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

Hello again!

It’s crazy to think I am almost finished with this series. It has been a great sequel to “The Raven and The Dove” book I read earlier this year, but now my mind is like, what are we going to do after this one ends? The plan is to start on the other Viking series by Melanie Karsak but I am also thinking about focusing on other genres, so we’ll have to see what happens after July, because when I finished this book, I turned my attention to the newest book in Melanie’s “Celtic Rebels” series about Queen Boudica.


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As the blood moon rises, the shadow of Ragnarök falls on Uppsala.

With the dark days in Dalr behind them, Hervor and Hofund journey to Grund. Hervor’s focus turns to tracking down the sea kings and taking vengeance, but she soon finds that life in Grund is convoluted. Family grudges, secret alliances, and shady friendships abound in the capital. Everyone has their own agenda, and for some, Hervor is in the way. Hervor will find that surviving Grund is far more complicated than the bloody fields. But a blood moon is rising. Soon, Odin’s shield-maiden must clear the path to her promised future…no matter who must meet Tyrfing to ensure that fate.

taken from Goodreads.

I had mentioned that once everything ended in “Under the Thunder Moon” you couldn’t see what was going to unfold for our beloved characters. It was going to be interesting as far as how Melanie was going to do about Hervor now being a jarl on Bolmsö and princess of Grund after marrying Prince Hofund. She was becoming her own person, especially now that Eydis was to be with Leif in Dalr. You didn’t exactly how everything would turn out, but I was definitely intrigued about it.

There is a lot of traveling involved as we start from Bolmsö to Dalr, Silfreheim to finally Prince Hofund’s home Grund. As most people would feel in this situation, Hervor and her gang of warriors are uneasy, especially after she was crowned Jarl Hervor of Bolmsö. This world is completely opposite to life on both Dalr and Bolmsö, as Grund is much larger and has a court full of cunning and resentful people close to the royal family. We also have the issue of the sea kings creating havoc everywhere they go, and it was exciting to see all of these various Jarls, Kings, Princes, and several shield-maidens of Scandinavia come together to kick some serious ass towards the end but beware when you arrive to this scene because a beloved character dies, and it hurt me pretty bad–so much that it took me five days to finish this post!

“No one backs a wolf into a corner and remains unscathed.”

While I was reading, I tried to highlight as much as possible, and I do this for two reasons: I get my quotes of this review, but I also enjoy researching various things and then sharing the results with you guys. I did this with the second book of the series, as it mentioned the Trojan horse scheme. For this book though, there was a section where Prince Hofund is showing Hervor, Yrsa and Blomma the marketplace and while Hofund is pulled away, Hervor buys material to make into suitable dresses for court life, and she or Yrsa asks how the seamstress made such a vibrant colors and she explains there is a shell by the sea that helps color the fabric naturally, and what was weird about this, was I remembered hearing something about that exact shell a week or so beforehand!

I enjoy watching History Tea Time with Lindsay Holiday on YouTube and I was listening to her video about FAQs and Odd Facts and there is a part in the video where she is explaining how the darker purple became “Royal” purple and I just thought this was so interesting and incredibly weird that both of things would happen at the same time! Anyways, click here if you’d like to learn more about the process into making a richer color of purple.

Have you read the fourth book in “The Road to Valhalla” by Melanie Karsak yet? For those who have, what were some of your thoughts?

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

Hello!

And we’re back for another book in Melanie Karsak’s “The Road to Valhalla” series. I really don’t know what I’m going to do once I read all of these books; she is currently working on a spinoff series with the character introduced at the end of the previous story. If you would like to check out my thoughts on the other two, click either ‘Under the Howling Moon‘ and/or ‘Under the Hunter’s Moon’ and then you can always come back to this one afterwards!


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Under the thunder moon, the war-horn will sound, and Odin’s Valkyrie will rise.

Reunited with Hofund, and with Bolmsö safe from its enemies, Hervor takes her place as jarl. But the All-Father has bigger plans for his favorite shield-maiden. When Hervor learns that Jarl Bjartmar has vowed vengeance on Leif, she knows she must stand by her cousin. To free Dalr, they must enlist the help of old allies, former enemies, and a warrior-priest called the Reindeer King. Together, they will fight to free Dalr.

taken from Goodreads.

A lot happens in this book, I mean, it is packed with everything all fans of Vikings love the most: war. Honestly, I thought there was a lot of fighting in the second book, but the journey and reasons are completely different as we have Hervor, Ysra and her cousin Lief going back to Dalr to basically liberate the people there in the village, including Hervor’s mother Svafa and Leif’s younger brothers Hakon and Helger from their tyrant of a grandfather.

In almost every chapter, you feel just as uncertain about the events that could happen to these characters, but then you remember about Hervor’s strength to get through probably the best times of her life being so close to newly grandfather Arngrim–who would have enjoyed Hervor’s company if she and her mother weren’t taken away from Bolmsö–plus his second in command Regal and shield-maiden Hella. When we get towards the end, we get a sense of coming full circle for almost everyone. The one person who I believe will be troublesome is Asta, especially when Eydis and the babies arrive home – this was one part of the whole thing that has me kind of shattered, because I absolutely adore Eydis and Hervor’s antics, but she needs to take her rightful place with the people that love her just as much.

“May the All-Father watch over us. May Frigga shake the spear of war. May Thor beat his anvil. And most of all, may Utr watch our arses.”

Now that things have calmed down for the time-being, I don’t know what to expect in “Under the Blood Moon.” I find this really interesting because we can assume several things, but it sort of feels like we’re starting a brand-new story and Melanie could take the story in another way entirely, and she definitely did that with “Highland Queen” too. I just hope I end up loving what happens, because I was less than thrilled with that ending… Anyways, I’m ready to see what happens, and by the way, there are five books in this series so there’s no way to really figure out how it all ends for these characters and I’m so happy about it!

Have you read “Shield-Maiden: Under the Thunder Moon” by Melanie Karsak yet? What were your favorite quotes and/or scenes mentioned in the story?

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