I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Series: Vikings of the New World #1
Published by Independent by Author on 2013
Genres: Historical Fiction
One Viking woman. One God. One legendary journey to North America.
In the tenth century, when pagan holy women rule the Viking lands, Gudrid turns her back on her training as a seeress to embrace Christianity. Clinging to her faith, she joins her husband, Finn, on a voyage to North America.
But even as Gudrid faces down murderous crewmen, raging sickness, and hostile natives, she realizes her greatest enemy is herself--and the secrets she hides might just tear her marriage apart.
Almost five centuries before Columbus, Viking women sailed to North America with their husbands. God's Daughter, Book One in the Vikings of the New World Saga, offers an expansive yet intimate look into the world of Gudrid Thorbjarnardottir--daughter-in-law of Eirik the Red, and the first documented European woman to have a child in North America.
As vikings are my heritage and in my blood, this was a must pick up for me, and it was an enjoyable read.
The book begins with our protagonist Gudrid, witnessing the death of her mother by hanging as a sacrifice to Thor. Immediately, we are acquainted with Gudrid’s hatred of Thor for this loss, and her inspiration to reject Viking myth and lore in favor of the Christian religion. Very briefly, the events of Gudrid’s adolescent life are extrapolated- after the death of her mother, her father soon followed and so she was taken in and trained by a volva (viking mystic). When these foster parents passed, she ultimately came into the care of Eirik the Red, who she identifies with as family more than any previous. She has been married twice before, and now has a child, Snorri, with her third husband, Finn. However, she still harbours a deep love for Leif – yes, Leif Erikson – which leaves conflict in her heart.
The bulk of God’s Daughter takes place in the New World settlement Gudrid has traveled to with her husband, on the quest of finding Vinland and plunder. The settlement is besieged with the threat of discord, unruly disobedient men, and Skraeling (natives) invasion, and as a result Gudrid must confront fear of assault, murder, sickness, and even crippling depression if she is to survive to see her homeland again.
Based on this first novel, I find that the series is not exactly appropriately named. Rather than “Vikings of the New World”, this series would be far more accurate described as “Viking Women in the New World”, for the book not only comes from a strong female perspective, but focuses a vast majority of its attention on female roles and characters. In fact, the men of this book do very little other than to serve as ‘protectors’, sail away, or provide distraction for brief interludes. In comparison, the women provide the compelling vein of the story, as are they the characters who provide depth and complexity. From navigating their roles in the community absent of men, and mitigating their female perspectives from various origins (Sweden, Finland, slaves, etc), and caring for or bearing children, these characters exemplify the vast responsibilities of Viking women. As a historian I have a strong grasp of the power and influence of females within the Viking community, and this is very well represented in Gilbert’s writing.
Surprisingly, religion was not a major point of contention in God’s Daughter, as I had assumed from the implications of the title and synopsis. Perhaps this is a topic that will resurface in later books, for this is obviously not meant to be a stand-alone novel. There was great acceptance of Gudrid’s religious devotions, and though the communities often seemed to house both Norse and Christian believers, there was little conflict over the issue, and overall, just very little mention. This was something I appreciated, for it allowed the story to have substance, rather than to harp solely on one issue.
My biggest complaint with God’s Daughter is the amount of male attention Gudrid receives, and its inevitability in driving the story forward. It is understandable that she is a beautiful, influential and strong woman, but that she is already struggling with her love for both her husband and Leif, its somewhat annoying, and borders close to Mary-Sue, for the constant reminder that she is desired by other men. And in a camp with so many women and so little men, how is it the unavailable one is receiving the most attention? If any issue was driving the book, it would be this overabundance of male attention, and I truly hope this dies down in the later books.
Will I pick up the next book? Potentially. I can’t say its one I am clamoring to find, but if it comes my way, I may pick it up, just to follow these characters into the next stage.