Review by Ivy M.

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“The immigrants stood there and braced themselves for America, and though there was fear and exhaustion from the long journey, there was ambition and confidence and faith. It was moving, the dream of America. It was even moving him. It made him think of the old line of Norse poetry, ‘Many bellies, many skins, one light shared in the blood.’

From Berserker by Emmy Laybourne

Hanne is a Berserker, a seemingly normal girl blessed with an ancient power to mercilessly kill anyone who harms those she loves. After men come for her father and she kills them, Hanne and her siblings must leave Norway for America. While traveling west they join with young cowboy Owen, a lonely Montanian who’s unaware of their powers. But when the sibling’s past starts to catch up with them, loyalties are tested, and Hanne must learn to control her power before she becomes the monster they’re all afraid of.

Berserker is a cracklingly cinematic book, laced with electric action scenes, episodic encounters, and neat switches in perspective that kept me engaged throughout. No character takes up more page space than necessary, Hanne staying staunchly at the forefront without sacrificing the development of love interest Owen or the consistently threatening villains. The ending is climactic without baiting you into needing the sequel, which as a stand-alone fan, I truly appreciate.

Against my expectations, Berserker is a by-definition Western, though gun-slinging is replaced with Hanne’s significantly more brutal attacks. The majority of the book follows the team as they travel across Montana wilderness during the onset of winter, which will give any survivalist junkie a fantastic hit. It nostalgically reminded me of the time I spent reading Hunger Games as a kid and being fascinated by Katniss’ ingenious solutions to an encroaching death by nature.

Overall, Laybourne’s Berserker feels like a sharp breath of fresh winter air, a familiar but ruthless story about fighting tooth, nail, and knife for those we love. Hanne is dropped into a new world that does her no favors, while her old one is doing all it can to drag her back. I flew through this faster than those two crazy kids fell in love, and I’m sure anyone else would go equally as berserk while reading it.

Rating: 4 very good dogs/5

For fans of: The Diviners by Libba Bray, Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse, Dread Nation by Justina Ireland