QUEENS OF THE WYRD by Timandra Whitecastle (SPFBO 6 Semi-Finalist Review)
Welcome to the Fantasy-Hive SPFBO Finalist-eve
Tomorrow we will announce which of the last two books in the Fantasy-Hive’s batch is our choice for SPFBO6 finalist. Today we announce the unfortunate but highly commended book that is in third place. However, as I type these words just a day before this post goes live I have to say I have no idea which of our three remaining titles will appear below this heading, still less which one will be declared our winner on Friday. Yes, with the final three it has been that close and that contentious – in fact it still is.
Our previous three semi-finalists all caught our imagination with their initial set up and told intriguing stories but didn’t quite sustain the promise of their initial premise. While there was much to praise in the work their authors did, we all felt that – in these examples of their work – they had not done quite enough to earn a SPFBO finalist spot.
But we would have been happy to see any of our remaining three books go through to the final, full as they were of quality writing, compelling characters and beautifully rendered worlds. We have truly agonised over this final decision in whatsapp exchanges, we even set up a google document tabulating the books pros and cons. Features like originality, fantastic elements, quality of writing. The debate has been lively and, while no-one (not even me) wants so vibrant a finalist debate settled on the mechanics of a crude spreadsheet formula, there have been times when that has seemed the best way to break the deadlock.
But, however the decision is/was settled, please be assured that in these three books, we are confident we have found stories well worthy of any fantasy reader’s time. – Theo
Queens of the Wyrd
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.
For our final three semi-finalists, we’re like to share with you our rankings to highlight just how close the competition was!
(The cover? Production value? Prose? Editing?)
I liked the cover, and I bloody loved the book right from the start! Even the copyright page in the front already had me grinning, before I even made it to the actual story. And when I got there, the tone and voice gripped me right away and I more or less flew through the whole book…. It was quickly apparent that this would be an easy and highly entertaining read.
The editing definitely was the one weak point, as there were a lot of typos / errors, which felt especially glaring as the rest of the book was so good.
In the book’s end-matter Whitecastle explains that the character on the cover is not Lovis or Solveig or any of the named protagonists, although the shield she holds does feature very heavily in the story. I found that observation revealing as the cover, striking as it is, didn’t really seem to evoke the story as much as I might have expected.
Ah, Theo, I love the cover!
The prose is strong, as I noted after the first 20% and I went on finding lines to laugh or smile at as I read on.
“Lovis’s shadow lay monstrously tall before her, and she rushed to fill it,”
“Birth takes a woman’s deepest fears about herself and shows her that she is stronger than them.”
“This is a job for a legion of gods, not five women who desperately need a shag and a drink.”
There is a richness to the descriptions of scenes and particularly the pell mell nature of battle that Whitecastle seems to positively revel in, layering threat upon threat so fast that neither reader nor protagonists get much chance to catch their breath.
There are some editing errors though that cropped up enough to jar in an otherwise well polished script. It was mostly a matter of missed words rather than misspellings or typos eg this otherwise nice line lacked an ‘of’
“…battle is a lot meticulous planning going to absolute shit in a matter of seconds.”
So, I know some of the others weren’t particularly impressed by the cover, but I found it thoroughly beautiful!
Me too Nils!
I love how the world appears to be burning in the background, and what I interpret as ‘the world tree’ on the shield made the whole cover visually appealing and made me want to dive right in. So much so that after reading the first 20% I immediately bought the paperback.
Overall I found the prose was of a high quality. Whilst reading I found myself stopping to jot down many quotes which really stood out to me and were noteworthy. Whitecastle had a fantastic way of balancing a poignant, often thought-provoking prose with moments of humour and a touch of wholesomeness. As I read more and more I found myself smiling at the characters’ friendship, laughing at their crude witty jokes, or becoming teary hearing about their pain. So it’s clear to say I found the prose highly emotive.
The others mentioned that they found quite a few typos and errors, but whilst reading the paperback I only found perhaps one or two typos. So this certainly wasn’t an issue for me.
