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.

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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.


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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