One Viking woman. One God. One legendary journey to the New World.
In the tenth century, when pagan holy women rule the Viking lands, Gudrid turns her back on her training as a seeress to embrace Christianity. Clinging to her faith, she joins her husband, Finn, on a voyage to North America.
But even as Gudrid faces down murderous crewmen, raging sickness, and hostile natives, she realizes her greatest enemy is herself--and the secrets she hides might just tear her marriage apart.
Almost five centuries before Columbus, Viking women sailed to North America with their husbands. God's Daughter, Book One in the Vikings of the New World Saga, offers an expansive yet intimate look into the world of Gudrid Thorbjarnardottir--daughter-in-law of Eirik the Red, and the first documented European woman to have a child in North America.
This novel is based heavily on the Icelandic Sagas.
Award-winning novelist Heather Day Gilbert enjoys writing mysteries and Viking historicals. She brings authentic family relationships to the page, and she particularly delights in heroines who take a stand to protect those they love. Avid readers say Heather's realistic characters—no matter what century—feel like best friends. When she's not plotting stories, this native West Virginian can often be found hanging out with her husband and four children, playing video games, or reading Agatha Christie novels.
Find Heather on Pinterest (heatherdgilbert), Instagram (@heatherdaygilbert), Twitter (@heatherdgilbert), and Facebook (heatherdaygilbert). You can find all her books at heatherdaygilbert.com.
Most readers with any knowledge of early American history are aware that Viking sailors, faring south-westward from Greenland, discovered mainland North America (actually, Greenland itself is geographically and culturally-historically considered part of North America, while Iceland is considered the westernmost part of Europe), around the year 1000 A.D. No lasting settlements were made, but archaeologists have excavated the temporary settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows in present-day Newfoundland (probably the one referred to in the sagas as Straumsfjord). The Viking settlements in Greenland died out (literally, from starvation as the climate cooled in the "Little Ice Age") and left no written records, so our main contemporary sources for the Viking voyages to "Vinland" are two oral Icelandic sagas, committed to writing about 250 years after the events, which differ in details but basically present a common core of factual information. (The skalds who composed and transmitted the sagas weren't composing fiction; they were recording history for an aliterate society, although they sometimes garbled or misunderstood details.)
Evangelical Christian author Heather Day Gilbert has taken these sagas, coupled with serious research into the Viking history and culture of that era, plausibly reconstructed a unified picture of the events they present, and brought it to life in a masterful historical novel, the first in a projected series. Faithful to known facts, she uses her imagination to flesh them out, and to reconstruct believable personalities for the major and minor players in the events. (I've read modern re-tellings of the sagas, though not the sagas themselves, and could recognize persons and events here.) The focus here is the third Viking voyage to the new lands and its aftermath, and our present-tense, first-person narrator is Gudrid Thorbjarnardottir, wife of expedition leader Thorfinn Karlsefni. Our setting is both the New World and Greenland (with a grim prologue set in Gudrid's native Iceland, where we share a formative experience she had to undergo at the age of 11).
As the sagas make clear, the voyages to Vinland were dangerous. This book gives us our share of dangerous situations, and the threat of danger is a constant reality. This can come not only from Indians --or Skraelings, as the Vikings call them-- but from potential rape and mutiny by elements within the Viking band, from the sea, and from wild and (imperfectly) domesticated animals. Hunger and disease pose their threats too, in a culture without antibiotics or antiseptics. (Gudrid's 24 years old at the time of the main story --and she's already been widowed twice, a circumstance not particularly unusual in her time and place.) But this is in the main a novel about human and family relationships, about personal growth, and about living one's Christian faith in a flawed world. (As a teen, Gudrid was trained to be a volva, a pagan priestess; but she's a Christian now, albeit one who can't read the Bible and has scant training in the faith, in a society where Christianity is spreading rapidly but still far from universal or deep-rooted.)
Gudrid is brought to life with wonderful vividness; I would have to describe this novel as one of the most psychologically realistic and nuanced that I've ever read! (Despite the impression the cover might create, she's not a swordswoman and isn't thrust into an action-heroine role here --but she IS a Viking; she's got inner strength and resolve in spades, as well as leadership abilities, and she doesn't back down from physically challenging situations, either.) Other characters are well developed, too. Gilbert's handling of her main character's internal life compares favorably with Henry James at his best, though her prose is much more readable and her focus better balanced between the inner and outer life. (Her writing also reminds me in some ways of another historical novelist I greatly like, Nobel laureate Sigrid Undset.) She makes us feel the tense, claustrophobic, half-hungry atmosphere of Straumsfjord, and the pathos of what we know to be the doomed enclaves on Greenland. While she denies in her concluding Author's Note that she's an expert on Viking history, her research is clearly solid (I could recognize facts I already knew, as well as learning some I didn't). The Viking world is recreated here with its dark side not glossed over; we see the use of human sacrifice at times, the ugliness of slavery, attitudes of rabid sexism and racial/ethnic prejudice, acceptance of infanticide as a parental prerogative. (And we see all these things with recognition; allowing for outward cosmetic differences, general attitudes in our own post-Christian culture aren't much different from those of the pre-Christian or imperfectly-Christianized Vikings. :-( ). For me, this was a quick and thoroughly engrossing read, enhanced by my natural interest in my own Scandinavian heritage. (But I think readers of other ethnicities would find this just as absorbing.)