Oh that’s interesting! I wonder if they were fixed for the paperback?
However, as I mentioned in my initial review of the first 20% of the novel, I found some use of modern slang words jarring, and this did continue – for example the words ‘gunk’ and ‘legging it’, and a few other short phrases which also felt out of place.
Yet, having said that, what I really found entertaining was the way Whitecastle peppered many modern pop culture references throughout the book. For example phrases like ’It’s been 84 years…’ – taken from the film Titanic, and my favourite – ‘Save Astrid, save the world’ – taken from season one of The Heroes tv series where the tag line was, ‘Save the cheerleader, save the world.’ I have to say it was a lot of fun spotting those, and they did actually blend into the narrative well.
I’ve had such fun with Queens of the Wyrd. It’s a rare book that’ll have me laugh through so many jokes and references that border on the cheesy, but Whitecastle’s semi-finalist is the rare exception. Rarer still is the strength of its themes — which I have plenty to say about below.
I liked the cover, I didn’t really pay that much attention to the person, you all know what I think of people on covers – it hadn’t occurred to me that she doesn’t look like Lovis, as I generally disregard those connections anyway. Like Nils though, I loved the embers and the world tree.
The errors were very much issues that wouldn’t be picked up by a spell-check programme, but they were numerous on my edition. I have to agree with Nils though, I had a much larger issue with modern language and Americanisms. Like I mentioned before, I found the use of ‘mom’ strange given the context of the world, then phrases like “felt like a smooth slide down a water chute” were really quite anachronistic. I was also really disappointed to read Whitecastle describe one character as being a “young man with a gimp leg”; I think that derogatory term was a very poor choice.
Although personally I did not like the numerous references (I think they’d have worked better if, like Kings of the Wyld, they had a ‘theme’ connecting them, rather than being random popular culture references that had nothing to do with the theme of the story), I absolutely loved the strong mythology and fantastic elements.
Thoughts on… THE CHARACTERS
(Do you have a favourite? Is the main character sympathetic? How’s the dialogue? Are the protagonists believable? Do we care about their plight?)
The book’s strong point, definitely.
Especially the banter and witty dialogue, and even just some internal thoughts had me giggling, snorting and at times even laughing aloud.
And yet there was enough action and I cared so much for the characters, it still kept me on the edge of my seat suspense wise!
I absolutely loved having this many strong women in one book – and that it wasn’t just the “stone cold assassin” type of strong female, but a very diverse cast of different personalities.
Yes Julia! This is such a good point – Whitecastle really explored their different kinds of strengths!
They all had their own agency and motivations, and they felt rather well fleshed out, especially for such a short book! Lovis was definitely a great character, but Torune with her grumpy nature also was a special favourite of mine! But it’s safe to say that I clicked with all the main characters.
I am no mum (and absolutely do not intend to ever be one) and yet this book, that has a lot of motherhood topics, resonated deeply with me, and I really – sorry, I know I am repeating myself here – loved the book for that.
Lovis and Solveig are compelling as mothers of daughters, pulled in different directions by the conflict of parenthood and comradeship. As with Kings of the Wyld, Whitecastle makes much of her protagonist being not the heroic leader, but the durable second, the literal shield without whom the golden one would have fallen many times before.
Curmudgeonly Torune and Flighty Eira make for fun back-up. Torune wears the role of powerful but cantankerous mage well, while Eira has that irrepressibly innocent spirit that reminds me a bit of Josiah Bancroft’s Voleta. And then there is Birke, a very plausible ten year old but with some impressive tricks up her sleeve, such that all five of the party have a powerful agency in how the story unfolds.
I did feel a bit sorry for “the young warrior” who we met near the end of the book. This is possibly the kind of placeholder name that authors have been known to use in the drafting of a story, but which Whitecastle allowed to stick in her own and Lovis’s mind. Perhaps an authorial intent to confine a male character to the same kind of nameless anonymity that so many women are condemned to in literature and life.
That’s certainly what I thought Whitecastle was doing here, and loved her for it sorry!
