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When We Were Vikings

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Sometimes life isnt as simple as heroes and villains. For Zelda, a twenty-one-year-old Viking enthusiast who lives with her older brother, Gert, life is best lived with some basic rules: 1. A smile means thank you for doing something small that I liked. 2. Fist bumps and dabs = respect. 3. Strange people are not appreciated in her home. 4. Tomatoes must go in the middle Sometimes life isn’t as simple as heroes and villains. For Zelda, a twenty-one-year-old Viking enthusiast who lives with her older brother, Gert, life is best lived with some basic rules: 1. A smile means “thank you for doing something small that I liked.” 2. Fist bumps and dabs = respect. 3. Strange people are not appreciated in her home. 4. Tomatoes must go in the middle of the sandwich and not get the bread wet. 5. Sometimes the most important things don’t fit on lists. But when Zelda finds out that Gert has resorted to some questionable—and dangerous—methods to make enough money to keep them afloat, Zelda decides to launch her own quest. Her mission: to be legendary. It isn’t long before Zelda finds herself in a battle that tests the reach of her heroism, her love for her brother, and the depth of her Viking strength. When We Were Vikings is an uplifting debut about an unlikely heroine whose journey will leave you wanting to embark on a quest of your own, because after all... We are all legends of our own making.


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Sometimes life isnt as simple as heroes and villains. For Zelda, a twenty-one-year-old Viking enthusiast who lives with her older brother, Gert, life is best lived with some basic rules: 1. A smile means thank you for doing something small that I liked. 2. Fist bumps and dabs = respect. 3. Strange people are not appreciated in her home. 4. Tomatoes must go in the middle Sometimes life isn’t as simple as heroes and villains. For Zelda, a twenty-one-year-old Viking enthusiast who lives with her older brother, Gert, life is best lived with some basic rules: 1. A smile means “thank you for doing something small that I liked.” 2. Fist bumps and dabs = respect. 3. Strange people are not appreciated in her home. 4. Tomatoes must go in the middle of the sandwich and not get the bread wet. 5. Sometimes the most important things don’t fit on lists. But when Zelda finds out that Gert has resorted to some questionable—and dangerous—methods to make enough money to keep them afloat, Zelda decides to launch her own quest. Her mission: to be legendary. It isn’t long before Zelda finds herself in a battle that tests the reach of her heroism, her love for her brother, and the depth of her Viking strength. When We Were Vikings is an uplifting debut about an unlikely heroine whose journey will leave you wanting to embark on a quest of your own, because after all... We are all legends of our own making.

30 review for When We Were Vikings

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paige

    I absolutely loved being inside of Zelda's mind. Zelda, a high functioning young adult diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome, has something about her that everyone can relate to. While exploring lifes boundaries, she often compares her world to the Viking world. Though others consider Zelda not normal, she considers her life a quest and strives to fulfill her legacy while searching for identity, battling for independence, and overcoming lifes villains. I told him that I was used to it. People I absolutely loved being inside of Zelda's mind. Zelda, a high functioning young adult diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome, has something about her that everyone can relate to. While exploring life’s boundaries, she often compares her world to the Viking world. Though others consider Zelda “not normal”, she considers her life a quest and strives to fulfill her legacy while searching for identity, battling for independence, and overcoming life’s villains. “I told him that I was used to it. “People call me a retard all the time.”” Her older brother and caregiver, Gert, really pulled on my heart strings as well. He doesn’t always make the right decisions, but I felt like he had good intentions. Gert truly represents the depth and complexity of life’s unexpected turns. Gert’s character speaks volumes, and it is difficult to fully love him or fully hate him. “We do not have very much money, but Gert is powerful at surviving life’s battles.” Sexual freedom among the cognitively disabled is a topic explored in this novel. Zelda has intimate feelings for her boyfriend and wants to explore those feelings like most other young adults would. (Please note that there is a long segment on this topic.) The language was very colorful, and I loved it. Zelda often utilizes her “Word of the Day”, but she also mimics the language of her peers and environment. As a result, this book is filled with adult language, but it made it so much more palpable. “Those people, the ones who don’t trust Gert, are shit-heels and fuck-dicks, because Gert is one of the smartest people I know, and the bravest...” I think this book will create excellent conversations and highly recommend it for a buddy read or group read. It has several controversial topics and covers a lot of current issues with cognitively disabled young adults. Though sensitive in subject areas, if you do have a respectful and close reading group it would inspire valuable discussion. “And sometimes the heroes of legends have to break the rules in order to save the people they care about.” What are the differences between responsibility and accountability? How do we decide where accountability falls? Can someone who loves you be bad for you? I really enjoyed this book and couldn’t put it down. The last chapter, especially the very last page, had me in tears. I think we can all learn many lessons from Zelda. Thank you Gallery/Scout Press, NetGalley, and Andrew David MacDonald for this copy. Opinions are my own. More on these topics: Living with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Cognitive Disability and Sexuality Employment with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nenia ⚡ Aspiring Evil Overlord ⚡ Campbell

    Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest WHEN WE WERE VIKINGS is a book that has a very interesting premise but is potentially problematic in a lot of ways. I breezed through it pretty quickly-- normally a good sign-- but when I finished, I found that I had a really bad taste in my mouth. Something about the book really didn't sit right with me. I finished the book on my lunch break and spent the rest of the day with my thoughts on the back burner, trying to figure out, what, Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest WHEN WE WERE VIKINGS is a book that has a very interesting premise but is potentially problematic in a lot of ways. I breezed through it pretty quickly-- normally a good sign-- but when I finished, I found that I had a really bad taste in my mouth. Something about the book really didn't sit right with me. I finished the book on my lunch break and spent the rest of the day with my thoughts on the back burner, trying to figure out, what, exactly, it was about the book that rubbed me the wrong way. I think I figured out what those things are, but before I get into that, I need to tell you what the book is about. WHEN WE WERE VIKINGS is the story of Zelda, a high-functioning adult with fetal alcohol syndrome. She lives with her older brother, Gert: a man who should be in college but instead works as a runner for a local gang. Zelda, who lives her whole life by rules that make her feel more comfortable, takes umbrage with this, and when Gert's activities get all of them into trouble, she takes it upon herself to bail her brother out. Interspersed with this are scenes of Zelda's everyday life-- she goes to an adult daycare where they teach her life skills she'll need to take care of herself; she has a boyfriend, a developmentally disabled boy named Marxy, with whom she wants to have sex; and she also sees a therapist named Dr. Laird, who she talks to about everything else. Zelda has a narrow scope of interests, which mostly revolve around vikings and dabbing. She dabs at people to greet them, and lives her whole life to the viking credo, including talking in Ancient Norse and, later, hefting around a giant viking sword. So what didn't I like about this book? Honestly, I'm shocked that this book has such high ratings. I'm guessing that people probably think the subject matter is brave, but I found a lot of it upsetting. First, this whole book feels incredibly exploitative in some ways. Zelda has fetal alcohol syndrome, which typically causes facial irregularities or deformatives. Zelda is quick to tell us she doesn't have these; she's just a small woman. All the men in this book think she is SO attractive and keep telling her how hot she is. What makes this extra icky is a big part of this book involves a subplot with Zelda wanting to have sex for the first time with her developmentally disabled boyfriend. I get that people with disabilities want to have sex, too, but making sex the major focus of Zelda's internal and external sense of worth seemed kind of gross. When she and her boyfriend do go at it, it goes horribly, horribly wrong. It was SO cringe. The only other action she gets is from a guy she refers to as "normal" (normal meaning "not disabled"-- very ableist) who only wants to use her, and a guy who attempts to rape her. So even though sex is a big part of this book, none of it works out well for Zelda. She is lusted after by virtually all male characters in this book but doesn't really get to experience any empowering sexuality for herself-- it's all abuse and disappointment. I also felt like the whole viking and dabbing angle was really twee. It felt like an excuse to make Zelda seem precious and quirky. Like a manic pixie dream girl. She even refers to herself as a valkyrie. Everyone else in this book is super quirky too, just in case that wasn't annoying enough. And what's with the blurb calling this book "heart-swelling"? It's actually really disturbing and dark and takes a pretty dismal look at how women and people with disabilities are viewed. Even Zelda, the main character, looks down her nose at her less functional peers with superiority. Yikes. Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!       2.5 stars

  3. 4 out of 5

    Scarlett Readz and Runz....Through Novel Time & Distance

    As a fan of all things Vikings, I was drawn to the cover of this novel and had a certain expectation on how it would follow. If the blurb and quotes did not give it away, I soon found myself questioning if I had the correct book at hand that I so expectantly put on top of my tbr the moment it was in my possession. What I was reading was both plain and endearing in the use of verbiage but also resembled the main adult protagonist of child-like character. How was this supposed to make a leap from As a fan of all things Vikings, I was drawn to the cover of this novel and had a certain expectation on how it would follow. If the blurb and quotes did not give it away, I soon found myself questioning if I had the correct book at hand that I so expectantly put on top of my tbr the moment it was in my possession. What I was reading was both plain and endearing in the use of verbiage but also resembled the main adult protagonist of child-like character. How was this supposed to make a leap from a coming of age story to the fierce tales of the Vikings I signed up for? Zelda is a young woman with cognitive differences. Born with fetal alcohol syndrome, she lives with her brother Gert who struggles to take care of her and make ends meet. After their mother had died, they lived with their uncle until they moved out on their own to escape his abusive tendencies. Gert being a young adult himself, is trying to juggle many aspects of his own life, college, jobs, girlfriends, while tending to the well being and emotional needs for Zelda, the bills and putting food on the table. The two of them have set up rules to follow and they are clearly posted around the apartment. For the most part, this and her weekly visits to a therapist plus her friends from the community center keep Zelda stable. What Gert does not anticipate or is prepared for are Zelda's aspirations growing from observing the world around her. She is in love with a young man named Marxy who has differences as well. She wants to be legendary like a Viking and do right by her incredible sense of justice and is in preparations to have sex for the first time and get a real job at the library. While Gert's life is slowly unraveling making the wrong choices, dealing for money, Zelda is inadvertently taken advantage of by the wrong kind of people. A situation that could cost them both dearly. What prevails is love, but that isn't even half of the story. As you can see, it isn't a book of Viking raids and plunders, but one of heroes of a different kind of tale, courageous and valiant in its own right. So much so, that I was taken by the powerful message it held about people with cognitive differences, invisible disabilities, and an unbreakable spirit. What a great surprise of a novel. It took a while to get into the grove of reading in Zelda's POV in the appropriate childlike voice the author chose to convey her differences. It is that what threw me off at first all together and had me question if I can read a whole book in this way, but it grew on me. I should mention perhaps that there are a lot of curse words throughout that in connectivity with the childlike language was odd or krass at times, though they became almost an endearing part of it all in the end. When it comes down to it, Zelda's character is an amazing choice to portray a clear heart devoid of prejudice and full of perseverance. Whereas Gert's struggles show the grasp in complexity that makes life challenging and caring for her so difficult, the lack of a strong adult in their lives is clearly obvious. A very unique book unlike anything I have read before, but one that deserves to be tackled and read. I could see this as a contemporary summer reading assignment for older high school students as well. I'm curious about what else this author might write in the future. Till then, put this on your tbr ;) Happy Reading! More of my reviews here: Through Novel Time & Distance

