Queens of the Wyrd by Timandra Whitecastle

To begin a review of Timandra Whitecastle’s Queens of the Wyrd, one must reference the very moment in which this book blipped on their radar, immediately sending them to Amazon.com:

Moms? Viking Moms? A riff on Nicholas Eames’ glorious Kings of the Wyld? WITH LADIES?

Y’all, I don’t think I have ever gotten myself to Amazon and clicked ‘purchase’ faster in my life. Now, happily resting on my laurels on the other side of this novel, I’m pleased to report that Queens of the Wyrd was well-worth the hype I had built up in my head.

Whitecastle had already impressed with her Living Blade trilogy (+ novella), and so as a reader I had been eagerly awaiting more of her work. Queens of the Wyrd delivered in such a heart-rending, just as epic-but-in-no-way-similar fashion. Perhaps it is due in part to the fact I am a mother and find myself looking back on prior years and wondering, “What happened?”

Perhaps it is because I’m a sucker for all things Ragnarok and the delicious habit of authors to continuously bully Odin and reveal his less-than-stellar side to which those of us not raised with firm roots in Nordic mythology might not be privy.

Or perhaps it is because Whitecastle peppers the book with quotes from various ‘skalds’ such as Neil Gaiman and Beyonce, and then gives us this glorious chapter heading:

Simply put, Queens of the Wyrd spoke to me in a way I had not felt since tearing through Madeline Miller’s Circe.

Yes, the novel is riffing directly from Eames’ Kings of the Wyld - in that “let’s get the band back together for one last ride” sort of way, and that’s about as far as the similarities go. To say that Queens of the Wyrd was simply “Kings of the Wyld with women” would be like calling Blues Brothers and Ocean’s 11 the same film. Certainly, they hit similar notes: they both gather the boys, each features a jilted ex-lover, a broad cast of characters and old friendships rekindled or, as the case may be in Queens, not.

Where Kings shines in its clever references, creative creatures, engrossing world build and pithy story-telling, Queens downright glows on an altogether different note. Whitecastle’s evocative writing finds a happy partner in her ability to inhabit the introspective minds of her characters,and  their own hindrances and growths reflecting the in-world politics and celebrity. Half-giants work to erase the implicit racism against their kind, Valkyries find themselves trapped by their own glory, each seeking to define or shatter the binding rules of the world in which they live. And at the heart of their struggles, we have the mothers seeking not a re-definition, but rather recognition for who they were, who they are, and who they have become:

Queens of the Wyrd may have started as a “what if” exercise, placing women into the roles of Golden Gabe and Clay Cooper, but it quickly pulls forward to stand on its own as a story of women, sisterhood, motherhood and, at the end of the day, a badass Nordic epic.

For fans of: Kings of the Wyld, Bloody Rose, Circe, Fortune’s Fool, Throne of Glass, The True Bastards


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