Although the book focuses on our main protagonist, Lovis, Whitecastle also does well to flesh out the other four key characters who eventually form together to make an impressive band of female warriors. I should include Birke, Lovis’ young daughter, here too actually, she is not one to be forgotten! She is the most precious character in the book, and seeing her abilities grow was both fascinating and charming.
Lovis and Solvieg immediately captured my heart with their friendship. Both are take-no-shit formidable warriors, yet both are distinct in their own right. Their friendship is often raw, they are both ultimately broken people, and as Theo said, their paths are very different. Most notably they approach the hardships of motherhood in opposite ways. Yet, they share an unbreakable bond, one which has endured even during the years they have spent apart. They are both described as ‘mothers, sisters, the best of friends’ – they are essentially each other’s family. The fact that Lovis unquestionably follows Solvieg’s quest to save her daughter Astrid without hesitation worked to invest me in their journey together.
Fantasy books could certainly do with more strong female friendships, and this hit the spot for me.
Then we are introduced to Torune who is also known as Winter Eternal – Fimbulwinter, and Eira – Spring Maiden. I agree with Theo, they both brought a lot of entertainment, and not to mention awesome sorcery to the party. In fact this little shieldmaiden family perfectly balanced each other out as they worked to compliment each other’s weaknesses.
Few moments reveal character in Queens of the Wyrd the way that combat does.
At the height of Whitecastle’s combat sequences, you can almost taste the sweat and blood, your muscles clenching in response to Lovis’ draconian efforts to keep her daughter and friends alive, while often showing an absolute disregard for her own physical health – the places this half-giant warrior dives headlong into will make you question her mental health. She is a shield — hel, she’s a full bloody suit of armour for her sisters.
Excellent way of describing it, Filip!
Solveig the Golden experiences a joy in combat, in the sheer bloody nature of it, its chaos and its glory. It sweeps her up, burns her like a hunger. She’s ruthlessness and recklessness, and she is magnificent.
Torune is frigid, unmoving; winter itself. And no less horrifying.
Eira is the kind of idjit that’ll sing along to Frozen, while changing the lyrics to be topical: “Let it grow, let it grow! Can’t hold it in anymore!”
Birke is proof that the phrase “Thinking with portals,” is alive and well in the cultural zeitgeist.
Torune was hands down my favourite. I loved her “I don’t have time for your bullshit do you have any idea how old I am?” attitude. And I’m going to go back on what I said earlier about references, and confess that my favourite running joke throughout the book was Torune’s insistence on calling Lovis (which sounds a little like the brand of bread Hovis) Loaf.
My fellow judges have all talked about our main band of shieldmaidens, but I want to give a shout out to the supporting cast of minor characters, of which there were quite a few – and I felt Whitecastle did such a great job with these characters too. They felt so much more than their bit-parts, it was easy to picture them still having lives when the main characters had moved on to the next scene. And that’s no mean feat!
Thoughts on… PLOT/STRUCTURE/PACING
(Slow start? Hard to keep up? Does the author use flashbacks/POV shifts? Do these work well or not? Did each chapter keep you turning the pages?)
I do like some norse mythology, so this book definitely hit home for me. At times the plot itself was a bit weaker than I’d have preferred, and some of the scenes just felt a little bit rushed. The book is so packed full of action that I felt the rest of the plot fell a bit short at times. It didn’t feel very original or unpredictable, but as I was enjoying the characters and tone of the book so much, this barely hindered my overall enjoyment of the story. The battle scenes were done really well and never felt boring or too long.
Also I’ll always love me some nice quibs when going into battle, or dark humour when things look really bleak… Gallows humour has always been a very strong trait in my family!
The plot is very action-driven and Whitecastle often buries reader and characters in the muck of battle and the hard gritty reality of hand-to-hand, or hand-to-tooth-filled-jaw combat. In some ways it is a straightforward quest in the magnificent seven (or fantastic four and half) tradition; assemble the band, rescue the daughter/damsel in distress and – as a bit of a side-quest – save the known world. But for all that, it is still well done.