For readers whose interest in further reading about the Vikings is piqued by this novel, the list of helpful books and online sources in the Author's Note is a nice touch!
This book was already on my to-read list when I won a copy in a recent giveaway. I'll definitely be following the series as it develops, and I'm also going to be interested in exploring the author's contemporary mystery series.
I absolutely loved this book. Heather Day Gilbert has a compelling voice and weaves a story that had me sitting back and thinking… “What a brave author.” She dives deep and thick into the human spirit, exposing both weakness and sin while also bringing hope as these characters craved an understanding of the Lord. I rejoiced over their triumphs and grieved in their heartaches and loss. This novel is powerful, poetic and at times, gritty. It’s a look at humanity—in all its forms—and celebrates what God can do in any life as He is the author and finisher of our faith.
Heather Day Gilbert just became one of my favorite authors. God's Daughter is everything I'm looking for in a novel: fascinating history, vivid setting, complex characters who evolve and grow as the pages turn, skillful storytelling, realistic dialogue, and relevance for today. In fact, I was surprised at how this Viking tale brimmed with lessons for today's readers. I absolutely loved the heroine and found her faith in Jesus so inspiring as she lived in a pagan culture which worshiped Thor. I devoured this book in less than 48 hours and eagerly await the next in the series. Bonus: there is an author's note on the history and a list of her resources at the end of the novel.
9/6/16 Audio book review The audio book is excellent! I really enjoyed this listen to gear up for Forest Child's upcoming release. The narrator does such a good job with the different tones and inflections of the characters. She doesn't try for any outlandish sounding accents, but I will say her Scottish accent is excellent and sounded just like I thought that character should sound. If you're interested in Viking's and what life was like for Viking women, I can't recommend God's Daughter enough.
2014 Review: Gudrid is a Viking woman, and she's the real deal. She doesn't back down from conflict, and she's not afraid to wield a weapon to protect herself of those that she loves from harm. Even so, her hand in marriage is more of a commodity than something to be won, and she must give in to the whims of the powerful men in her life. Despite the marriage to her husband, Finn, a good man, she is still unsettled, torn by her feelings for Leif Eiriksson (yes, THE Leif) that she left behind to travel with Finn to the new world.
Settling in a hostile, unknown environment and an absent husband (both emotionally and physically) leaves Gudrid open to temptations of the adoring Snorri, Finn's second-in-command. Her honest portrayal of Gudrid's desire for a protector and fight for survival were raw and moving. I loved her prickly yet strong nature.
The plot flows steadily, full of relationship struggles, as well as the ever-present fear of attack from their enemies and the true fight to survive day to day. Every aspect was realistically drawn; the actions and motivations of the characters might have seemed harsh or extreme, however, they truly fit the setting and time period of the story. Viking fought harsh, acted first, spoke later (or sometimes not at all), and I thought they were beautifully drawn here. I loved the secondary characters, especially Freydis and Snorri, and I'm so happy to know that Freydis gets her own story in book two.
God's Daughter surprised me - it made me smile, made me frustrated, and moved me. Gudrid's was a story that made my heart ache, yet made it sing. Heather Day Gilbert is officially on my authors to read list, and God's Daughter is a favorite of the year so far. I applaud her for choosing to set her story among Vikings. She brought a little-explored group to life in a realistic, fresh way.
What’s a girl to do when she’s married to a good man, but has feelings for another? Enter the world of the Vikings, and meet Gudrid. A beautiful woman related by marriage to Eirik the Red, she was a real person, and a Viking Christian. History books tell us Virginia Dare was the first child born in the New World, and maybe she was the first English child, but Gudrid’s son, Snorri, came before her.
I slipped into Gudrid’s skin as I read, such was the author’s skill with deep POV and first person, present tense. While Gudrid did seem a bit fickle in her emotions, I appreciated her honest heart and yearning for a protector. Many married spouses either deny their improper feelings, or look for ways to excuse them. Not Gudrid. She was honest with herself, and I loved her for it. In fact, all the characters in “God’s Daughter” were unique and endearing in their own ways. Snorri Thorbrandsson had a haunted aura about him that made him a favorite. And Freydis! She’s Eirik the Red’s daughter, and an intense, no-nonsense warrior woman. I hope the author plans to write a book featuring her story.
Pages went flying as I ate up the Viking history and period details, and guessed at the mystery. Though there was plenty of action to keep me happy, the author didn’t wrap it up quite like I’d expected, with the standard, worst-case-scenario and breath-stealing climax, but in a way that felt more true-to-life and organic to the plot.
“God’s Daughter” is sure to minister to those struggling with disappointment in their marriages, and dissatisfaction with their circumstances. I know it ministered to me, and I’m looking forward to reading more from this author. Fantastic debut, well done.
One Viking woman. One God. One legendary journey to North America.
What a fantastic historical tale from a time period that has not been talked about much. I thought it was thoroughly researched and very well written. The main character, adopted daughter of Eric the Red, was an actual person from the Viking setting and a Christian who was raised under the Norse religion - then converted as a young woman.