  4. 4 out of 5

    Shelby *trains flying monkeys*

    A book where the main character is obsessed with Vikings? Not normally the kind of book that I would jump all over. I actually have no clue what made me want to read this book but whatever/whoever it was...thank you!! Zelda is a character that is different. Zelda is a character that I wish the world had more of. She is honest, outspoken for her tribe and knows what she wants. In this story we get to go with her on her quest for a bit. Zelda lives with her big brother Gert. She goes to the A book where the main character is obsessed with Vikings? Not normally the kind of book that I would jump all over. I actually have no clue what made me want to read this book but whatever/whoever it was...thank you!! Zelda is a character that is different. Zelda is a character that I wish the world had more of. She is honest, outspoken for her tribe and knows what she wants. In this story we get to go with her on her quest for a bit. Zelda lives with her big brother Gert. She goes to the community center during most days and reads her Viking handbook to study exactly how to live as a warrior. Zelda grows as a character before the reader's eyes in this story. She wants to support her tribe as in her brother Gert...who is making some questionable choices, Gert's ex AK47 who Zelda completely believes should get back in love with Gert, some villains aka 'fuck dicks' who want to disturb the peace of Zelda's tribe.... and Zelda's "fair maiden" Marxy...who she is in love with and will have the sex with. Life never works out as we plan it though and Zelda's quest becomes more than she ever imagines it. Including her love for Marxy. I have to burn a picture of him to show the gods how angry I am with him. Are there any other ways to make it clear to the gods that we are no longer together anymore? Also, are there any special Viking ways to curse their union? To say I LOVE this book is an understatement. Do I recommend it? Yes, to the people with open minds who want to see Zelda be legendary. To the ones that are sticks in the mud and are going to be offended by it. (Fuck-dicks) Booksource: Netgalley in exchange for review

  5. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Audiobook... read by Phoebe Strole/ ebook sync. Im not an enthusiastic Viking - reader - in any shape or form. I trusted other readers that this book had very little to do with Vikings, but it was still too much for me. I wasnt interested in Zeldas tribe, or dressing correctly to get into character. Even with a - somewhat lovable character, ....Zelda, a high functioning 21-year-old with fetal alcohol syndrome.... I just didnt really enjoy the story. Zelda is an unreliable character >> which Audiobook... read by Phoebe Strole/ ebook sync. I’m not an enthusiastic Viking - reader - in any shape or form. I trusted other readers that this book had very little to do with Vikings, but it was still too much for me. I wasn’t interested in Zelda’s tribe, or dressing correctly to get into character. Even with a - somewhat lovable character, ....Zelda, a high functioning 21-year-old with fetal alcohol syndrome.... I just didn’t really enjoy the story. Zelda is an unreliable character >> which is fine ... This is a fiction story... but for me - I would prefer a character portraying FASD...without ‘anything’ Viking. I’ve read other heartbreaking true stories of the life long implications from FASD. This type of storytelling- light humor - mixed with the serious effects of the Neurobehavior disorder... just didn’t connect right for me. I have a friend who adopted a child who was born with FASD.... and what their family went through was soooo horrific- I just can’t digest this book well. So..... For me..... This book was: ...Too cute... ...Too much of Annie...aka AK47.... ...Too much of Gert and his lies....( older brother of Zelda) ...Too much obsession with Vikings....(birds, swords, lores, Kepple’s Guide to Vikings, mythos, hero worshiping, and Zelda identifying herself as a Valkyrie)... ...Too much chatter about rules of legends- and or breaking rules for the greater good. ...Too much identifying > gays, tall people, large beards, villainess people, rich people, bad news people, smart people, strong people, not normal people, black people, ugly words, ( the N word or retards), abnormal people, weak people, short people, organize people, messy people, sexual people, and sex questing. I appreciate that many readers loved this book - really I do!!!!! It wasn’t really for me. “Pinky swear”!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    [3.5] I have mixed feelings about When We Were Vikings. Zelda is a young woman born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, who functions well in a scripted routine. She views everything in black and white, is crazy about Vikings and uses simplistic language with "words of the day" thrown in. Initially the novel felt derivative (Curious Incident) and YA (except for the sex-talk). I stuck with it because I thought the contradictions around her burgeoning sexuality and desire for independence were [3.5] I have mixed feelings about When We Were Vikings. Zelda is a young woman born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, who functions well in a scripted routine. She views everything in black and white, is crazy about Vikings and uses simplistic language with "words of the day" thrown in. Initially the novel felt derivative (Curious Incident) and YA (except for the sex-talk). I stuck with it because I thought the contradictions around her burgeoning sexuality and desire for independence were interesting - as well as her relationship with her brother. The novel became more compelling and less predictable as it continued - and in the end I liked it!