Along the way, I found some contemporary themes which may have been deliberate or possibly an interpretation thrust upon the book by my own preoccupations. (After all each reader’s meaning is fashioned in the space between the author’s words and the reader’s imagination – just as you cannot jump into the same river twice, none of us ever really reads the same book).
Anyway – my takeaway from Queens of the Wyrd is that there may be forces in any world that revel in chaos, that hunger for the cleansing of armageddon and a new dawn in which they expect to profit mightily, people who will ramp up all kinds of conflict to usher in their own version of Ragnarok. Sometimes the dragon (dare I call it Breitbart) needs to be slain by all of us, not just one of us.
If I may, Theo — it’s not your interpretation alone. While we do indeed all fashion meaning for ourselves, there is an objective reason to speak of far-reaching themes here. Whitecastle’s message should resonate with many a reader; it decries notions of individual glory–and ego-driven individualism, by extension–while celebrating community and family (not only the one connected to us by blood, but also by fiercer bonds — of sisterhood, friendship, and loyalty).
This had a relentlessly fast paced plot, one which often held me on tenterhooks. Although the narrative follows an already established Norse Mythology/Viking quest arc, the way Queens differs is that it is a story where older women, predominantly mothers, take the centre stage and show the rest of the world what real strength means.
My favourite parts were of course the scenes of monster slaying. (If you know me at all, you’ll know battles and huge monsters are my thing!) The section with Nidhoggr, the Dread Worm, was definitely the most memorable one – I mean there was a huge ass dragon, ghostlike people, and lots of jaw dropping sorcery involved, it was damn fun!
That was actually quite possibly my favourite scene…
However, alongside this fun action packed plot, Whitecastle also injected a lot of philosophical topics within the narrative too. Some of which Theo and Filip have mentioned. Most notably and also most welcomed for me, was the theme of what it means to be a mother, and embracing who you are. Why can’t females be both mothers and strong warriors? Why, in the fantasy genre, are mothers always left behind or killed to motivate other characters? Whitecastle makes it abundantly clear to the reader that mothers and females in general are resourceful, prone to the same shortfalls of glory and greed as men are, and that their stories are just as important to tell and be heard. I also feel that Queens ultimately reflects that sometimes you just have to make the best of what you have, and just surviving and following your heart is what makes you a warrior.
The role of a woman as a mother, the notion of motherhood — these are engaging topics of personal interest. I found this awoke in me a desire to engage with the book, especially these following lines:
Because we’re mothers, you and I. We don’t have stories of our own. We are background notes in someone else’s story. We don’t get to choose. We get to die in childbirth. We get to sacrifice who we are for our children, for our husbands. If we’re lucky, we are allowed to live in someone else’s story as their love interest. And it’s not fair, but that’s our story.
We are ignored. We are forgotten … until we are needed. And we are always needed, Sol…there is no glory in what we do, Sol. There’s only necessity. ANd necessity is as noble as sacrifice, even if no one pays a bard to write a song about it.
What I’m trying to say is that our lives count. They’re unsung, but how we live each day is howe we live our lives is how our children live theirs. There’s power and strength in that. Slow, gradual change. I don’t know if that’s having it all. I don’t even know what all means when people are talking about things like that. Do you?
And this is a hell of an interesting point to bring up. It speaks of relinquishing some part of yourself, the individual, the woman, in order to embrace the role of mother. It reminds me terribly of of Rachel Cusk’s essays on motherhood and the woman writer, Lions on Leashes and Shakespeare’s Sisters, respectively. In the latter, Cusk writes, “Twenty-first-century female culture barely acknowledges its debt to feminism: why should it? And perhaps consequently, today’s woman writer is careful not to show any special interest in today’s woman.” Yet here we have Timandra Whitecastle, whose portrayal of women as mothers, women as sisters, runs deeper than any other theme present in Queens of the Wyrd; here we have a strong feminist position — even if some might find it disagreeable. That, reader, is what I’m so very taken with.
