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

Purchase: Amazon


“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?”

Opening Sentence:

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!

15 thoughts on “Berserker: A Review

  1. Reading the description, I excepted this one not to be good, considering the character is set off by people hurting her loved ones, which is so cliche and generally means the characters haven’t really been thought out. I am glad you liked it! I’d have to read it for myself to decide, but it is interesting to see how much you liked it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that the reason she is set off by those hurting her loved ones is because that’s what Berserkers actually do in Mythology. They get set off for one reason or another and they have this urge to kill. I don’t really think that it is a cliche especially in the context of this book. I connected to this story a lot and I really loved it. I think the writing was absolutely stunning.


      1. I get that she is a berserker and has a trigger. I just think violence caused by loved ones being hurt is slightly overdone. I guess family is a touchy spot for most of us though. Idk, I just really like when the characters get more individualized. Like, maybe her family members getting picked on by others is fine, but when someone gesticulates excessively while picking on a family member is the trigger. You know, just something so far out there and so unique to this one character that it really makes her feel like a real person with strange ticks and all of that.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I guess I could see that. Either way I think it was very well done. I think the unique ways she makes use of her gift made this interesting as well (for example.. at the beginning she has her gift purposely triggered so that she can kill this hog to get money for her family because they are poor)

          I definitely recommend you give this book a shot, but if the cliche for you is still something that is a hurdle I understand you passing on it.

          Also, I’m just really passionate about this because I loved the book so much, but I’m grateful for your point of view because I hadn’t thought of the trigger being a loved one in the light of being a cliche or that the trigger could have been made more unique. 😊

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I study fiction so I am always analyzing the littlest things and always trying to pinpoint what could be better, lol, even with books I rate four stars (maybe not with five although there are certainly things in those that could be improved as well, I’m just too busy fangirling over them to notice!). Anyways, I probably would purchase this book because you mentioned violence and thought the writing was good but that TBR pile is so high I can’t find the top anymore. *sigh* *buys more books anyways*

            Liked by 1 person

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