Review: The Witch's Heart

It seems no matter the culture, myths and legends get weird. Norse mythology is absolutely no exception to that.

In this story, we have a novelization of the story of Angrboda. Wife of Loki. Mother of monsters. She’s been around a while (it’s mythology, even she doesn’t know how long) and she just wants to be left alone.

I like seeing a slightly more ‘raw’ Norse mythology, especially than you get from (for example) the Marvel universe(s).

It’s kind of a bonkers story. You never know what’s going to happen. Being built on myths, the world is flexible at best. Rules are made to be broken. And that’s before you have gods et al with the ability to rewrite reality / see the future / move from world to world.

I really enjoyed it. Worth a read.


All of my notes while reading. Potential spoilers:

“I really admire your work,” he said conversationally. “You know—sowing chaos wherever you go. Making mighty beings fight over your talents. It’s impressive, really.”

That sounds awfully Loki.

Angrboda tried not to let it unsettle her that they’d found a set of ancient iron hinges already secured in the entryway when they’d measured it for the door. Skadi had seemed perturbed herself at the find, but had said nothing except to deem the hinges functional before securing the new panel to them.

Fun. Magic? Or previous occupant?

At last, he turned to her so she could see the source of the blood: His mouth was a mangled mess, crudely stitched shut with a thick cord and without much care for evenness. He’d clawed about half the stitches out, and the bloody cord was dangling free on one side.

I half remember this. Tried to talk himself out of something. It went well.

“Well, Thor now has a hammer with a short handle—make of that what you will—and actual golden hair for Sif. Odin has a spear that won’t miss and a magical ring, and Frey has a golden boar and a ship that you can fold up and take with you, and which always has a fair wind.”

Loki helped!

“It doesn’t really matter where we came from, does it? We’re here now. We’re ourselves. What more can we be?”

“Huh,” said Angrboda. “What brings you here in such a form, Loki?” I’m in trouble, said the mare in her head. “What sort of trouble?” You’ll see in a few months.

Lol. Loki as a pregnant horse. Oh myths.

She placed a finger over his lips. “From now on, once you cross this threshold, you must either stop caring—as you said you would—or bring your bothersome feelings elsewhere. Do I make myself clear?” “Are you saying that it’s bothersome that I have feelings, or that I should single out specific feelings that are bothersome and leave those at the door?”

Hey that’s a fair question!

“You’ve gotten fat,” he commented as he watched her bustle about. She whirled on him, lip curling. “Not that I mind,” he added hastily, palms up in surrender. “It’s a good look for you.” “Well, thank heavens for that,” Angrboda snapped. “And for your information, I have not gotten fat.” “Well, from what I can see—” “Think about it, Loki. Think very, very hard.”

That’s a delightful exchange.

“Babies just cry and make a mess and you can’t put them down anywhere because they just roll off whatever you set them on.”

They’re cute too! But yeah, definitely trouble.

Loki leaned over and silenced her with a kiss. “We’re odd. She’s odd. She fits right in, does she not?”

She does.

Hel stuck the wolf figurine back in her mouth and said no more on the subject. Angrboda got the feeling that she’d just lost an argument to an infant, and oddly enough she wasn’t even surprised about it.

Sounds familiar.

Loki obliged and sat down at her feet again, hiking her dress up to her waist. “I’m just being realistic. I’ve been where you are, remember, although I suppose it might’ve been a bit different for me as a horse.” He forced a smile, put his hands on her knees and squeezed, and peered down. “This may be over sooner than you think—are you pushing already?”

Not that common a conversation I don’t think.

“Are you certain you’re not the old witch from the stories?” Skadi had teased her the first time she laid eyes on Fenrir, when he was still just a smallish ball of fur. “Are you sure your wolf-children don’t chase the sun and moon?” “I’m not,” Angrboda had replied. “Certain, that is. I’m not certain.”


“This?” Skadi said, ignoring her and gesturing wildly to Loki. She looked at Angrboda with fury. “You’re married to this? This dreadful piece of work is your husband and the father of your children and the love of your life and so on?”

And so it comes out. :D

“Pfft. If I have poor taste, then you have no taste at all.” “Why do you insult my wife like that?” “Saying you have no taste isn’t an insult to—” “Oh, but it is. You see, I taste her all the time. I’d bet you wish you could say the same.” Angrboda turned and raised her eyebrows at Loki, then looked at Skadi, whose face had turned a very bright red.