As a mother, there was so much that obviously resonated with me, but in particular what Filip said above about women feeling they lose themselves once they become mothers. I try to find a balance between parenting–being a good mother to my children–and also retaining my own personality; but it’s a recent development and Lovis’ need to try and emulate how other women raised their children made so much sense to me. Firstly, this idea that you must shed something in order to Become a mother, but also the notion that once you are a mother, you can be nothing else. They are both very strong societal stigmas that are very difficult to break from.
With regards to the plot, at first I was apprehensive by just how similar it seemed to Kings of the Wyld… and whereas to some degree that is the point, this is Whitecastle’s feminist answer to those kinds of male-heavy quest stories; I was relieved when Queens also displayed plenty of its own differences.
I’m afraid to say I disagree with Julia in regards to the action scenes, there were some fights where I began to skim read; it might very well be a personal thing, I’m beginning to feel like there are only so many times you can read someone jumping and hacking and dodging etc. However, I really loved the scene with the Nidhoggr. I saw a very familiar analogy in coming under attack whilst in the process of actually helping that person. On a small scale, that is a mother’s daily routine; but looking at the larger current picture, it made me think of anti-maskers and Brexiteers.
As the others have said, it isn’t the most original plot, and it does have strong themes. I did sometimes feel like these themes were quite heavy handed, that sometimes the characters’ dialogues wandered into impassioned monologues a little too often… but then considering the issues fantasy continues to have with representation, maybe the time for subtlety has passed. Stop murdering mothers and raping women as plot devices.
Thoughts on… WORLDBUILDING
(Does it have a magic system? How immersed do you feel in the world? Does it feel original? Why?)
As I said above, Norse mythology is something I definitely enjoy, so obviously I liked the worldbuilding in this one.
The norse is strong in this one.
A lot of the backdrop stays rather hazy, which is no problem if you do know the characters and plains already, but might be a bit sparse for someone who has no real prior knowledge of the topic. For me it made for even quicker reading and allowed a faster pace, as my brain just inserted a lot of basic backdrop, but I think I would have enjoyed it a lot less if I didn’t have that. The little hints and easter eggs to other media and books were hit and miss for me, some made me grin from ear to ear, some others felt a bit off as they were just too modern to fit in nicely. So I’ll keep that as a neutral point in my opinion on the book.
I know a fair bit of Norse mythology and there were quite a few references that worked for me, but I am sure scholars with more depth of knowledge (Filip?) will have found plenty to set their synapses snapping.
Norse myth and legend have always been a rich source of material for fantasy writers, but Whitecastle spins the emphasis with her strong cast of leading females who stand shoulder to shoulder with a host of other warriors.
I was particularly struck, though, by the somewhat tongue-in-cheek epigraphs that Whitecastle inserted as each chapter opens. Authors have often seasoned their writing with references to some fictional text – such as the Tower of Babel Almanack whose extracts of pithy advice open each chapter in Bancroft’s Senlin Ascends, or even the original Hitch hiker’s guide to the galaxy. Whitecastle turns this on its head by inserting contemporary attributions into her chapter headings and crediting them as Norse wisdom – for example
“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place we can go as we are and not be questioned. – The Wisdom of the Volur (Maya Angelou)”
In other chapter openings Neil Gaiman and Beyonce also get a shout out!
I loved the shout-out to ‘Skald Neil Gaiman’, Theo!
As Theo has said, Whitecastle’s world is deep-seated in Norse mythology, which although has been done plenty of times before, I still thoroughly enjoy it. Throughout the book we traverse through legendary places such as, Hel/Helheim, Niflheim, and Midgard, using portals which some of the characters could open, and although the descriptions didn’t always leave me feeling immersed, I found each place was still vividly described.
Whilst I was reading I couldn’t help but find Queens to be reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Although two very different books, they are both deeply rooted in mythology, and they both use mythological figures to explore the theme of finding your identity and of the nature of storytelling. It felt as though there was another nod to Gaiman here.