  7. 4 out of 5

    PattyMacDotComma

    5★ With Gert, I do not mind going to new places. If I am alone, I do not like new places, since its easy to become lost or kidnapped and held for ransom. Its Zeldas 21st birthday, and shes an adult today. Her older brother Gert, with whom she lives, has already surprised her with a Viking stripper who makes balloon animals (but doesnt strip today). She thinks hes great He looked like he could defeat hordes of villains and commit acts of bravery, like Beowulf . . . Zeldas favourite book is Keppels 5★ “With Gert, I do not mind going to new places. If I am alone, I do not like new places, since it’s easy to become lost or kidnapped and held for ransom.” It’s Zelda’s 21st birthday, and she’s an adult today. Her older brother Gert, with whom she lives, has already surprised her with a Viking stripper who makes balloon animals (but doesn’t strip today). She thinks he’s great “He looked like he could defeat hordes of villains and commit acts of bravery, like Beowulf . . .” Zelda’s favourite book is “Keppel’s Guide to the Vikings”, which she follows as a sort of life-guide to help with rules for behaviour. She frequently spouts Viking phrases, but she doesn’t dress up, like a Trekkie. She explains fairly early in the book why she is the way she is. “I do not like people who are drunk in general and especially not Gert, since Mom was drunk when I was in her stomach and that is why I am different, which is a better way of saying retarded. Gert did not drink very much when he and AK47 were together.“ Zelda is a terrific character with an infectious personality. Yes, she’s awkward and outspoken and frank and sometimes embarrassing, but she’s also earnest and honest and caring and thoughtful. She and Gert are living on their own and have household rules which are posted on the wall, and it makes her uncomfortable when visitors don’t follow the rules – if they don’t take their shoes off, for example. It’s the middle of the night, Gert has brought a young woman home, and Zelda woke up. She peeks out her door, sees he’s drunk and she hasn’t taken off her shoes. When Gert goes to the bathroom, Zelda makes her move. “This was the time to confront the intruder to the house, while she was alone and did not expect to be confronted. This was a battle tactic the Vikings employed – attacking at night so that they caught their enemies unaware. I jumped out from the hallway and stood behind her and said, “WHO GOES THERE,” in a booming voice.” You can imagine the reaction. Then Zelda says “Identify yourself” and then “You cannot pass.” That will give you some idea of Zelda. She is very aware that she’s different, but by golly she has found a way to work with the world, in the world, and she’s not taking nonsense from anybody. She has a boyfriend, Marxy, and friends at the centre, but her best friend is AK47, Gert’s former girlfriend who was said to have a laugh like a machine gun, hence Zelda’s nickname for her. “AK47 is fearless. When it comes to Viking things, she is the person most like the Valkyries. That was one of the reason why Gert fell in love with her. She could take his shit. Other people are afraid of him, but he is afraid of AK47, especially when she gives him THE LOOK. . . THE LOOK is like a missile, which actually didn’t exist in the time of the Vikings. A missile goes from one place or another and explodes the villains. AK47 does THE LOOK and like a missile it explodes whoever she shoots it at. Gert is not a villain, but sometimes he does villain things and she needs to explode him back to normal.” Gert is taking courses at university but mixes with some dodgy characters outside of school, and Zelda senses that there’s something off about them. The story does take some dark turns, and Zelda is troubled by “grendels” in the walls and bad thoughts shouting at her, exploding in her head. It is not a feel-good sweet story, because there are proper villains and actual bad things that happen (and grendels in the walls), but it IS a feel-good story because you can’t help admiring Zelda’s enthusiasm and initiative. She has the candidness of a small child but the sensitivity of an older person who tries to think of others. Her therapist, Dr. Laird, helps her translate her Viking rules to everyday life. (We should all be so lucky as to know a Dr. Laird.) She has friends at the community centre she attends, each with their own challenges, some of whom she understands will never be as independent as she is, but no matter. She loves them anyway, so how could we not also? Great characters, great story, a firm favourite! Thanks to Scout Press, Simon and Schuster, for the print copy for review. It’s wonderful.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    This is a very engaging debut novel featuring a young adult with a cognitive disability. Born with fetal alcohol syndrome, Zelda is high functioning but is quite guileless and naive, not always understanding social interactions and people's intentions, which can get her into dangerous situations. Her parents both died when she was young and she and her brother Gert were sent to live with their creepy Uncle Richard, who was cruel to Gert and liked to touch Zelda. After a knee injury put paid to This is a very engaging debut novel featuring a young adult with a cognitive disability. Born with fetal alcohol syndrome, Zelda is high functioning but is quite guileless and naive, not always understanding social interactions and people's intentions, which can get her into dangerous situations. Her parents both died when she was young and she and her brother Gert were sent to live with their creepy Uncle Richard, who was cruel to Gert and liked to touch Zelda. After a knee injury put paid to the possibility of a college football scholarship, Gert dropped out of school, got a job at a gas station and moved himself and Zelda into a cheap apartment to get them away from Uncle Richard. Gert does his best to look after Zelda, making sure she the structure she needs to her life and receives all the help she can get, but Gert's life is tough as he has his own emotional and financial problems and mixes with a rough group involved in drug dealing. Zelda loves going to the library and is obsessed with Viking culture, reading everything about them that she can lay her hands on. Her favourite book is 'Kepple's Guide to the Vikings' and she frequently sends emails to the author asking for advice on how a Viking would behave in the situations she encounters. She also decides that she wants to become a Viking Hero of her own legend, protecting her tribe (Zelda's boyfriend Marxy, Gert and his girlfriend Anna) and standing up for people who can't defend themselves. Zelda is a unique character, easy to like as she fearlessly strives to do her best for her tribe. When she comes across people who are cruel or nasty she will boldly call them out, using the swear words she has grown up hearing. Things also don't always go her way as she is often unable to take into account how others will react, but she is able to learn from situations that go badly. When she decides it's time to have sex with her boyfriend Marxy (also cognitively impaired), she tackles the issue head-on, unashamedly seeking advice and instruction from Gert's girlfriend but the results are both humorous and sad. She is also easily deceived into being too trusting of others, leading to a major disaster for Gert and Anna. However, despite all this it's a delight to see Zelda experience a lot of personal growth as she gains enough confidence and independence to take more control of her own life. This quirky debut novel gave a lot of food for food, especially on how disabled people should not be labelled, but treated as individuals, all capable of personal growth with the right opportunities and encouragement. With many thanks to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster Australia for a digital copy to read

