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!


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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!

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Blogmas: Festive and Winter-y Baby Names!

Hello!

Last year I did a HUGE thing and made up over 100 name combinations for my second Instagram account. It was kind of hectic but really fun and I was pretty proud of myself afterwards. The page itself is centered around my love of names. I’ve never been interested on how the name(s) mean or sound really, I just share what I think looks cute and different and it allows me to learn more about other cultures too! I am a big learner and obsessed with various holidays and nationalities, and I’ve figured out I can multitask when it comes to creating these posts on my profile.

I had plans to do something similar during the month of October, because I also love fall and Halloween-eques type of names but I wasn’t motivated to do anything, and I was only able to release three girl pairings out of the entire thing. I was so bummed about it, but then I thought about creating a whole post about the names that I feel are perfect for Christmas.

This is one of the largest lists I’ve ever made, and I apologize for its size, but the original list was actually much bigger–I had the hardest time figuring out what to add. (This statement shouldn’t surprise you too much!) What I will do to make this somewhat easier for you is, I will talk about four names from each sex and discuss why I picked them out of the rest in their group, plus give you a fun middle name so it gives you some ideas later on.

Ambrose Gray

One thing you will notice in the list is that I chose some classic names like Ambrose, Benedict, and Emmanuel mainly because they are “warm” names to me. I feel like they are perfect names for boys (or girls) born in the colder months. They are snuggle-y and sophisticated. And despite using the middle as “Gray” I can see a lot of reds, navy blues, and beige colors that could illuminate the essence of the name. Yes, in a way your child will have a grandfather type of name but as they get older, you could adopt a nickname that could work with their full name!

Douglas Wolf

I have seen Douglas making a slow comeback and I seriously am here for it!

If you are interested in boho or nature, I think Douglas is an underdog to both of these styles. I love trees but I always forget to add them in my ultimate list. Douglas firs (or Evergreen trees) are unbelievably gorgeous! Once you see them out in their habitat, you instantly feel Christmas-y and want to do a full-on Griswold move and watch it explode in your living room with its huge limbs. Oddily enough, newborn babies can have a similar effect, but maybe not break any windows with their incredible wails though, but who knows, maybe they can…

Fairbanks Roland

Back in January, I actually began to collect names that were out of the Scandinavian range as that was one country, I talked about in the previous Christmas name posts on my Instagram. I also adore the Frozen franchise, so it wasn’t really a surprise when I just unleashed every week of different ones. However, I decided to change it up a bit and started searching for interesting names based around Alaska, which is how I found Fairbanks.

Why I thought Fairbanks could be a hit is because of two reasons: 1) it is both a city and word name, and these are really in nowadays! So, if you are tired of hearing about Aspen, Boston, and Denver, this could be your ticket! 2) as far as I can tell, Fairbanks is fairly low on the popularity charts. Technically, this combination is pretty low on their significant lists so you could be safe to having you child use an unique type of name that could rise later on.

Lysander Matthew

Personally, I have always had an uneasy relationship with Lysander. I like it, I think it’s interesting and could work around Halloween and winter, so in a way it’s like Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, where it works around both of their celebrations.

I am very impressed with the amount of regal looking the boy names are in the banner. I tend to enjoy hearing bold and masculine names around this time anyways. As I said about “Ambrose” there is something about these classic names that seem to radiant a sense of warmth and wholesome in the next few months. This being said though, I tend to go on a different route with the girls. I like shorter but Christmas like type of styles, thus the many vibes of the festive season.

I paired it with a very beloved name of mine and that’s “Matthew” as I feel like it adds a subtle sweet flair to how sharp Lysander looks and sounds. I don’t usually add other names that could work as possibly sibling sets in these types of posts, but I think Leander and Lior would be cool as they each have a mysterious and regal appeal to them.


Faith Sydney

As with Lysander above, Faith is another one that hasn’t had an easy time with me. I normally to go back and forth with it, but since so many faiths are celebrated during this month, I thought it could stand to make a comeback amongst the charts again. There is another reason to list it here is because Faith is one syllable. People are really enjoying naming their children with one to three syllables and this was the reason why I included Sydney as the middle as it is kind of easygoing and plays well overall.

Honor Madeleine

Since 2008, I have been a huge fan of Honor, thanks in part to actress Jessica Alba and her husband Cash Warren’s first daughter being named Honor Marie. It was during that year that my actual love of collecting names officially started; I’d been storing a lot of them throughout my life, but this was the first time where I saw so many good names at once and my mom and I were just having a field day of sharing our thoughts on each one that was announced. This was the same year that Nicole Ritchie and her husband Joel Madden had their daughter Harlow Winter Kate, which is another beloved favorite of mine too! Honor and Harlow could be a great set as well!

Josepha Claire

This one is for those who would like to get out of using Josephine, now there’s nothing wrong with that variation, I’m actually a really big fan of that style, but I thought Josepha or maybe Josephe could be an interesting royal switch up.

Lately I’ve been doing royal family trees in my spear time, and I just finished doing Marie Antoinette’s maternal family line and Josepha is a HUGE name among her family. The majority of her mother, aunts, sisters, and nieces had it in their fairly large names, so if you are a fan of Marie Antoinette in any way, you could use Josepha as a nice way to represent her or the old Asturian-Hungarian royal family.

Neve Alexandra

One name that I just enjoyed last winter was Neve. I had heard about it prior to using it in my theme, but I never knew it meant “snow” in Italian. As much as I like the word “snow” having it as a name for a human, always makes me cringe a little, so whenever I can find names that mean it, I will definitely go with the alternative immediately. I also really enjoyed putting Alexandra with it as the middle since that’s another way I enjoy creating combinations too, starting small and continue with a longer and strong type of name can make it look almost regal.

Okay, well, that is it for this post. I really hope you enjoyed my selection of names, and the few I gave you with some ideas for middle candidates too. Now I would really like for you to comment below with your favorites from the banner or what you like to see throughout the season.