Heathen by Natasha Alterici and Rachel DeeringHeathen by Natasha Alterici and Rachel Deering is a fantasy graphic novel steeped in Norse mythology. It is about Viking women, both warriors and gods, that embrace the ideals of love and honour while exposing and seeking to destroy the ruthlessness of Odin’s patriarchal reign.

Warriors go alone.

Aydis is a Viking. Strong, brave, and noble, she was raised by her father to be the most courageous of warriors. A heart that beats so strongly cannot be contained though many may try and when she is discovered kissing another woman from the village, her father is given the power to choose her fate – death or marriage to a man. Unable to force either upon his daughter, he fakes her execution and she sets off into the world exiled and alone save her horse, Saga.

Brynhild, former queen of the Valkyrie, sits alone atop a formidable mountain encircled by a fiery barrier that only the bravest may cross. Cursed for defying the mighty Odin, she awaits a mortal hero to rescue her from her prison.

Aydis embarks on a quest to free the imprisoned Brynhild and ultimately to end the oppressive reign of Odin. Her bravery is without question, but even if she manages to free Brynhild, will the two of them be strong enough to withstand the god’s vengeful rage?

The Characters

So…lesbian Viking warrior with a pure heart… brave and unwavering heroine with a vulnerable side… on a quest to take down the patriarchy. Right, someone please pick me up off the floor as my legs seem to have given out.

The other characters are equally as enthralling. Valkyrie have always had a special place in my heart, and I love their depiction in this story. Brynhild is brave and has stood up to Odin before, yet she also wavers in confidence before regaining her fortitude making her far more relatable. Freyja, who is the reluctant replacement of Brynhild and ironically embraces the make love not war ethos is a delight.

There is also Saga, the horse that is so much more, and Shannon, the mute devotee of Freyja whose stories are beautiful and heartbreaking. Ruadan the trickster and Skull and Hati, the wolf brothers have brief appearances that are hilarious, sweet and with poignant messages of their own. The characters are all simply incredible.

The Writing Style

This is a graphic novel, so the writing is sparser than that of a full-length book. However, Alterici’s ability to use so few words and yet say so much is uncanny. There is so much emotion packed into the short periods of dialogue and narrative, and the illustrations only serve to augment this a hundredfold. The pacing is fast, yet the pages turned slowly as I found it so hard to peel my eyes away from the magnificent artwork that enhances every word.

Pros And My Favourite Parts

The story blew me away, but the artwork is simply breathtaking. The images are just so expressive that they frequently burst out of their frames and off the page. With bold, dark, and erratic lines, blue, grey and sepia tones, the overall mood is stark and oppressive and mirrors the story perfectly. There are also occasional accents of colour, particularly for the character illustrations, that reflect strength, warmth and hope.

Cons And Heads Up

There are no cons at all in my opinion. However, although there isn’t any on page sex depicted, there is quite a bit of female nudity in the artwork and references of polyamory in the story. So I believe this is geared more towards older readers.

The Conclusion

Michelle's Favourite BooksOne look at the cover and I knew this book was right up my alley. If you are into Norse mythology and aching for a lesbian angle, then this book is for you. If you want a love story that is more than a romance, a heroine that is truly honourable and fierce, then I urge you to pick this series up. I have already read the next two books in the series… and believe it or not… it just gets better.

TLDR (too long didn’t read)

Visually stunning graphic novel about a lesbian Viking warrior and imprisoned Valkyrie queen who rise up to take on Odin and dismantle his patriarchal, homophobic, and vengeful rule.

Excerpt from Heathen by Natasha Alterici and Rachel Deering

My mother was alone when she gave birth to me. She refused to die until my father found us.

My father raised me alone. Teaching me everything that his father taught him.

Saga was alone, his leg snared in a bear trap, when my father and I found him during a hunting trip.

And on some mountain top, a Valkyrie waits alone.

And I intend to free her.

She travels alone?

Yes. She should reach the mountain before next moon.

And she showed no fear?

None at all. Do you think that will be enough?

It will be. Brynhild values only bravery. I dare say, within a few days she will be released from her fiery solitude. Watching you work has been a pleasure Ruadan. I am most grateful.

What happens now?

Now we see how she handles the mountain. It’s claimed the lives of many brave men. Brave men with arguably less noble intentions. If she survives the climb, the next part should be easy…All she has to do is jump.

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Volume 1

Volume 2

Volume 3

Bits and Bobs

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