  9. 5 out of 5

    Susan's Reviews

    What a fine - A VERY FINE!- story Andrew David MacDonald has brought us in When We Were Vikings. That ending was just beautiful. I'm still leaking tears as I write this review. At the end of this epic tale, this talented author did not leave any loose ends untied: we certainly have a lot to learn from Viking lore. "...For [Zelda] the world is a place where courage and being part of a tribe means more than anything elsewhere we are all Vikings paddling together, to the beat of the same drum." What a fine - A VERY FINE!- story Andrew David MacDonald has brought us in When We Were Vikings. That ending was just beautiful. I'm still leaking tears as I write this review. At the end of this epic tale, this talented author did not leave any loose ends untied: we certainly have a lot to learn from Viking lore. "...For [Zelda] the world is a place where courage and being part of a tribe means more than anything else—where we are all Vikings paddling together, to the beat of the same drum." Zelda was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, due to her mother's heavy drinking. Their biker father died in prison. Their mother died shortly after, leaving them to the mercy of their abusive Uncle Richard. But, somehow, both Zelda and Gert were going to defy the odds and escape the stereotypical outcome for two young people who were caught in the vice of poverty and abuse - or would they?! Gert is encouraged by one of his girlfriends to apply for a hardship scholarship to the state college. He was awarded a scholarship, due mostly to the moving essay he submitted - which he won't let Zelda read - and life improves for the better for this hapless pair. But Gert's alcohol and drug addictions, and his self-defeating attitude to life cause him to mess up time and again, threatening their fragile world. As he himself admits: "there are people around the poker table of life whose hands aren’t perfect and they see what they have and fold right away. They don’t even bother playing." Unfortunately, Gert is well on the way to becoming one of those "folders", unless Zelda can marshal every ounce of courage in her tiny body and set out to save her brother from all the evil forces that are threatening to destroy her precious tribe. During Zelda's perilous - and often horrifying - quest, I was spellbound as Zelda learned to become more self-reliant and confident in her abilities: she made me see ability, not disability. You might well be thinking that this tale is all "Forrest Gump gets inducted to the Sons of Anarchy biker gang" - and for a while there I thought that this was exactly where we were headed. But I am pleased to report that this story has so many levels to it, very few of which could be labeled predictable. These characters were real and precious to me. I wanted to cover brave, tiny Zelda in a suit of armour. Her trust is continually abused, she suffers a major crisis of faith and the reality of stark, ugly death almost destroys her completely. What a legendary journey, indeed! I rate this a 10 out of 5 star read: I could barely catch my breath when I finished the last sentence. This truly impressive novel should be read by everyone. My thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review

  10. 5 out of 5

    Susan's Reviews

    What a fine - A VERY FINE!- story Andrew David MacDonald has brought us in When We Were Vikings. That ending was just beautiful. I'm still leaking (happy/wow) tears as I write this review. At the end of this epic tale, this talented author did not leave any loose ends untied: we certainly have a lot to learn from Viking lore. "...For [Zelda] the world is a place where courage and being part of a tribe means more than anything elsewhere we are all Vikings paddling together, to the beat of the What a fine - A VERY FINE!- story Andrew David MacDonald has brought us in When We Were Vikings. That ending was just beautiful. I'm still leaking (happy/wow) tears as I write this review. At the end of this epic tale, this talented author did not leave any loose ends untied: we certainly have a lot to learn from Viking lore. "...For [Zelda] the world is a place where courage and being part of a tribe means more than anything else—where we are all Vikings paddling together, to the beat of the same drum." Zelda was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, due to her mother's heavy drinking. Their biker father died in prison. Their mother died shortly after, leaving Zelda and her brother Gert at the mercy of their abusive Uncle Richard. But , somehow, both Zelda and Gert defy the odds and escape the stereotypical outcome for two young people who were caught in the vice of poverty and abuse. Gert is encouraged by one of his girlfriends to apply for a hardship scholarship to the state college. He is awarded the scholarship, due mostly to the moving essay he submitted - which he won't let Zelda read - and life improves for the better for this hapless pair. But Gert's alcohol and drug addictions, and his self-defeating attitude to life cause him to mess up time and again, threatening their fragile world. As he himself admits: "there are people around the poker table of life whose hands aren’t perfect and they see what they have and fold right away. They don’t even bother playing." Unfortunately, Gert is well on the way to becoming one of those "folders", unless Zelda can marshal every ounce of courage in her tiny body and set out to save her brother from all the evil forces that are threatening to destroy her precious tribe. During Zelda's perilous - and often horrifying - quest, I was spellbound as Zelda learned to become more self-reliant and confident in her abilities.: she made me see ability, not disability. You might well be thinking that this tale is all "Forrest Gump gets inducted to the Sons of Anarchy biker gang" - and for a while there I thought that this was exactly where we were headed. But I am pleased to report that this story has so many levels to it, very few of which could be labeled predictable. These characters were real and precious to me. I wanted to cover brave, tiny Zelda in a suit of armour. Her trust is continually abused, she suffers a major crisis of faith and the reality of stark, ugly death almost destroys her completely. What a legendary journey, indeed! I rate this a 10 out of 5 star read: I could barely catch my breath when I finished the last sentence. This truly impressive novel should be read by everyone.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nursebookie

    Andrew David MacDonald delivered an amazing story in When We Were Vikings. I absolutely adored this literary fiction about our protagonist Zelda who was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, due to her mother's heavy drinking. Zelda and her brother Gert are left on their own as their father died while in prison and their mother died shortly after. Zelda obsessed with Vikings adapts the Viking culture to make it through lifes difficulties and challenges. I adored her character and how she is set in Andrew David MacDonald delivered an amazing story in When We Were Vikings. I absolutely adored this literary fiction about our protagonist Zelda who was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, due to her mother's heavy drinking. Zelda and her brother Gert are left on their own as their father died while in prison and their mother died shortly after. Zelda obsessed with Vikings adapts the Viking culture to make it through life’s difficulties and challenges. I adored her character and how she is set in living with just some basic rules I found to be endearing and adorable. I would love to be her friend. She is loyal, loving and protective of her tribe! Though Gert is the older brother and the one responsible for Zelda, I loved how she ends up responsible in saving him too. Zelda has a unique narrative voice I enjoyed reading about. The story brought out all kinds of emotions but mostly laughing and crying with them. This is truly an amazing heart warming story about these two people learning to lean on each other as siblings to traverse their difficulties in their lives. The ending was beautiful and brought tears to my eyes. MacDonald wrote with such heart and creativity. This is certainly a must read and wonderful coming of age story as well. I have never read anything like this and love the originality and creativity of the writing. I highly recommend this amazingly brilliant book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne Leopold (Suzy Approved Book Reviews)

    Zelda is twenty-one years old and was born with fetal alcohol syndrome. She is high functioning with her learning disability and relies on repetition to learn her tasks. She lives a simple life and maintains a constant routine to reduce anxiety. Zelda is friendly and attends community classes where she learns life skills such as basic finance and social interaction. She is also obsessed with Vikings and uses their rituals as guidance in her life. Zelda lives with her older brother, Gert, who has Zelda is twenty-one years old and was born with fetal alcohol syndrome. She is high functioning with her learning disability and relies on repetition to learn her tasks. She lives a simple life and maintains a constant routine to reduce anxiety. Zelda is friendly and attends community classes where she learns life skills such as basic finance and social interaction. She is also obsessed with Vikings and uses their rituals as guidance in her life. Zelda lives with her older brother, Gert, who has been responsible for them since their mother died. He has been attending a local college on a scholarship and their finances are stretched. To make extra money, Gert becomes involved with a group of dangerous individuals. When Zelda finds out about her brother’s affairs their relationship is tested and her inner Viking awakens. When We Were Vikings is a debut novel by Andrew David MacDonald. It is a book about family, love, and issues surrounding families with disabilities. The book, narrated in the voice of Zelda, projects with honesty and strength.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Book of the Month