I found the story was raw and really showed the reality of a human soul and the inner workings of the mind. Loved seeing each character grow as the story progressed. My favorite part was learning about the way Vikings lived. It was full of detailed descriptions about how they used medicines, what a full day in the women’s life looked like, childbirth, what they used for shelter, what they ate and how they cooked it- etc. It’s great when a book can teach me something while I enjoy the story.
A lot of people love history, but not many are patient enough to slog through a thousand-year-old Icelandic saga. Guess what…you don’t have to anymore! Author Heather Day Gilbert did the homework for you and wrote a hard-hitting action-packed adventure in her debut novel, GOD’S DAUGHTER.
I admit I am somewhat of a Viking history snob, but this girl did her work. There’s not one horned helmet or sight of a shield on the side of a ship amid high sea. This is the kind of accurate historical read that I can whole-heartedly recommend.
The story centers around the life of a young wife and mother, Gudrid, who’s traveled to the new world with her husband. Life is primitive in this land, and they eventually trek back to Greenland, her previous home where Leif Erickson is master—yes, the Leif-who-discovered-America fella.
Warning **spoiler alert** ... Woven into the adventure is a love story that leaves you wondering who will end up with Gudrid’s heart. She struggles with an attraction to several other men besides her husband, but finally realizes she loves her husband more than any other man—quite a refreshing message in this day and age.
While the Viking peoples of the time often mixed their religions, melding old guard gods with Christianity, Gudrid stands firm in her faith. This is handled in a manner that is not overtly preachy, though, and is very well done.
There are only a handful of Viking novels that I recommend. This is one. Buy it. Don’t make me come over there with a battle axe.
Every now and then I like to read something different. And this was different.
Timeframe: 1000AD Location: Straumfjord (Present day Newfoundland) Characters: Gudrid, daughter-in-law of Eirik the Red, sister-in-law to Leif Eiriksson (spellings in the book are this way which was in keeping with Viking spellings). She had two husbands before her current husband, the second one being Eirik the Red's son. Those husbands both died not long into the marriages. Thorfinn (Finn): Gudrid's current husband. Sailor and trader. Freydis: Illegitimate daughter of Eirik the Red Snorri, friend of Gudrid and Finn, and secretly in love with Gudrid forever. Several servant women who are close to Gudrid
This is the first of Heather Day Gilbert's Viking saga books. Several months ago I read #2, which was about Freydis...also very different. But I liked it, so I wanted to backtrack and read the first one. Glad I did.
Freydis does not become a believer until the end of #2, but in this book Gudrid was a believer from the start. She had readily accepted the gospel after she watched her mother being sacrificed to one of the Norse god's. She wanted nothing more than to rid her life of false god's who cared nothing for the wellbeing of its subjects. Jesus was a loving, caring God she believed in immediately. However, without the Holy Scriptures she floundered with what to obey at times. But she and her husband wanted to live Christians lives.
Vikings, however, were barbaric people, and getting past the ways in which they grew up was a struggle. Men wanted her because she was beautiful. She never intended to act on their lusts, but she enjoyed the idea of being held, and their attention. Leif Eiriksson was one who gave her lots of attention and would have taken her if not for his Christian faith, and having to marry someone else. Snorri was another who loved her and wanted her, but he respected her, and protected her from those who had little to no respect.
Her husband went on an expedition to "plunder" other lands and bring back wealth. While he was gone lots of things happened which had Gudrid in the middle of it all. Raids from neighboring people (Skraelings), a stillbirth, a wolf who decided to make friends with her, attacks by several men, and always the fear her husband might not return were things she faced.
So as to not give it all away, I will leave it at that.
I enjoyed the book a lot. Could hardly put it down, in fact. I'm glad I went back to the first of the series. I really like Ms. Gilbert's writing and will definitely read more by her.
My Comments Some of my blogging friends have been reading this book so I noticed it recently and fell head over heels in love with both the cover and title, I immediately put it on my TBR (to be read/gotta have) list! Then I got the chance to review it and it felt like a Christmas present had dropped into my lap, grateful doesn’t begin to explain how that felt.
Welcome to Gudrid’s world, a Viking woman with heart and skills beyond the women of her culture. The book starts off describing a pagan sacrifice that breaks Gudrid’s heart, but also begins her journey of faith in Christ. If the god Thor requires such sacrifices, then Gudrid wants no part in obeying him.
Even though I sooooo enjoyed the story, the writing really gets your attention from the start, I didn’t connect with Gudrid at first. There’s just this sadness that stays with her even though she has done well for herself. There’s only one character who is surprised by how many times Gudrid has been married, no one else finds this alarming so even though I agreed with that one comment I figured this was a common occurrence for this time period. “You’ve been married how many times?” From his intense look, I know he’s not being disrespectful with his question.”
My favorite character in this story is the unnamed female wolf. It’s amazing how Gudrid finds her and rescues her. Even though wolves are predators, this one was easy to love as it protected Gudrid, her animals, and even her people.
One of my favorite parts of the story is when Gudrid adopts two boys who come from enemy lines. I was in amazement over that and this enhances the storyline tremendously!
