% I knew I would try to finish the book in one go–it didn’t quite happen that way of course!–as I royally screwed up my sleep schedule for it, but I will explain more about this at the end of the post.

Since this is the end of the series, I have decided to share my Spotify playlist dedicated to these characters and the overall aesthetic. Click here to begin listening to it. Funnily enough, this wasn’t the only thing I created in the midst of reading all five books, I even made its own Pinterest board! So, if you would like to visit that one as well, you should click here for that one!


56139390

For Odin’s chosen, all roads lead to Valhalla.

With Gudmund dead, Hervor and Hofund are crowned queen and king of Grund. The pair soon discover that ruling a Viking land is not without difficulty. Enemies from without and within threaten the new rulers. While her dreams are the same, Hervor’s future becomes unclear. The gods have grown silent. Only Skadi whispers to Hervor now, and all her words are warnings. A dark moon is rising. Hervor must learn to rely on her inner strength to protect her family and face the tumultuous path the Norns have woven for her.

Dive into the thrilling final chapter of the Road to Valhalla series! Fans of Vikings and The Last Kingdom will love the Shield-Maiden: Under the Dark Moon by New York Times bestseller Melanie Karsak.

taken from Goodreads.

Since I started reading the final Harry Potter book at the same time as this one, I quickly realized there was one similar element to each story, you knew from the beginning they were to end. The characters themselves were evolving as you continued on through each chapter and as a reader, you knew very quickly, every emotion was going to hit you hard. This was definitely true with “Under the Dark Moon” as we moved on through time as Hervor grew into a strong individual – not saying she wasn’t in the other four books!

She is wife, mother, shield-maiden, and queen now.

As we left “Under the Blood Moon”, we entered the tender years as the princes (and princess!) of Grund went from babies to young men in their own right. Previously, we witnessed the birth of the younger son, Prince Angantyr born on Grund, and we were allowed to watch the sons of Hervor and Hofund reach their destinies and for Angantyr, it was an easy arrangement, whereas Heidrek was a totally different story. This was another thing you noticed once we jumped further in time a few years and you saw the boys in different personalities, while one was gentle and patient, the other was cunning and full of rage.

On the other side of that, you saw other beloved characters like Svafa find love again. Jarl Lief and Lady Eydis and their brood change with the times. Thorolf and Thyri expand their family, and Princess Blomma become more than just a foster-daughter and older sister to her family and friends. And of course, we see even more of Lady Revna too. Oh, how the Norns weave this woman and her web of victims. Lastly, there was one final character whose own chapter slowly ending too. the much-adored wolf of Bolmsö, Rök. I swear I cried mostly for him! His death was as difficult for Hervor as it was on me too. Honestly, that whole scene about killed me!

Despite the fact this book didn’t have that many battle scenes, there was one new character that was interesting on both sides, and it was Aquippa. He was a capture thrall (or slave) sent to be auctioned off at the marketplace in Grund, until Hervor used her role of Queen to her advantage as warriors would raid throughout the world, they brought back more than gold and silver, they also made it rich to sell people to work. This was common to when the Europeans stole the Africans from their native homeland and customs.

For Hervor to do this though was huge! It wasn’t that big of a surprise to us as she’d be vocal about keeping thralls fairly early in the other books. I mean, Eydis was also thrall in Dalr and sent to work with Jarl Bjarmter’s family. She was a comfort to the lost Svafa, abused Hervor and secret lover to Leif. Eydis and Hervor had a strong connection to each other, and it was because of this that Hervor wished to see the end of this trait washed out to sea for good.

“All your life, your road has led to Valhalla.

Back to Aquippa though, he was a person of many different things for the royal family. He helped Hofund on his inventions and tutored Blomma, but I thought the most important thing about him was the fact he trusted Hervor so quickly, and told stories of how in other lands, there were people who believed in other gods. While this is going on, she starts to see Hervor almost question her own Gods, especially Loki towards, but it was apparent once she and Hofund freed the thralls that she wondered if this was truly a practice in the All-Father’s hall. I was very conflicted by this as she was very much relied on the guidance of Odin and Skadi, and once her communication with Odin disappeared, she was a different person in my eyes, and I still wonder if Melanie had written it that way for a reason.