    Why I love it by Bryn Greenwood As a reader, I'm always looking for the same things that attract me as a writer. I love stories that are outside the mainstream, about people who, in other books, might be relegated to sidekicks or one-dimensional sources of inspiration. When We Were Vikings hit that sweet spot for me. Zelda is an older teenager on the fetal alcohol spectrum, but she is nobody's disability inspiration. She sees herself as a modern-day Viking with a sacred duty to protect her family, Why I love it by Bryn Greenwood As a reader, I'm always looking for the same things that attract me as a writer. I love stories that are outside the mainstream, about people who, in other books, might be relegated to sidekicks or one-dimensional sources of inspiration. When We Were Vikings hit that sweet spot for me. Zelda is an older teenager on the fetal alcohol spectrum, but she is nobody's disability inspiration. She sees herself as a modern-day Viking with a sacred duty to protect her family, even though her sword is a letter opener, and her family is basically just herself and an older brother with a messy past and a messier present. As part of her plan to become a Viking legend, she's starting her first real job, and trying to go all the way with her boyfriend Marxy. But this isn’t all life has set in store for Zelda… From the first page of When We Were Vikings, I knew Zelda was my people. Because of her disability, there are those who want to control her, but she has her own ideas about how to live her life. Not all of those ideas work out, but that doesn't stop Zelda from striving for independence. She may not be a great warrior, but Zelda's real strength is loving people. And that—even when it's hard, even when people let you down or break your heart—that's legendary. Read more at: https://bookofthemonth.com/when-we-we...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Its been a long while since I felt so completely addicted and in love with a character. I didnt want this book to end. Five stars all the way! Audiobook narrated by the fabulous Phoebe Strole. My favorite quote: ... even though Vikings have wise men who tell them what to do, sometimes heroes need to follow their own hearts and believe in themselves. It’s been a long while since I felt so completely addicted and in love with a character. I didn’t want this book to end. Five stars all the way! Audiobook narrated by the fabulous Phoebe Strole. My favorite quote: “... even though Vikings have wise men who tell them what to do, sometimes heroes need to follow their own hearts and believe in themselves.”

  15. 5 out of 5

    Elle Rudy

    You cant be brave unless youve been afraid. Zelda is a Viking enthusiast who is trying to make her way in a world full of villains whilst figuring out what makes someone a hero. Born on the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum, she thinks and acts differently, but is still relatively high-functioning. Zelda lives with her older brother, Gert, though theyre struggling financially without any parental or family support. It would be easy to make her FAS the main adversary in the story, or perhaps vilify her You can’t be brave unless you’ve been afraid. Zelda is a Viking enthusiast who is trying to make her way in a world full of villains whilst figuring out what makes someone a hero. Born on the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum, she thinks and acts differently, but is still relatively high-functioning. Zelda lives with her older brother, Gert, though they’re struggling financially without any parental or family support. It would be easy to make her FAS the main adversary in the story, or perhaps vilify her mother for drinking while pregnant. But Zelda is the way she is, her mother is gone and even if you found a place to set that blame, where would that leave her? Andrew David MacDonald asks the reader to think and feel like Zelda, not to feel bad for her and get angry on her behalf. Yes, she is different. She has to make her way in a society not designed for her, where other people can be downright hostile, but she’s moving through it anyways. That’s what a Viking would do, and she doesn’t know any other way. There’s a lot in here that’s sweet and there’s plenty that’s menacing. It could make some uncomfortable to consider the circumstances of people who have to live differently. The characters are not faultless and they have to make difficult choices. There’s a great deal to love with When We Were Vikings, and Zelda is one of the most compelling characters I’ve come across recently. This was a marvelous debut and I’ll be looking for more from MacDonald in the future! *Thanks to Gallery/Scout Press & Goodreads for an advance copy!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Susan Johnson

    I needed a book like this desperately. First of all, it has a main character, Zelda, you can unreservedly root for and she has surrounded herself with a tribe that gives her needed help, support, and love. She is a 21 year old who has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and is struggling to establish her independence. Her older brother, Gert, is not ready to let go and he still wants to protect her (who doesn't?) Luckily she has the support of Gert's girlfriend, AK47, her doctor and the Community Center she I needed a book like this desperately. First of all, it has a main character, Zelda, you can unreservedly root for and she has surrounded herself with a tribe that gives her needed help, support, and love. She is a 21 year old who has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and is struggling to establish her independence. Her older brother, Gert, is not ready to let go and he still wants to protect her (who doesn't?) Luckily she has the support of Gert's girlfriend, AK47, her doctor and the Community Center she attends daily. She falls in love and wants to experience sex, she finds a job and wants a place of her own and she wants to make her own rules. Who doesn't? She helps Gert with some messes he has made and then strikes out on her own. She follows her Viking code that sustains her. In the end when we finally get to read to read the essay that got Gert into college, it is so wonderful that I cried my eyes out (but happily). This is a beautiful book and I thank Net Galley and the author so much for a copy of this in exchange for a fair review. I am a better person for having read this.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Bon