Oh my.

“So? What is it?” “I’m not sure,” Loki said as he stared down at whatever it was Angrboda had just pushed from her body. There was minimal mess and no afterbirth, but that didn’t seem to be what was troubling him. “How . . . are you not sure?” Angrboda asked, struggling to sit up straighter and get a better view of her newest child.

That’s quite the newborn conversation.

A second later, and Hel sprang at her mother and latched onto her waist tightly, whimpering. “You all need to get back behind the boundary,” Angrboda said with mounting apprehension. She tried very hard to keep her voice even. “Right now.” “I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” Gerd said, panting. “They all just took off, one right after another. I tried to make them go back, but—”

She cared little where the kerchief landed, a fine gift though it had been. She was no longer married. She wouldn’t need it again.

“The war?” Skadi stared at her. “You . . . you’re Gullveig? I’ve heard her mentioned before, and it was so long ago that not much is known—most people think she’s Freyja, or was Freyja. Because of the name, you know? A goddess who knows seid and has a thirst for gold fits the description rather well.”

It finally all comes out!

I suppose it’s better than dying, the she-wolf said wearily, closing her eyes, although not by much. •

New friend!

“Do you know what’s been done to me?” Hel shot back. “I should’ve never been born, but you—you had to meddle. Yes, I know what you did now; I’ve seen it myself. The dead know all. I was dying, and you summoned me back with your magic. Now here I am, with power over life and death but only a sad half-life to call my own, cast away from all the worlds, alone forever. Where have you been all this time, Mother? Where have you been while I rotted?” Hel whipped aside the bottom of her dress to show her legs: merely bone now, with blue-gray flesh still clinging in some places, held together by only a few tendons and a lot of magic.

Oh my.

Calm yourself. I’m not talking about him, the she-wolf said, rolling her eyes. I’m talking about your Huntress. Don’t act like you have no one to come home to, when it’s just as likely she heeded your call and forsook the gods the moment Baldur’s funeral ended to make her way back here. And if Loki did in fact seek refuge in your cave and happened to cross paths with her, she could be bashing his face into the side of a mountain at this very moment. Isn’t that a lovely thought?

:D I like this wolf.

Skadi sighed. “He was taken somewhere distant, somewhere in Midgard. One of his sons with Sigyn was turned into a wolf, who then disemboweled the other son. Loki was bound with that second son’s guts, which turned to iron. The wolf then ran off.” She shifted. “No wonder Sigyn reacted the way she did, that night at the river, if that’s what you made her see . . .”

… oh mythology.

“Then a snake was hung above Loki’s head, dripping venom on his face,” said Skadi. “He writhed so powerfully, it felt as though all of Midgard shook. But the Aesir allowed Sigyn to stay with him, with a bowl to catch the poison—reluctantly, for they think he doesn’t deserve as much. And so do I. But at least this way, he will be too distracted to try thinking his way out of this. It was necessary.”

This one I recognize.

“You can hear her?” Angrboda’s eyebrows shot up. “I thought it was only me. And so did she, for that matter.” Skadi shrugged. “I’ve always felt a certain kinship with wolves . . .” Oh, I like this one, said the she-wolf as she settled down by the hearth. Can we keep her?

:D cute.

“That’s nonsense,” Angrboda said without thinking. “You’ll share my bed.” Skadi opened her mouth and shut it again. “That is—it’s large enough for both of us to sleep comfortably. I’ll not see you sleeping on the floor when we can both fit our separate beddings on my sleeping pallet.” Angrboda was grateful that her face was already so red from the biting wind—it helped disguise the flush creeping up her cheeks.


“Thank you,” Angrboda said quietly, and turned to her. “Huh?” Skadi blinked at her, arching an eyebrow. “For subjecting your former husband to bodily torture on your behalf without your approval?”

She always did say she would.

Eventually, when Angrboda had gone back to her stores and started digging around for any food she had left, Hel called weakly from the bed, “I was so angry at you both. Especially Papa. I’d planned to throw him into an eternal river of ice or a very deep crevice when he finally came to my realm. But when he showed up, he looked such a fright that tossing him into a bottomless pit actually might’ve been an improvement, and that rather took all the fun out of the idea.”

That sounds rather Loki. Even if it wasn’t intentional.

To think, I was once a powerful witch who did interesting things. Her mood soured considerably at the sight of the dragon. And now here I am, smiling at a turnip. Preposterous.