Title: When We Were Vikings
Author: Andrew David MacDonald
Publication Date: 28 January 2020
Number of Pages: 323
Summary: From Goodreads: “Sometimes life isn’t as simple as heroes and villains.
For Zelda, a twenty-one-year-old Viking enthusiast who lives with her older brother, Gert, life is best lived with some basic rules:
1. A smile means “thank you for doing something small that I liked.”
2. Fist bumps and dabs = respect.
3. Strange people are not appreciated in her home.
4. Tomatoes must go in the middle of the sandwich and not get the bread wet.
5. Sometimes the most important things don’t fit on lists.
But when Zelda finds out that Gert has resorted to some questionable—and dangerous—methods to make enough money to keep them afloat, Zelda decides to launch her own quest. Her mission: to be legendary. It isn’t long before Zelda finds herself in a battle that tests the reach of her heroism, her love for her brother, and the depth of her Viking strength.
When We Were Vikings is an uplifting debut about an unlikely heroine whose journey will leave you wanting to embark on a quest of your own, because after all…
We are all legends of our own making.”
Review: I received an ARC of this book from Simon and Schuster in exchange for an honest review.
I didn’t know what to expect when I started this book, and after reading it, I still don’t know what I think of it. When We Were Vikings follows Zelda, a high-functioning adult who has been diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome. Zelda’s life is full of routines, rules, and a few select people who help her navigate the world around her. Zelda lives with her older brother Gert, who has resorted to some illegal ways of scraping by. Zelda also loves Vikings, and when she learns that Gert is in trouble, she goes on a quest to be legendary and to save her tribe.
I’ve never included trigger warnings in a book review before because I haven’t been completely thrown off by a book before. I’ve read books with triggering things in them, but I’ve always expected them, based on the description on the back of the book. With When We Were Vikings, there were a few scenes that I didn’t see coming, and I felt like the reader needed some sort of warning about them. When We Were Vikings contains gang activity, gun violence, and attempted rape. These things aren’t necessarily a problem, but I wish something in the description would have indicated that this book was going to take a dark turn.
As far as the characters go, I liked Zelda, and I was rooting for her along the way. I liked reading about her overcoming obstacles, being brave, and learning to become independent. I also really liked Gert’s girlfriend, Annie, who Zelda refers to as AK47. I especially loved that even though she loved and cared for Zelda and Gert, in the end, she knew that she had to decide to take care of herself. I wasn’t a huge fan of Gert, but I also didn’t hate him. I thought that he was in a tough position and that he made some poor decisions out of a desire to protect himself and his sister.
The story itself was intriguing, and I enjoyed it. Zelda’s quest to become legendary is an interesting one. I liked Zelda’s list of things legends need and I enjoyed reading about her checking each item off. I especially liked that she decided that “the hero must win the love of a fair maiden in danger” requirement was gender-neutral and that her boyfriend, Marxy, could be the fair maiden in danger. Speaking of Marxy, I liked Zelda’s relationship with him, and how it taught Zelda that not everyone is as functioning as she is and that it taught Marxy that he could be brave.
Overall, I didn’t love this book, but I didn’t dislike it either. I liked the characters, and the story was interesting. I wish the description would have given some indication that this book was going to take a dark turn so that I could have been more prepared for it. I think this was a good debut novel and I’m looking forward to seeing what this author writes next.
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars!