Book Review: The Norse Queen
This cover is gorgeous, and my Kindle just didn't do it justice, so no cat pics today.
I read the Norse Queen by Johanna Whittenberg as the first book on my new e-reader, my first Kindle. (I've been a Barnes and Noble Nook girl for the last ten years, but my last Nook died and they don't make them anymore. Alas.) It's the first in an ongoing indie series set in the 800's in, you guessed it, Viking-held areas in what is now Scandinavia. This book's protagonist is Åsa (Oh-sah), a teenage princess of a small island. However, when a proposal goes awry, the jilted would-be fiancé (and enemy of her family's past) slaughters Åsa's family and takes her hostage. She must find a way through her grief, fear, and how to be a queen to her aggressors, while still trying to protect the conquered people who were once her father's subjects.
I enjoyed a lot about this book. The author clearly did a lot of research, as the world was full of detail and felt authentic. I didn't fact check anything, but I also never felt the urge to, which is very telling from me. Åsa was a strong female character, despite her very male-dominated circumstances. I appreciated that she never forgot about her subjects and found small but meaningful ways to rebel. Olaf, the love interest, was interesting for his flaws and growth, though I felt like he didn't grow enough and did some unforgivable things (Åsa would agree with me). There's also an element of magic to the story, but not enough that you're left thinking about how if magic was real so much of history would be different.
I couldn't read the map on my Kindle (which is a fault of the Kindle, not the author) so despite the descriptions, I had trouble picturing where locations were in relation to each other. One other little downside is that Åsa has a touch of "not like other girls" syndrome, but this may have been required due to the real historical setting, so I'll forgive it more easily than I would a secondary world fantasy.
I recommend this book to fans of historical fiction and light fantasy (light like not much magic, not as in uplifting). If you're tired of reading Viking stories where it's all about the men, you'll enjoy the badass Åsa. It's not for anyone triggered by/not in the mood to read about general violence, sexual violence/rape, kidnapping, or traumatic births.
Have you read The Norse Queen? Let's discuss in the comments!
Transparency note: I am in a writing group with the author of this book. I also beta read book 4 of the series before I read book 1. I paid for the book myself and have not been compensated for my review.
My editing experience in a nutshell. Image by Kate via Canva 2022
Since the end of December, I’ve been working on my novel’s edits with the goal of querying in February. The past two weeksI sent each chapter (all 104 of them!) through ProWritingAid. (This isn’t sponsored, but imagine how much more enthusiasm I’d show if it was?) It was a grueling process, mostly because ProWritingAid takes time to load between each button, and each button reveals information to read and analyze.
The logo of ProWritingAid. I've had it for several years now and have no regrets about paying the lifetime fee.
The buttons I used most were style, grammar, overused, sentence length, pronouns, and consistency. Based on the feedback ProWritingAid sent me, I accepted 675 suggestions from the software in the last two weeks. Lordy. Grammar improvements took the forefront with 493 suggestions, and 182 suggestions were style improvements, like removing passive voice and overused words.
This is the tool bar of ProWritingAid. Pronouns, consistency, and other choices are under more reports.
My most overused words (that I culled) were: had/have, could, know/knew, think/thought, and was/were. According to the software, I only overused “just” in two chapters! That’s a huge improvement from my last WIP. I also reworked many sentences to cut down on how many pronouns began sentences. Luckily, I didn’t have many consistency issues or repeated sentence starts. My biggest issue in grammar was comma placement. I’m not surprised.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t blindly accept every suggestion. In fact, I rejected most of them. Incorrect assessments of commas, incorrect assumptions about word choice and spelling, and incorrect identification of passive voice were common suggestions I ignored. This is the other part of why this took so long! If I blindly accepted across the board, my story would be a mess.
The last leg of my editing journey is a final read-through. I’m not letting myself edit anything unless I’m removing words or fixing typos. I’ve gotten it down significantly from where I started, but I’d still love to lose another 4k. We’ll see if that happens.
Have you used editing software in the past? What have you noticed are your editing patterns? Let’s chat in the comments!
New Year's Resolutions
To paraphrase the great Taylor Swift: I don't know about you, but I'm feeling '22.
It's 2022 and therefore time to set some annual goals. Hopefully at the end of the year I can circle back and see how I did.
Last year I read 31 books, most of which were in the second half of the year due to my new commute. Since I've still got that job, but I also know I have some time consuming life stuff happening this year, I'm going to aim for 45 books.
I also want to read more indie pubbed books and books by my friends this year. I hope at least 8 books of my 45 will be indies.
As always, I want to read diversely. I'm hoping to read more female authors than male authors, and for at least 50% of the books I read to be written by people who are different from me in terms of race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, or ability.
I am working toward a very short term goal of having my WIP query-ready by February 2022. I got most of my beta feedback in December and have been editing like crazy ever since. I'm getting down to the final polish, so I think this goal is super doable.
Send at least 5 queries every month until the end of the year or until a miracle happens and I get representation. Why only 5? I want to give myself space/time to edit the query if it ends up not working well initially. I may not be able to tell if the query is the problem or if agents are just a little behind within a month, so I'm giving myself some wiggle room here.
Continue writing my new WIP (from NaNo '21) and have a complete first draft by August. I'm giving myself a little leeway here because goals can be great, but I hate the guilt of not meeting them.
Continue attending my writing groups whenever possible. This includes reading ahead of time for the group that does that.
Keep up with this website. I try to post once per week, with some grace given on holidays and periods of other chaos. I love sharing about books I've read, strategies I've tried, and resources I've enjoyed. I hope you like reading about it!
Those are my goals for 2022 and I think they're achievable! Do you have any writing or bookish resolutions this year? Who else will be diving into the querying trenches? Let's discuss in the comments!