My favorite thing about Gudrid is her faith. She puts herself and her desires last to care for and lead her people and her son. This book is FULL of people making sacrifices and risking their lives for their clan, but Gudrid’s heart and discernment takes that to a new level. She understands so much from observing, it takes a lot for her to trust others but when you have her loyalty you have it for life, and she’s all about keeping the peace but when her son’s life is in danger she’s willing to kill to protect him. In the midst of all she’s undertaking, she still follows Christ with all her heart and even tells her people about Him without preaching. Her greatest desire is to be an example of God to her people when so many pagan gods are respected.
I felt confused about who Leif was for the first part of the book, but that was my misunderstanding and not any fault with the writing. I believed he had been one of her husbands that died and he’s Gudrid’s brother-in-law who is married to another woman. Gudrid isn’t liked by most of the women from her home in Greenland, but she easily befriends her female slaves and does what she can to protect them from unwanted attention.
There is much violence in the story, but it’s realistic to the time period. Gudrid is willing to kill only when necessary. Her people carry knives, spears, swords, and axes to protect themselves against enemy invaders. Gudrid is unhappy and uncomfortable for most of the story until they leave the island. The character I liked least was her sister-in-law, Freydis. At first I was really intrigued by this character and her off color warrior, tree climbing ways, but Freydis does too many foolish things and is reckless for my taste. She gets into enough trouble and creates enough conflict for the story to go forward, but she’s not someone I felt attached to or had respect for. However, her craziness only illustrates Gudrid’s strength further as she fights to help her sister. Freydis is a die hard loyal person to her family, but I also considered her a danger to herself and those around her.
In an age when women had so few choices, survival was more important than comfort, and being a pagan believer was more common than faith in Christ, it’s absolutely amazing watching Gudrid cope with doing what’s right over what’s desired. Marriage is more about business and survival than emotions, housekeeping skills with the women are vital among clans, and staying healthy in a constantly changing climate is crucial. Gudrid doesn’t have vitamins to work with, but she knows her way around herbs and her faith has taught her that prayer and speaking words of life will help more than carrying a sword even though she does that too. Being a Viking woman with faith in Christ is an unconventional way to live, but Gudrid makes it work despite the sadness she endures.
I thought this book would be the Braveheart version for women (not so much), but there is plenty of action and I truly enjoyed seeing the Viking world through Gudrid’s eyes despite all the hardships she goes through. There was one relationship I wanted to understand better and that was Gudrid’s marriage to Finn. There are many misunderstandings between them, but everything does get resolved and I was overjoyed that they grow closer to one another. Gilbert’s debut book is a definite treat and I’m so grateful for the chance to review it! I couldn’t wait to see how the story progressed and went through this one FAST! The book takes an honest look at life in the 10th century and brings the reader hope and action in authentic ways. I’m grateful for characters like Gudrid (all she is able to overcome) and for writers like Gilbert who bring these stories to life.
I want to thank the author for the review copy provided, truly thanks!! I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own.
A Viking novel based on The Sagas of the Icelanders - well deserving of 5 stars Pasted over from an amazon.com review I left: I find it hard to believe that this is the author's first book - and not often that I give 5 stars. Considering the ease with which people can self publish through amazon and other mechanisms, the quality of way too many books has dropped to being almost not worth reading. Too many people are rating 5 stars just because they like a story (or happen to know the author!) when it is riddled with spelling, formatting and grammatical errors. Too many books are written to standards that I would expect from a fifth grader, and clearly have had no real write and rewrite, and no editing even though they list an editor - clearly an unqualified friend.
This book is not one of those. I tend to be one of those anal people who spot virtually every error or inconsistency, and highlight them - just because. I found nothing at all to criticize. This is a professionally written, and edited story. I thought character development and storyline was very good, though looking at a few other reviews, some may disagree. True, the single character point of view did limit the plot a little, but I felt that carried the story, in that everything was intended to be from the perspective of Gudrid, the primary character.
The story, in summary is about a phase in the life of Gudrid the central character, who had gone with her husband Thorfinn Karlsefni (Finn), their friends Snorri Thorbrandsson and Freydis Eiriksson along with a variety of lesser characters on a Viking pillage of "the new land". The journey is sponsored by Leif Eiriksson, owner of the ships and brother of Freydis, a wild woman who was raised almost as a boy and now fights and pillages along with the Viking men.
There is a mix of romance, action and adventure, and some amount of suspense, but not that the romance makes this a typical women's romance story, it is all integral to the plot and character development. The model of goal / conflict / disaster that some writers use successfully seems to be well used here. Characters go through various successes followed by conflict and difficulties to keep the reader's interest as the traveling Vikings go through mutiny by part of the expedition, and attacks by native Skraelings, along with some of their own internal intrigue and twists.
Of course, being Vikings of the New World Saga, this is the first in a planned series, but the story ends well so that it stands alone as independent. This book stands in quality and attention holding style along with many already well established, big name authors with as many as fifty published books to their name.
Good historical fiction-romance. Excellent first novel. Authors of historical fiction, especially of obscure eras, such as the Viking settlement of Greenland and North America, have a choice: stick close to whatever source is available or invent. Gilbert chose to follow the Icelandic sagas. The result is a rich, engaging story.