On the very early morning of July 22nd, I was nearing the end of the story and I was very committed to finishing that night, but I couldn’t get everything that happened in that hour for me to calm myself fully, so I sat back up at 3:30am to complete the rest of the book. A part of me still thinks I should have waited because I was exhausted while writing this review! Anyways, the ending was tough, but I will say, this was my first proper ending compared to the first series I read by Melanie last year. Highland Queen never had an end to the characters and their situations, and I am still furious about it, but this made up for it completely, because I did the whole ugly cry in the darkness of my room! I keep telling myself this was better to get everything out at that moment then waiting until later that day and my parents seeing me with puffy, red eyes and tears streaming down my face. I was such a mess, but it was also needed as I wanted to grieve for these characters, and I was happy I was able to do that this time around.

Have you read “Shield-Maiden: Under the Dark Moon” by Melanie Karsak yet? For those who have, what were favorite parts of the final book? Did you break down as much as I did for that ending? Let me know in the comments section below!

snowflake

Book Review: “Shield-Maiden: Under the Hunter’s Moon” by Melanie Karsak

Hello!

It is time to discuss my thoughts on the second book of “The Road to Valhalla” series by Melanie Karsak. If you have yet to check out how this whole journey started, click here, and you might want to skip this post, so you don’t see any spoilers.


e6739a062662bdafe40c6b909f8148d4

When the gods play in mortals’ lives, the only certain outcome is uncertainty. Especially when that god is Loki.

In the course of a night, I found out my entire life was a lie. Now, Yrsa, Eydis, and I will set off to recover Tyrfing. I must leave Dalr—and the dream I’d shared with Hofund—behind. Eydis is sure the gods have plans for me. I hope she’s right. For on the distant island of Bolmsö, the last of my father’s line is besieged by enemies, and only the blood of a berserker can make things right again.

taken from Goodreads.

Once I finished the first book, it didn’t necessarily take me long to get into the sequel. The one thing I was a bit worried about was the sheer number of pages it had compared to the other but then I got over it and was able to enjoy the continuation of Hervor’s story.

Some people have never experienced feeling unconditional love from their families, even in the same case as Hervor, as her mother does in fact adore her truly, but she has never been of sense and mind up until the end of the ‘Howling Moon’ and so she has relied on other people for care and protection but now she knows the truth of her parenteral side and she intends to make it known within herself but to others as well. You could look at this in the same way of Jon Snow finding out about his heritage on season six and seven of “Game of Thrones”.

Although the plot is based around Hervor proving herself worthy of others around her, you still have the comical side with characters like Eydis and newcomer Utr. They were a nice separation of the serious events happening all over.

“The gods have surely brought you here, Hervor.”

There was one part of the story, and everyone was getting ready for an upcoming battle, and there was a tiny scene that puzzled me because I wondered if it was plausible for this character–who is fictional I know–to actually know and understand the measures it took on the battle itself. Eydis had explained that she had received a vision of a certain Trojan horse that was moved into the other side’s camp, however it was not hollow on the inside, and everyone was massacred once the ruse broke.

The story of the horse was featured in Homer’s Odyssey and although it is still unclear whether or not the horse even existed, they time the war between Greeks and Troy to be around 1194 to 1184 BC. If you are even more curious to learn about the myth, you can click here. After finishing my research, I went to look into the sagas of Hervor and I found that her story is placed sometime in the 13th Century BC, which is fairly close to the story of the horse, so with that, it seemed like a clever way to connect both sides of history into this series.

Despite all of this, I realized as I was searching for everything that I was just like Hervor in this book. It can be difficult to decipher between myth and truth. There were a lot of speculations who Hervor’s father was in the beginning and it has been interesting for me to wonder about the these two settlements; the Vikings were brutal warriors and ruled the waters with axes, shields, and sheer strength in their bodies plus knowing they will be drinking in the halls with Odin in Valhalla as they dead on the battlefield wasn’t a bad passing, whereas the Greeks lived in massive cities of concrete buildings and sophisticated armor with swords and horse drawn chariots. I mean, certain parts of history do have a way of repeating itself.

I never meant to doubt Melanie’s information or overall work, but from the moment I read that paragraph, I found it odd but then of course I let it fester in my head as I continued reading and knew I would eventually look everything up to my curious heart’s content and that’s what happened. I feel better and pleased to learn more about how our ancient selves lived, and thought you, if you are like me and love history, would appreciate the insight too!

Have you read ‘Under the Hunter’s Moon’ by Melanie Karsak yet? If you have, what were your favorite parts of it?

snowflake

Book Review: “Shield-Maiden: Under The Howling Moon” by Melanie Karsak

Hello!

I want to say, I can’t believe I am talking about another series by Melanie Karsak, but it’s happening! Although, if we’re being technical, it was actually my mom’s fault we are here in the first place as she told me shortly after I finished The Raven and The Dove by K.M. Butler last month.

