Review | Queens of the Wyrd – Timandra Whitecastle

About the Book

Raise your shield. Defend your sisters. Prepare for battle

Half-giant Lovis and her Shieldmaiden warband were once among the fiercest warriors in Midgard. But those days are long past and now Lovis just wants to provide a safe home for herself and her daughter – that is, until her former shield-sister Solveig shows up on her doorstep with shattering news.

Solveig’s warrior daughter is trapped on the Plains of Vigrid in a siege gone ugly. Desperate to rescue her, Sol is trying to get the old warband back together again. But their glory days are a distant memory. The Shieldmaidens are Shieldmothers now, entangled in domestic obligations and ancient rivalries.

But family is everything, and Lovis was never more at home than at her shield-sisters’ side. Their road won’t be easy: old debts must be paid, wrongs must be righted, and the Nornir are always pulling on loose threads, leaving the Shieldmaidens facing the end of all Nine Realms. Ragnarok is coming, and if the Shieldmaidens can’t stop it, Lovis will lose everyone she loves…

Fate is inexorable. Wyrd bith ful araed.

412 (paperback)
Published on November 21, 2019
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I’m going to be honest with you, dear reader. I am at the point where it almost takes an act of god for me to read a Viking-based fantasy and like it. However, I just edited a few that have knocked my socks off, and I absolutely loved the cover on this one. I saw it right after I finished said editing projects, and I figured I was on a bit of a Viking roll, so why not see if I can keep it going?

Friends, this book was amazing. 

First of all, on the surface this book feels a bit like an answer to Nicholas Eames’s Kings of the Wyld, and I guess it is. The story follows the same patterns and walks down a very similar path, but if you stop there, you’re really missing all the delightful things that are going on under the surface. And there is a lot going on here. I think, perhaps, it was all the layers I enjoyed the most. I always do have a bit of a soft spot for books and authors who take standard fantasy tropes and flip them on their heads. 

The skalds say that in the beginning, there was nothing but ice. They say before the beginning there was another world tree but it died, wrapped in sheets of ice and cold, and perhaps Nornir came from that older reality to tend this one, and when this tree dies in the flames of Ragnarok, burned to cinders and ashes, they will plant a new seed in its place by their fountain, and wait.

For the end of a world pays its debts, but also owes itself a new beginning.

Much like Kings of the WyldQueens of the Wyrd takes readers on a bit of a journey. A retired band of shieldmaidens forms up once again in an effort to rescue one of the members’ daughter. In said quest, things happen, and wackiness ensues while Norse mythology and various fantasy tropes are marched out, and either summarily dealt with in a rather terminal manner or flipped on their head to show them as different than they usually appear. Now, readers who enjoy fantasy involving quests and adventures will doubtlessly love this. I’m typically not one of those readers, however, this one kept me engaged simply because the storyline was this intoxicating blend of familiar and totally unique, and there was always something happening that I hadn’t really anticipated. 

And, let’s be real for a moment. There are not a whole lot of fantasy books out there involving a fierce band of warrior women hellbent on saving the day. We just don’t see that very often, especially with Norse mythology, which is weird because shieldmaidens were very much a Thing and so were the Valkyrie and the like. (This is likely why setting a story like this in a Norse-flavored world was such a good decision. There are so very many strong women in that particular arena.) Whitecastle does a great job at spinning everything to fit into her unique fantasyscape. Her spin on mythology was nothing short of fantastic, and sometimes even humorous. Her world is large, and I enjoyed how she hinted at the vast scope and size of it, leaving me to believe there’s wiggle-room for her to add on to this world in future books, if she chooses. Furthermore, while the fantasy is very much a large part of this book, it never overshadowed the story being told, and I truly enjoyed that particular balance. 

If you want change, you must invite chaos.

This book isn’t just a bunch of mothers on a quest to get back a daughter in peril. As I said above, there’s a lot under the surface. I truly enjoyed the dynamics of family, love, and loyalty that suffused Queens of the Wyrd. It took this from being just another book with a bunch of people trying to do something and turned it into a book that has a shocking amount of depth and heart, a lot of very poignant moments to balance out everything else. It was, perhaps, that balance that was one of the determining factors for my overall enjoyment. One of the reasons I don’t typically like quest/adventure fantasy is because I feel like it so often devolves into predictable battles and fart jokes and I really didn’t find that here. Whitecastle could have taken the easy road, but she didn’t. Yes, there’s battles and levity, but there’s also a whole lot of emotion. A band of mothers going out to save a daughter trapped in an ugly siege? How can there not be a lot of heart in that? There’s a whole lot of emotional play that mothers and women all over will connect to on a very profound level. 

The characters are all very well drawn, and they have to be to be able to reach past the wham-bam moments and tug at your heartstrings. All of the shieldmaidens bring something unique to the group. Each of them have their own voice, their own nuances, and history. The dialogue is very modern feeling, which might be off-putting to some readers, but I ended up enjoying it. That modern-feeling dialogue was part of the reason this was such a fun, fast read. It helped keep me focused on the story being told, rather than spending time parsing out the subtle flavors in the words used, and the deeper meanings behind them. Don’t get me wrong, I do love some lyrical prose (hello, my books.) but there is a time and a place, and I felt like Whitecastle’s prose were the perfect complement to the story being told. 

“We are a generation raised by strong, single mothers,” Lovis interrupted. “And we’re raising the next generation as strong, single women. Having a husband is not the answer for everything.”

So what do you have here? A bunch of badass mothers. Women on a quest. Nonstop adventure and pulse-pounding action. A relentless story that refuses quit. Love, loyalty, and family. Fierce women who fight their own battles, steal the limelight, and are absolutely, positively unforgettable. 

What an absolute joy this book was. 

5/5 stars