Gilbert also chose to intersperse modern phraseology with traditional terms and practices. The result is less satisfying. For example, “medicinal practices” knocked me right out of the story. (I’ve lectured about verisimilitude often enough that you don’t need another dose.) “Medicinal” is jarringly modern. “Healing” or “cures” would have been a better word. Likewise, “curvy” to describe a female’s body sounds modern. Full-bodied or even plump would convey the idea better.
I don’t know enough about Viking lore or herbal medicine to critique the specifics, but some practices seem anachronistic. I do know that making butter and making cheese are significantly different practices. The need to a catalyst (rennet) and extended time render cheese making “on the fly” in North America seem unlikely--unless they were making something like cottage cheese.
The deep first person point of view (often, though not always present tense) creates the illusion of riding inside Gudrid’s head. The risk with that approach, as happened often here, is that there is too much telling of what Gudrid thinks to the detriment of showing. The result is often stilted, as Gudrid describes feelings she should be feeling. Gilbert has been compared favorably to Henry James in this approach. Maybe, but I don’t like his protagonist’s navel gazing either.
Those are all quibbles. It’s a really good story and a noteworthy first novel. I hope to read more.
Gilbert handled Gudrid’s nascent Christian faith especially well. At that time and place, Bibles would not be readily available and women seldom could read. So Gudrid was dependent on what she’d learned from priests in Iceland. The conflict between old religion and new is handled well, too. Gudrid’s inner struggles with attractions to men, doubts, leadership issues and her place in the community all ring true.
(Full disclosure: I received this book in exchange for an honest review. Done.)
It is 1000 AD, and Gudrid is one of the few women on a Viking expedition to upper North America, to rediscover Vineland and bring great wealth back to Leif Eiriksson, their chieftain. She is the wife of Thorfinn Karlsefni, the expedition leader, mother to Snorri, the unofficial leader of the small band of women on the expedition—and the unwilling object of the affections of several of the men. Gudrid stopped worshipping Thor when she was a child and the capricious god demanded her mother as a sacrifice to guarantee a good harvest. As an adult in Iceland, she learned of the one true God from the monks, and she now follows Him.
God’s Daughter is a character-driven family saga, told entirely in first person from Gudrid’s point of view, and in the present tense—an interesting choice for a story set 1,000 years in the past, but one that’s strangely effective. Her voice is understated, deliberately downplaying the everyday struggles for survival in Viking society, a culture that still worships Thor and where life includes many pagan rituals.
It is obvious that a huge amount of research has gone into God’s Daughter, and while that research comes out in the depth of the narrative around the people, culture and lifestyle, it’s never overbearing and it never gets in the way of the story (although the names were a little difficult at times, because they were so unfamiliar).
The distance of time makes it impossible for us to really know what life was like in the Viking camp of Straumsfjord or the village of Brattahlid in Greenland, but the majesty and the savagery both come alive in the excellent writing. I came away feeling I had a real understanding of Viking life (certainly more than enough to be thankful I live now!).
God's Daughter is recommended for readers who enjoy well-researched historical fiction set in less well-known times and places, from author such as Iris Anthony (aka Siri Mitchell) or Sharon Penman.
Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review.
I was completely blown away by God’s Daughter. If you like historical fiction, this will become a favorite of yours. If you’re a little reluctant to read historical fiction, as I was before picking up Gilbert’s novel, don’t be. Grab this book.
Set in circa A.D. 1000, the story begins in Iceland with a cruel sacrifice to a Norse god, then moves quickly to Straumsfjord in northern North America, where Vikings have built a temporary settlement before traveling in search of Leif Eiriksson’s Vinland, a land of self-sown wheat and other bounty.
The novel is narrated by Gudrid, a Viking woman who has turned her back on the Norse gods and embraced Christianity—surely a leap of faith back then, but even more so considering she left her home for North America in the company of her husband and a ship full of pagan Vikings. The story is about her personal journey of faith as much as it is about the Vikings’ journey to find Vinland.
The historical details, the strong sense of place (I could smell the earth and forest!), the plain facts of the brutality of life in the year 1000—especially for women—are brilliantly woven into the story. They aren’t injected into it here and there as window dressing, as they sometimes are in historical fiction.
I loved Gudrid and identified with her restless sense of longing—a longing (sometimes misplaced) that causes her to misread situations and people and that she experiences no matter where she is or who she’s with. I loved her resourcefulness. I admired her brave hatred for Thor and the other Norse gods.
How she holds onto her faith, despite never having read the Christian “Holy Book,” and how she at last begins to feel a sense of peace in being God’s daughter are at the core of this book. I hope the author has a second book planned. I very much want to read more about Gudrid and her world.
I love a well-researched novel set in a place and time I'm largely unfamiliar with. I mean, I know Leif Erickson had something to do with finding North America, but after reading this book, I want to do more research on him!
Gudrid, despite her clunky, terrible (historically accurate) name, was wonderful as the heroine and narrator of this story. Gilbert tackles issues unseen in much of Christian fiction with finesse. She had my emotions in a tangle throughout the entire story, and totally blindsided me with a twist at one point that left me reeling.