Back in December, while I was reading my way through Christmas inspired stories, I attempted to read Melanie’s prequel novella called, “Shield-Maiden: Winternight Gambit” but I just couldn’t get into it as much as I thought I would. I’ve never been able to enjoy Viking fiction and trust me when I say there are TONS out there, which is both a blessing and a curse because it is super difficult to find anything outside of the Norse mythology. The fact I found Melanie’s “Celtic Blood” series first was interesting, but honestly both mythologies are somewhat similar, and I think that’s why I’m able to mesh with it now, because I have grown to learn more about “earth based” and/or pagan lifestyle, even if the story itself is fictionized.


50631215

Chosen by Odin. Destined for Valhalla.

In my dreams, Odin whispers to me. 
He tells me I’m destined to wield a legendary sword.
He tells me my road will bring me to Valhalla.

But when I wake, I’m only Hervor. Fatherless. Unloved. Unwanted. Jarl Bjartmar, my grandfather, calls me cursed. My mother, her memories stolen by the gods, has forgotten me. Everyone tells me I should have been left to the wolves, but no one will tell me why.

None but Eydis, a thrall with völva magic, believes I’m meant for a greater destiny. Yet who can believe a devotee of Loki?

When the king and his son arrive for the holy blót, the runes begin to fall in my favor. A way forward may lie in the handsome Viking set on winning my heart, but only if I unravel the mystery hanging over me first.

Fans of Vikings, The Last Kingdom, and The Mists of Avalon will relish Shield Maiden: Under the Howling Moon. This sweeping Viking Historical Fantasy retells the Norse Hervarar Saga, depicting the life of the shieldmaiden Hervor, the inspiration for J. R. R. Tolkien’s Éowyn.

taken from Gooreads.


I didn’t know what to expect from this story, but once I started, I felt comfortable with my surroundings. Anytime I jump into Melanie’s work, I instantly felt happy on the inside. Everything came together and I fully allowed myself to dive deep and embrace all of these characters and the events mentioned throughout the story.

I truly love having to focus on one character’s point of view and I think this is what I drive for in all of my books honestly. It was a freak accident that I was able to enjoy K.M. Butler’s book so much, because it had two views, but in order to understand the lives of those characters, you needed separate views as a reader. However, with this story, we follow only Hervor, and to me, she was just as powerful as Halla and Taurien. If you haven’t checked out my review of that book, the link is located in the first paragraph.

“Of all the places to live. Like a dwarf in a cave. Not in a glen. Not in a tree. Oh no, up the side of the steepest mountain,”

The entire book was exciting, but there were some interesting twists throughout the pages. Despite being the granddaughter of a jarl, she wasn’t very respected among her family. This is one of the biggest wonders of the story, because her mother somehow lost part of her memories, and even though Svafa is the beloved daughter of the jarl, Hervor is not.

She has constantly in the book said that she is unloved, but I don’t believe she is, she has multiple people in her village that adore her plenty like Eydis, who may be a slave to the family; she and Hervor have a beautiful friendship and I think Hervor tends to forget about that. She also has Yrsa as well, who has been teaching her all about being a shield maiden and her hopes is with her cousin Leif, who like Eydis, has been with her for the majority of her life and wants to see her flourish as well!

Besides Hervor being a big favorite for me, Eydis reminded me of someone I know. She is one of my sister’s friends from school and I basically used her face and goofy antics to picture this character a little better. She is a devotee of Loki, who is very mischievous in both the Norse mythology and the Marvel universe, so she has her weird moments too but there is a scene towards the end that really got me good. I physically laughed because not only was it perfect, but it showed you how funny she naturally is. I had saved like six quotes throughout, and I could have used any of the ones that came out of Hervor that could reflect her story, but I couldn’t see this post without sharing what Eydis has upon coming to Yrsa and Hervor.

After I had finished, I immediately went on Amazon and grabbed both the next and third book of the series. And I hate to say that it took me to four days to write this post and but they’ve currently sitting in my Kindle; I didn’t want to get any of the information confused once I began reading the second book, so I had to wait it out, which was tortuous, but I’m done here so I’m off to find out what happens to these wonderful characters! PS: I’m currently in the middle of “Under the Hunter’s Moon” so I’ll have the second review finished at the end of April.

Have you read “Shield-Maiden: Under The Howling Moon” by Melanie Karsak yet? If you have, who were your favorite characters and scenes? What other Viking books can you recommend to anyone out there?

snowflake