Queens of the Wyrd is an irreverent take on Norse mythology, one that reimagines and adds a whole lot, using myth as a starting point to propel this action-fueled adventure. Whitecastle isn’t trying to create a historically accurate world to that of the pre-Christian Scandinavians. No, this is a world chock-full of pop-culture references (Nils has pointed us to Titanic and Heroes, but I came across a paraphrase of Frozen’s “Let it snow” song, and a sentence I’m near-certain is a nod to Joe Abercrombie: “Say one thing for Eira as the Spring Maiden, say she was the epitome of green-grass smells and flowers in spring rain”). The folks who inhabit this world speak in much the same way as we do; you won’t come across any “thou”s and “thee”s.
Filip! How did I miss the Abercrombie one?! Shame on me! Must go back and find it, and then point at it as Leonardo Dicarprio does in that gif!
But let’s return to the mythological elements. One of the more interesting choices Whitecastle makes is in referring to Odin as the “Valfather”, which I’ve seen used in the Poetic Edda but nowhere else–until I read it in this novel. It doesn’t even figure into my Dictionary of Mythology! (Call me a nerd, I dare you; c’mon, you know you want to!)
Eyes up her own Dictionary of Mythology. We’re nerds?
Plenty of Norse-sounding monsters and beasties to be found, though most of them are additions of Whitecastle’s own make — something she admits to; what’s important is, she succeeds in keeping them thematically true to the roots of this norse-based myth. I enjoyed what Timandra has brought to the table — making these myths one’s own is part of the fun in writing (and reading) fantasy like this.
I’m not as familiar with Norse mythology as my fellow judges, I know enough to have felt comfortable following those themes in this book. I googled some of Whitecastle’s monsters assuming they were from Norse mythology, so I think it’s fair to say her amalgamation of mythology and her own worldbuilding was authentic. I loved how Whitecastle portrayed the various realms too, and whereas not a realm, I did really love Torune’s island school.
This is the issue with being the last judge to the conversation – I don’t want to drag out the review overly, and everything has pretty much been covered! Whitecastle presented her Midgard wonderfully, her prose conjuring the world in a manner that truly evoked the senses.
Quotations that resonated with you
There were many great lines, but these two made me smile in the way they show fantasy speaks to our own realities just as much as to our imagination.
“To be born a woman means you can blend into the background of any man’s life.”
“Never trust a silence around children. It is as unnatural as a sudden calm on the tempestuous sea, and as much a herald of unpleasant surprises to come.”
That one is the truth – silences are suspicious!
This one made me laugh;
‘“If we accidentally start Ragnarok, I’m totally blaming you’” Lovis whispered in Sol’s ear.
Sol grinned. “I’ll say Loki set me up. Seems like that works for everyone else. Anyway, if we’re about to start Ragnarok, I really need to get laid one last time.”
This one made me teary;
“I have encountered thousands upon thousands of people, each of whom carries scars of fights similar to your own, Lovis Giantdaughter, and I know now that every life has its own battles. Whether you die with a sword in your hand or not, the truth is that everyone is a warrior.”
I got a few examples of the humour in the book for you:
“Oh! My old friend Torune has a school full of dimwitted children. One more for her to look after won’t be too much to ask?” Torune glowered at Lovis and tightened her grasp on Birke’s shoulder.
Lovis fought the urge to slap Torune’s hand away. But she knew the power that crackled along those slim fingers and that a fight with Torune wasn’t one she’d easily win. She recalled the words she had just told Birke about wanting Torune on your side. Sol needed Torune on her side. She counted to five slowly before answering. “Birke stays with me.
“But I like to stay here.” Birke whined. “I wanna learn magic like the other dimwitted childre-“
“Save Astrid, save the world.”
“No, not really” Sol looked sideways at Lovis. “We’re just going to fight our way into the mess, extract my daughter, and bring her home.”
“No world saving.” Lovis added to clarify.
Worst of all from where Lovis stood a few feet from the beast, it smelled like a wet carpet … that had been pissed on … and then died upon.
