Thursday, June 29, 2017

Daughter of a Thousand Years by Amalia Carosella

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: October 25, 2016

Greenland, AD 1000: More than her fiery hair marks Freydís as the daughter of Erik the Red; her hot temper and fierce pride are as formidable as her Viking father’s. And so, too, is her devotion to the great god Thor, which puts her at odds with those in power—including her own brother, the zealous Leif Eriksson. Determined to forge her own path, she defies her family’s fury and clings to her dream of sailing away to live on her own terms, with or without the support of her husband. New Hampshire, 2016: Like her Icelandic ancestors, history professor Emma Moretti is a passionate defender of Norse mythology. But in a small town steeped in traditional values, her cultural beliefs could jeopardize both her academic career and her congressman father’s reelection. Torn between public expectation and personal identity, family and faith, she must choose which to honor and which to abandon. In a dramatic, sweeping dual narrative that spans a millennium, two women struggle against communities determined to silence them, but neither Freydís nor Emma intends to give up without a fight. 

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I was hesitant about Amalia Carosella’s Daughter of a Thousand Years. I’d loved the author’s earlier work and as much as I liked the Norse elements of the plot, I wasn’t sure about the dual timelines. Contemporary fiction isn’t really my thing and the last thing I wanted was to be disappointed by an author I’d grown to adore. I wavered, but in the end, couldn’t fathom not reading the book so I bit the bullet and jumped in. 

Looking back, I can honestly say that the decision was one of my better ones, but I think worthy to note that the very thing that nearly scared me off proved my favorite part of the narrative. I don’t mean to downplay Freydís in any way, she’s a brilliant and fiery personality, but there was a spark in Emma that captivated my interest and imagination. She has moments of weakness and vulnerability, but she is a relatable character who felt genuinely authentic in my mind’s eye. 

Much as I appreciated the historic details of the piece, it was the thematic material that kept me turning the pages. Carosella tackles some deeply complex religious and emotional conflict over the course of the narrative as both Freydís and Emma discover what it means to have courage of one's convictions and to act in accordance of those beliefs in spite of both criticism and fear. I might be alone in this, but I think that a powerful message and feel there’s a lot to be said for writers who can effectively convey such ideas through fiction. 

Daughter of a Thousand Years is not as mythologically heavy as Carosella’s earlier books and while I’d have greatly appreciated a story centered on Freydís alone, I can’t help admiring the novel for both the passion of its thesis and the creative artistry of the parallels that linked past to present. 

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Whether I have his support or not, I am what I am. I don’t want to cost him his seat, but you have to understand—it would have meant the world to me to hear someone else say the things I said today. To know I wasn’t alone, that I wasn’t crazy, and someone else understood. But if it’s better for the campaign for him to disown me, or distance himself, or whatever, then just do it.
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