My only beef with the writing is some confusion on Gudrid's backstory. I realize Gilbert took great pains to remain historically accurate with the names and details of Gudrid's first two husbands, but it was mildly confusing and took me much of the book to sort out.
I'm looking forward to Freydis's story next . . . and wondering if poor Ref will last long . . .
I was first attracted the the gorgeous cover of this book, and then the fact it was a Chrsitian Viking woman in Vinland. I'd always been intrigued by the Vikings and their explorations across Iceland, Greenland and North America. This well-researched tale brought some of those epic personalities to life.
The book is written in first person, and the rhythm of the writing is reminiscent of the ancient sagas upon which this story was based. Gudrid's friendship with the wild Freydis is touching and sweet, as well as sometimes highly contentious. her insights into the various relationships in her settlement are not so different from those in modern communities. Sometimes the narrative confused me a little, but for the most part, this was a well-told and intriguing tale.
Full 5 star book! Could not put it down! This is why I love historical fiction that is written so well - you feel like you’ve been transported in a time machine and have stepped right into the story. The characters - oh my word, they feel like real people in my mind; I can see them and hear them and feel their emotions! This was my first Viking book and I am totally hooked! Now on to the sequel!
One of the fun things about picking up a lot of books is that by the time I get to reading one, I've forgotten the back cover. That means I'm jumping into a book completely fresh and trusting that I picked it up for a reason.
I honestly thought this was a fantasy with a viking flavor to it. Until I started reading, and I was like wow, this author is good. She REALLY has a lot of layers and details. I did some digging and hey, it's historical fiction.
I love doing some light researching about whatever I'm reading about when it comes to historical. For this one it just made me more impressed with how well Gilbert stuck to the framework of what is known or believed to be known about Gudrid and the people around her. She fleshes those details out and made a super engaging story that I devoured in one night. (who needs sleep?)
This book is REAL in the manner that it feels like you're right there alongside real people. The setting and characters are described extraordinarily well and Gilbert pulls off something that is hard for a lot of authors to do.
She makes a flawed heroine with a flaw that I really really don't like, but I still loved the character. Gudrid struggles with being faithful. Not in her actions, but in her mind. I got the sense that Gudrid missed out on love as she grew up. She missed out on having someone care about her and take care of her. People in her life used her and mistreated her, until now.
Now she's happily married, but at the same time she has two men in her life who think she's amazing. She wrestles with her thoughts, know they're wrong, and tries to fight against them. I think she's afraid of being alone. Both physically and emotionally. And now she's got multiple people that could prevent that and part of her wants all of them because you know, if one fails there'll be two more.
Meanwhile there's this intense battle for survival in a strange land. Gudrid is trying to take care of herself, her son, the community, her sister-in-law, etc. There's diseases they have to hope they can outlast, hostiles who they can't communicate with, and restlessness in a camp with way more men than women.
I'll list the cons for me real quick.
- Gudrid's slaves. She finds out at one point that a good portion of the slaves are hers, but she was not to be told. Considering her reaction to this, I was surprised it took her so long to free them and that when she at last faced Leif it took her some time to confront him about it and overall the interaction was mild. I thought her reaction to discovering she was a slave owner did not match up with her later actions.
- The two enemy boys. This felt just strange and forced into the story. They're on their way home and they camp on shore at one point. They see some of the hostiles they've bumped into and chase the two adults(we assume parents) who take off leaving two kids to flee the best they can. The Vikings instead turn and grab the kids and bring them back to the crew. Gudrid immediately decides to adopt them. They then take the boys with them back to Greenland.
First off, I was torn over this. On one hand, yes, the parents fled and didn't make sure their kids made it out okay. And yes, the kids were clearly mistreated(covered in bruises, lice, etc.). But it seemed extreme to just ...take two kids that couldn't communicate their wishes or understand what was happening away from their home, family, and people. I also think Gudrid should've talked with Finn before deciding to adopt them. Overall I just don't think it added to the story, and felt strangely squeezed in there. And yes, I couldn't help wondering if it was really the right choice.
- Leif. A character who was supposed to be one of the early Christians to the area acted very un-Christian and I had a hard time believing his faith was genuine. I wish either a different, non-Christian character would've had his role in the story or that this could've been seen as before his conversion.
- Lastly I REALLY wish there was more of this book. Like at the end. I thought it ended too soon. And here's why. We spend most of the book following Gudrid's struggles with her wandering thoughts. There's a LOT of struggle and she is slowly able to work herself to a good spot. But it's not until near the end of the book that this really comes to a strong standing point. Where Gudrid stands up and says, no, I'm my husband's and he's the one I want and him alone. She denies the other two men and it's clear that she's finally where I spent the whole book waiting for her to be.
Then it ends. I wanted to see more time with Gudrid and Finn being a healthy couple. Finn reaches out to her and opens up in an amazing way that's one of the many fine points of this book. And I really really wanted Gudrid to do the same. I wanted her to open up and share what she'd been feeling, what she'd been struggling with, but how she'd changed and where she was now. I really wanted to see that healthy step. Especially because Finn was clearly very tuned in to what was going on, I think he probably knew some of what she was going through. I think her opening up would've been healing and helped the relationship.