“To hear the bards sing of battle was all rhymes and clever imagery. This was because the bards mainly fought with words. They wrestled with the abstract, fiddled with rhythm and cadence, and then worked out the performance of their songs making minor adjustments night after night. They were craftsmen with certain tools. But very few had ever actually seen a battlefield from close up, or witnessed its carnage. If they had, they’d know that most of a battle is a lot [of] meticulous planning going to absolute shit in a matter of seconds. But this was very familiar territory to anyone with kids…”
Ah good shout Filip, I’d bookmarked that quote also!
I didn’t respond as emotionally to this story as some did, which I’m surprised by because usually I’m a crier!
But this line did give me shivers:
“…You were never satisfied just being a mother. You wanted to be more.”
“I am more,” Sol’s voice dropped to a hoarse whisper. “I am much more. You don’t give birth to a child and hand in your personality, your individuality. You just get one more role added to who you already are.”
As you probably have guessed by now, this book definitely hit home for me. It is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in a long while, and I won’t shut up about it quickly!
For me it isn’t the one SPFBO finalist to put forward, as it just lacked a bit of depth and the frequent errors / typos were a bit jarring, but nevertheless this is a bloody good book all around!
I would highly recommend it to anyone who likes entertaining fantasy, or good female characters, or norse mythology, or even better all of these!
It’s an enjoyable read. The emphasis is more on character and action than plot, but it is well crafted and a great celebration of the community of sisterhood and motherhood. Within the generally excellent prose there are lots of laugh and smile moments and a few “hell yes” ones to boot. Given what happens to various dragons in the story – some truly tumultuous conflicts – it was perhaps necessary for Whitecastle’s dedication to note that
No dragons were harmed in the making of this book.
For me Queens of the Wyrd, was truly a pleasure to read. Not only is it a fun book, but it’s a book to represent and celebrate women (and particularly mothers) from all walks of life, which is something the fantasy genre has sorely needed. I would happily follow this band of shield-maidens on many more adventures.
Timandra, there’s more to come, right?
Lovis, Birke, Sol, Torune, Eira and Astrid – I grew fiercely attached to every last one of them. The camaraderie, friendship, and honesty between them caught the spirit of such anthology series as DC Comics’ Birds of Prey and even Mad Max: Fury Road, in those intense action sequences. I could see a movie based on Queens of the Wyrd directed by the likes of James Gunn, with action sequences served by Heart’s “Barracuda” as a backdrop.
The only thing that holds this book back are the errors. I don’t know if a proof-reader was hired to take a look at Queens of the Wyrd but I would make the argument that they could’ve been of help; I’ve marked over thirty errors, typos or otherwise, and I wasn’t really looking for them. I hate to bring this up, on account of how much I enjoyed Whitecastle’s work, but these errors are numerous enough not to be overlooked.
But I shan’t end on this bitter note. Queens of the Wyrd deserves your attention — it makes an excellent argument about using mythology to one’s own purposes, and it does so with heart.
The errors weren’t such an issue for me; it’s a problem in the self-publishing world that those who can afford proofreaders or copy-editors do better, and in this instance I think the errors are forgivable considering their nature.
Queens has been a very strong contender; there is so much heart here, relatable characters that, for me, had plenty of depth, and excellent world-building. I think perhaps the only element holding the story back for me in terms of the contest is that the plot wasn’t particularly original, in especially compared to the other books in our final three. Timandra Whitecastle is clearly a highly skilled writer, who can whisk her readers away on a whisper. A Warrior Queen of Words.
***Commiserations to Timandra Whitecastle and Queens of the Wyrd.***
That’s it. Only two semi-finalists left!
Check back TOMORROW to find out who will be our SPFBO 6 Finalist!
Congratulations to our semi-finalists thus far:
If you’re following SPFBO 6, let us know about any entries that have caught your fancy! Join the discussion on social media (there’s a Facebook group here) and weigh in on Twitter using the hashtag #SPFBO.
Stay tuned over the next few days as we review our remaining semi-finalists and eventually pick our FINALIST (exciting!!), and check out our introduction to round 1!