Book Review: “God’s Daughter” by Heather Day Gilbert

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This novel is Volume One in a two-volume series (Vikings of the New World Saga), and I plan to read and review the second novel, Forest Child, next.

I loved the premise, and the novel came with an excellent review from the Historical Novel Society, so I was eager to read it.

Gudrid, the main character and narrator, is a Viking woman who has traveled to the New World with her husband Finn.  Finn is the leader of an expedition that seeks Leif Erikson’s legendary Vinland, a land rich in wheat and grapes.  But the expedition has been waylaid and has settled for two years in a place they call Straumsfjord — which looks to be on the novel’s map in northern Labrador.

Gudrid, her husband, and the other settlers face the danger of the Skraelings — which the reader assumes to be Native Americans.  These Skraelings come at first to trade, but then to fight.  Gudrid’s husband eventually decides he must go south to Vinland to fill his ships with wheat and grapes for Leif Erikson, who has sponsored the expedition and who is owner of the ships.  They dare not return to Greenland and Leif without some kind of plunder.

The last third of the book takes place at Brattahlid in Greenland, Leif Erikson’s farm.  Gudrid and her husband and their party have returned with bounty from Vinland.

Throughout the novel, there is family drama and the occasional mention of Gudrid’s Christianity.  I think the author missed a good opportunity here to show the richness of the clash of religions between those who followed the old Norse gods in 1000 AD and those who had turned to the growing faith of Christianity.  But instead, this inevitable conflict is glossed over.

In addition, this reader at least grew weary of every man in the novel pining over the main character.  The main character herself grows weary of every man seeming to be in love with her.  It is irritating, unrealistic, and distracting.

God’s Daughter is an entertaining enough story, but it lacks a certain depth.  There are no great themes here, when there easily could have been with the religious aspect.  In addition, I never felt attached to the main character, rather I simply felt I was an outsider observing her life.

The details of Viking life are excellent, and the author obviously has a love of the time period.  I only wish she had given her story a bit more meat and depth.

Recommended as light summer reading or for those fascinated by the Vikings, but if you are seeking a novel to truly sweep you away to another era, this probably isn’t the one for you.

Buy it on Amazon

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