Berserker by Emmy Laybourne
My Rating: 5 Stars!
Publisher: Macmillian Children’s Publishing
Publish Date: October 10th, 2017
Received: Netgalley provided an e-arc in exchange for an honest review
“Are Hanne’s powers a gift from the old Norse gods, or a curse?
Her brother Stieg swears their powers are a gift from the old gods, but Hanne Hemstad knows she is truly cursed. It’s not Stieg’s fault that their father is dead, their mother has left, and their brother Knut has been accused of a crime he didn’t commit.
No, the fault lies with Hanne and her inability to control her murderous “gift”―she is a Berserker. When someone she loves is threatened, she flies into a killing state. Now, Hanne and her siblings must leave Norway for the American frontier or risk being brought to justice.
Aided by a young cowboy who agrees to be their guide, they use their powers to survive the perilous trail, where blizzards, wild animals, and vicious bounty hunters await.
Will they be able to reach their uncle, the one man Hanne believes can teach her how to control her drive to kill?”
October 1883 Norheimsund, Norway
“The hog snorted at the two young trespassers in his pen.”
Berserker is a brilliantly violent story that keep me up till two in the morning aching to finish it. Berserker is a mix of horror, historical fiction, fantasy, and dark western combined to make a story that I could not put down no matter how hard I tried.
The descriptions in this book are grotesque yet somehow beautiful and it made my eyes dance across the page to see what would happen next. Before this book I never had the desire to pick up a western set novel (even though I grew up watching little house on the prairie), because westerns never looked interesting to me. However, I think I’m regretting that thought because this book was just too good to resist. Plus, the western elements were done incredibly well and I really enjoyed the cowboy aspect and traveling down the old American West.
The romance in this novel was also a sweet touch that made me even more connecting and invested in this story. It felt so hopeless because of how grossly violent Hanne’s powers as a Berserker were and how calm and different our helpful cowboy was. I also really enjoyed the family tension that their growing interest started to create, especially with Hanne’s little sister. It was cool to see the anger and worry build as they all worked out if Owen (our handsome cowboy) could be trusted with their family secret or not.
The families magical gifts added another layer of fascination for me, especially with the horrid consequences that come from using those gifts. The contrasting details of how gorgeously the use of the gift were described and the horrid nature of their punishment made for a deliciously rich narrative.
This book is one of my favorites of the year. The way Emmy Laybourne spins together words into music made this story very special. I don’t think I could ever get enough of it.
Thanks for reading! Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
-Till next time!