I couldn’t be happier to read a story such as Heathen.
Imagine a badass Viking story with mythical gods, magical creatures, action and adventure.
Now imagine a woman… A Viking female character who made it her destiny to live life as who she is.
A strong female character. Well written. Well represented. Well pictured.
That is what Heathen is about and I am honestly in love with it.
We follow the path of Aydis, a young woman who had to be punished to expunge the horror inside her. Because Aydis committed the most horrible act of all. She was caught... kissing another woman. The members of the village had no other choice but to turn to the only member of importance: her father was obliged to choose for her daughter between marriage or death.
He chose neither.
Aydis is now on the run, trying to figure out what to do. She can never return to her village. But what was so wrong in her "crime"?
In the tales of her childhood, she heard about Brynhild: leader of the Valkyries trapped inside a fire after breaking Odin's rules (…kind of like Aydis?) waiting for a man to marry her. Aydis then embarked on this journey of self-administered quest: she wants to prove she's as good as any man to free Brynhild from her prison.
Heathen is the book I always knew I wanted but never got. It's an incredibly empowering story where women are strong warriors ready to fight for what they believe is right.
It’s hard to explain the emotions I felt while reading this book. I was flabbergasted by the incredibly beautiful art and writing.
First of all, they win some points for good inclusion of diversity.
In Heathen, you have various types of love stories... And I appreciated all of them. They feel authentic and have a part of the story without taking over the whole plot.
Then we have Aydis who is just awesome. She never really questioned her sexuality; she never tries to hide it. She just lives, you know?
Her goal is more about proving that women are equals. That they have a place in society. She wants to change what is so anchored in the traditions.
And then Brynhild, who see Aydis arriving to free her and marrying her. She is more concerned about what will happen to Aydis if Odin hears about how she defeated his law than worrying about marrying another woman.
The relationships are written with so much truth. Without being pushed around trying to fit into the plot. It all comes up naturally and it’s fantastic.
And let’s not forget about the art!
The artist works with soft tones and lots of brown\beige colors on a watercolor type of canvas. Add in the inked details and you have an interesting mix where the art is closely linked to the story and the colors gives all the nuances it needs: a vibe of old tales in a faraway land. With just a touch of magic.
I thought it was so nice and fresh to see a story with so much tenderness in a universe with so much violence and masculinity (I mean, it's still a Viking story...). Because, yes, Heathen is full of love. Love of others, love of family, self-love…
For sure, Heathen was for me a love story in disguise. But the most amazing fact about it is that it’s not JUST about love.
It’s about Aydis, defeating gods by being a woman. And that’s badass.
Heathen is definitely the type of book you need to read. It just carries so many emotions, with a good authentic message at its core.
Just read it.