Good Evening ya’ll! I am excited to review the first young adult book to make it onto my blog! This matriarchal viking tale gets a Mithril Rating from me (five out of five stars, see my post ‘Don’t Attack the Sundae,’ for my inspiration for my rating scale).
Steel Hand, Cold Heart defies the belief there is nothing new under the sun. An invigorating story, with a fresh take on Norse Mythology, creates a young adult novel fantasy you can’t put down. The main character, Carina the Unstoppable, is both dynamic and unique in concept. With her iron hand and cursed rune stone, the manuscript wields a small subtle current of steampunk and supernatural influences.
Carina is from a fierce warrior culture where the strongest women serve the Goddess of Death, Hel, by raiding villages and offering the blood of others in order to secure prosperity for Carina’s adopted people. Carina herself, at the age of three, was loot from one such raid. Raised by the Chieftain, Carina found herself an outcast who had to work twice as hard to prove herself to those around her. Dagna, a warrior jealous of Carina, feigns an uneasy truce and tricks Carina by poisoning her. She wakes up, not in the company of Hel, but instead, Carina finds herself captive on a large ship with three amateur kidnappers.
On the outside, the quest to free herself from captivity is quickly pushed to the side, and Carina finds herself striving to survive with her misfitted captors. The true nature and reason for Carina’s capture is revealed. Nothing is what it seems. Before being captured, Carina’s life was simple, sail, fight, sacrifice, pillage, and repeat. Yet, what is the point of it all, the purpose of her people’s ways?
The theme of challenging one’s belief system and blind faith rings clear throughout the novel. The author’s choice of first person is appropriate and allows the reader an up close and personal account of her transformation from a child who never questions the ideology of those around her, to a seasoned warrior who comes to question everything. There is also a bold and wonderful theme of freedom. Like the ocean itself, freedom to chose one’s own path, wells within Corina and her unlikely allies.
So much is well done in this book. Structurally, the author presents a well edited coming of age fantastical sea-faring adventure. The cover is beautiful, although I wish the font created a more pronounced letter “H.” Steel Hand, Cold Heart is a complete stand alone story but achieves a great ending hook which leaves the reader wishing there was another page to turn.
Although I was disappointed the author has yet to create a fitting end for Dagna and her betrayal, my only true criticism is the story has moments which create a lull in the drama.
Like Carina, I am eager to see vengeance settled upon the deserving, and also like Carina, I am uncertain of whether she ever finds her way “home.” Regardless, I look forward to the journey, wherever it may lead.
Steel Hand, Cold Heart releases May 7, 2019 and is available right now for pre-order on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/STEEL-HAND-HEART-Rachel-Menard-ebook/dp/B07NQR79HC/.
I’d like to take another word or two to say this: We all have read books with a promise of something new and vibrant. This book delivers on that promise. The main character has “that” factor, where she lingers with you after the book is closed.
[Please note, I received a free copy of the novel in exchange for an HONEST review].