NOW, yes, that's my list, but I want to say that overall this book is... it's amazing. I loved how indepth the characters were and so many of them. There's a number of names, but it's handled well so that I caught up on who was who quickly. Clearly the author put a lot of work into crafting her characters and bringing them to life. I was very interested to see what would happen next, who would do what, and how Gudrid would get through it all.
This has it's sad, and somewhat dark moments, but I also think it's a great portrayal of how someone might've experienced life then. And that includes someone who is a fairly new Christian in a land that still follows pagan practices of chants and human sacrifices. You can see how hard that probably was and how bits of it would cling here and there.
I only wish there was more of Gudrid and Finn's story. A really amazing book and I'd recommend it.
If all you know about Vikings are the names Eric the Red and Leif Ericsson, God's Daughter is a great way to learn more and to perhaps break some stereotypes. For example, I didn't know they had any exposure to Christianity. Or that Eric's name is properly spelled Eiric.
Many of the novel's characters are genuine historical figures, and their voyage actually happened around 1000 AD. The setting and events have been meticulously researched to allow Heather Day Gilbert to weave a story that feels true.
The main character, a Viking woman named Gudrid, travels with her sailor-trader husband and his crew in search of Leif Ericsson's Vinland. This man, Finn, is Gudrid's third husband, the first two having died of "the shivering sickness." She knows he loves her, but why can't he be more thoughtful and protective, like his business partner, Snorri?
Together, then separately, they face down mutineers among the crew, attacking natives, and other dangers. Likely none of us have experienced Gudrid and Finn's dangers, but just as likely we've all had trouble with comparisons and expectations. This is a subplot to the main story of the voyage, but for me it makes a connecting point that brings the characters even more alive.
Gudrid is one of the few Christians in the story, and she lives her faith the best she can based on what she's been taught. She longs for her own copy of the Holy Book—and to be able to read—so she could learn more. As the story progresses, she articulates her turmoil this way:
Can I ever be happy where I am, with my own husband? What is wrong with me? And why do I always search for a protector? [Kindle location 3130]
She trusts God, but she's still working toward the understanding that in Him alone can she find the protection and the love she craves.
God's Daughter is a satisfying historical novel with characters I cared about. Details like methods of treating illness and the differences between Europeans' and Vikings' approaches to toilet training (Gudrid and Finn have a young son) flow naturally to help readers imagine the story world. There are no information dumps in this novel, nor any of the other awkward moments that can come with a debut novel.
My favourite line: Gudrid describes Snorri as "rubbing his hand over his bald head in a gesture that always makes me think he misses his hair." [Kindle location 1521]
Heather Day Gilbert has crafted an amazing tale, brimming with adventure, compassion and insight. There's much more to God's Daughter than I can capture in a review, so let me just say I highly recommend this book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm looking forward to the sequel, Forest Child.
You can find Heather Day Gilbert at her website, along with maps, a glossary and other bonus features related to the novel. Take a few minutes to read the opening chapters of God's Daughter (and be prepared to want more).
My thanks to Heather Day Gilbert for letting me read an ARC of this, her debut novel. As someone who has studied the Northmen of Nordweg, I appreciated seeing a different set of the vikingr in her book.
God's Daughter is a story of Gudrid, a strong Christian woman in a time when Christianity was just making itself felt as a significant influence against the Northern Way. The present tense, first person narrative leaves us with just Gudrid's perspective to go on as we experience hardship, life, weakness, and death and that was - for me, anyway - not my favorite experience. Still, Gudrid's heart is laid bare to the reader and that is important.
She is a Christian, but she is thankfully not perfect. She has flaws of what would likely be considered a serious, moral nature. There are "too many men" in her life, and this remains a constant theme throughout the book. Additionally, she is dishonest with her husband in matters dealing with his business and trade goods. Her early life experiences have left her with weaknesses that could have landed her in a lot of trouble.
But, she is more than just her weaknesses. Seeing Gudrid come to a better appreciation for and commitment to her husband was a relief. He is a worthy man, and he deserves a wife who isn't obsessing over other men. Her gradual growth in this area was well-written. She is a healer, with a certain affinity for animals. Her ties to powerful people assure her stature and rank, and she knows well how to do what is right for others.
This is a work of Christian fiction, with the aspects of faith displayed but not in a heavy manner. Gudrid acknowledges her lack of knowledge in this area, but her faith in God is clear throughout. She shares her faith from her position of strength without making it a "deal breaker" in any of the interpersonal relationships she has with the others in the trading group. It's very honest and real to read through her mind.
Recommended for those who want to reconnect with people they've read about in the Sagas of these Northern people, for those who are interested in possible interpersonal dynamics that shaped greater events in the Viking progression and settlement, and for fans of Christian historical fiction who enjoy seeing their faith enacted in the lives of others.
Gudrid’s knowledge of the Christian God is limited but she has more than enough experience with the pagan gods to know that she doesn’t want to follow them. In a culture dominated by men, Gudrid has finally chosen a husband for herself and she is committed to following him wherever he may go.
Gudrid’s character is a beautiful blend of fierce femininity and vulnerable seeker. I loved learning a bit more about the Icelandic culture of the time and the storyline is engaging and entertaining. I can’t wait to read Freydis’s adventure in the next book of the series!
I won this book in a giveaway. The opinions expressed are my own.
I've always been fascinated by Vikings, so when I ran across this book I had to read it. The cover also drew me in. Isn't it beautiful?
It's a great book. I will admit I sometimes got frustrated with Gudrid and her inability to see how awesome her husband, Finn, was, but by the end of the book she had sort of figured out he was the quiet, unassuming glue that held everything together- including her. If you're looking for a fantastic, Viking themed historical novel, this is the book for you!
This was an excellent historical Vikings novel. I love Vikings, anyway, but Heather Gilbert has written a very compelling novel about the first Christian Viking woman to come to the New World. It is very, very good. I recommend it.
This was my second time reading this book since it first released. I re-read it because of course I love it, and also in preparation of "Forest Child" coming out next month!! So excited! I love the Vikings history, and Mrs.Gilbert's writing is so good. :)
Quite an interesting story, even though filled with strife and death. Vikings have always been a mysterious people and one I have never read about. So now my interest is aroused, and I look forward to learning more.
Heather Day Gilbert very kindly sent me an advance reader’s copy of her book in exchange for a review- and I was glad to have it. Books set in the Medieval Era are by far my favourite, though the Vikings aren’t my favourite people (as a staunch supported of King Alfred who fought them in England). God’s Daughter covered some interesting subject matter (and period) that doesn’t seem to receive much attention in Christian Fiction - the Viking settlement of North America circa the year 1000. As a Medievalist I consider it a rich and fascinating era, with many stories that deserve to be told.
Personally I for one had never heard of Gudrid or her story, so it was interesting and original. The setting seems to present to be generally realistic and well researched representation of the Icelandic Vikings, their culture and world. The historical complaints were few. One was the that the characters’ language sometimes semed rather too modern with terms like ‘smart’ and I’m not sure if Vikings at the turn of the 11th century would have referred to America as ‘The New World’. Gudrid’s position on slavery and some of her views on other subjects did not seem to be entirely ‘of her time’. That and one of the main male characters walking around in tight leather pants- more like a modern Biker, or extra from an 80s TV dramas than an 11th century Viking.
I sometimes found it a little hard to keep track of all the characters, and sometimes keep up with the story. The book was written in the first person, from Gudrid’s viewpoint, which did seem to go ‘off track’ at times, reminiscing or musing upon some other incident on subject in the middle of a narrative about something else. Then again, most humans seem to do that upon occasion, so perhaps it things more credible.
The Christian aspects were fairly prominent, given that Gudrid was a convert to Christianity, having once been a Pagan Priestess. Her understanding and grasp of some Christian teaching and precepts was somewhat limited, and some of her ideas and actions questionable at times (though she seemed to have the basics right), such as considering it acceptable to take part in some pagan rituals, or just taking for granted that professing Christians who had engaged in sexual immorality could go to heaven. Perhaps this was unsurprising given the historical context. She did not after all have the access to the Bible in her own language, did not know much Latin, and had little ‘moral support’ in the words of the author. I must practice what I preach and not judge the past by modern standards as well!
Unlike most books in the genre; God’s Daughter is not a romance. Gudrid is already married, though she does struggle with her feelings for other men. On several occasions she would end up ‘bumping into’ one of the two main protagonists who fancied her (which became rather predictable) when she went off on her own, or she would go to meet them on her own for some business or other, which would lead to kissing (or almost kissing). This was perhaps one of the most infuriating and potentially objectionable aspects of the story.
I’m have serious doubts that such behavior would have been acceptable in that particular society or time period- especially for the wife of a chief. I know the best of us faces temptation, but wasn’t always entirely comfortable with Gudrid’s attitude towards her husband, other men or indeed her behavior which verged to the downright wanton once or twice-though she was never actually unfaithful, and there is resolution at the end.
Overall, God’s Daughter is a good debut, I personally might have like liked a little less kissing, and Vikings who seemed a less- American. People who are ‘into’ the Vikings will probably like it, and I think it would appeal to fans of historical and Medieval fiction more generally, and who are seeking something different from the usual diet of Regencies and stories set in 18-20th century America served up in the Christian Fiction genre. I would be interested in reading more by this author, and especially the next in the series Forest Child.
The Viking era is a new historical setting for me. I was hooked from the first paragraph. The story is told in first person of Gudrid as she struggles with her Christian beliefs in a pagan world. The Viking life is filled with hardship and even those who are considered wealthy struggle to survive. Gilbert's descriptions draw the reader into the life of Gudrid as she accompanies her husband to the New World. In the story, Gudrid is described as beautiful and nurturing yet she has strength of character that helps her to triumph and find purpose and happiness in life. Gilbert skillfully introduces us to Finn, Leif and Snorri through the eyes and heart of Gudrid. We are also introduced to Freydis, the illegitimate daughter of Erik the Red. I cannot wait to read her story in the sequel. Freydis is quite unpredictable to say the least.
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. I was not required to write a review. All opinions expressed are my own.