    Thank you, Netgalley, for an ARC! Wow, what a good read. A story I was into, with real daily life problems being address by an unlikely heroine you can only root for, with her Viking philosophies quick at hand and a desire to write her own legend. Id certainly compare this to the Curious Incident of the Dog inasmuch as a young, mentally different protagonist leads the story, and the blunt narration made it easy but also immersive to read But this was a young womans story, one I was infinitely Thank you, Netgalley, for an ARC! Wow, what a good read. A story I was into, with real daily life problems being address by an unlikely heroine you can only root for, with her Viking philosophies quick at hand and a desire to write her own legend. I’d certainly compare this to the Curious Incident of the Dog inasmuch as a young, mentally different protagonist leads the story, and the blunt narration made it easy but also immersive to read… But this was a young woman’s story, one I was infinitely more invested in by only a few pages in. This was a novel full of heart. Zelda’s struggles are framed through her love of Viking culture, and it really showed how she could be just like the rest of us. Her grand Viking legend might have begun with simple goals like get a job, help her tribe/family with money, and defeat growing challenges and villains in her life, but it didn’t make it any less important a Viking tale. Zelda’s bluntness and unflowery narration was really refreshing, and easy to read. Living as one on the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum, she’s frank about everything from sex and periods to telling off gangsters, and she never seems “less than” despite her cognitive differences. As someone with a brain that also works differently sometimes, I found her sensitivity to smells, noises, and traumatic memories refreshing and relatable to read about. Her brother was an interesting guardian, a rough-looking thuggish type who nonetheless tries his best to keep her living in her comfort zone and goes to school on scholarship. His girlfriend, known as AK47, was a stellar supporting character. Like the title implies, Zelda’s love of Viking culture guides most of the plot, and is simultaneously quirky, charming and so cool. I love that it gave her impetus to study something, to focus hard and absorb so much complex information – she uses norse phrases in daily life and it was cute. I like how she framed her life by Viking guidelines – when her brother and her get off the wrong page, clan meetings are in order; her boyfriend is the fair maiden in her legend; she can be the heroine of her own story and emulate the honored Viking warrior she reads about; and there are villains to defeat in the form of her the drug gang her brother has fallen in with. This book checked a lot of boxes for me. A quirky and cognitive-challenged female protagonist, thorough dissemination of Viking culture throughout the plot in an organic and education manner, relatable life problems beyond Zelda’s obvious challenges, and heartwarming moments of a girl navigating her own quest through a world that doesn’t always understand her. The diversity aspects, the girl-power, the frank narration…I loved it all.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    Just got an ARC, might read it soon

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn in FL

    This highly engaging debut novel is a very original, unique story with interesting, dynamic, primary characters. Told in the first person, Zelda is a special needs person, who is highly functional adult. We watch her get entangled in some very challenging situations that most people would find difficult to work through. Her ability to apply logic and respond based on her sense of what is morally right is both her biggest strength and at times a great weakness. Even in her failures, she learns This highly engaging debut novel is a very original, unique story with interesting, dynamic, primary characters. Told in the first person, Zelda is a special needs person, who is highly functional adult. We watch her get entangled in some very challenging situations that most people would find difficult to work through. Her ability to apply logic and respond based on her sense of what is morally right is both her biggest strength and at times a great weakness. Even in her failures, she learns and improves. I know a lot of "ordinary" people that can't make that claim. We first meet Zelda and her brother, Gert in their shared apartment on her 21st Birthday. Gert has hired an entertainer (who works primarily as stripper) to dress as a Viking and amaze Zelda with his Viking talents. Zelda is fascinated by Viking culture and believes she is called to live as a Warrior for her tribe, which includes (Gert, Gert's ex girlfriend AK 47 (aka Annie), Marxy (Zelda's boyfriend) and several others at the Community Center, where she spends much of her time developing independent living skills). Zelda decides, she will make a difference in the lives of others by working to protect them from harm. A job she finds increasingly difficult, when she unwittingly messes up her brother's illegal activities working for a local criminal. In the process, Zelda becomes a target which in turn places several others in harm's path, bringing about a major crisis for all of them. As the story progresses, Zelda evolves personally particularly in developing coping skills, perception during difficult moments and responding in positive ways, changing how she thinks about herself and others. This in turn impacts those around her to reevaluate themselves and their actions and their assessment of Zelda. These changes incorporate several positive messages within the story. I truly enjoyed how others benefited from her insights and were motivated to change. Thus, I think that was part of the author's motivation to write her this way. I have been around special needs people throughout my life and had given consideration to making that my life's work. Ultimately, I was strongly urged not to pursue that life. This book gave me a lot to think about. It challenged me to look beyond some of my own assumptions, particularly about the possibilities available to those facing such challenges. We as a society could change more dynamically to allow those who don't fit in the "box", a chance to prove themselves when given a different set of tools. At the takeaway, Zelda proved that her challenges while limiting did not make her a prisoner. Her tribe, her community just needed to identify what resources and adjustments could be made to allow her better autonomy and also incorporate her strengths to make her a more vital contributor to their society. The American culture has taken positive steps in the last twenty years to include handicapped persons in the work environment by making certain minor adjustments, so they can contribute and achieve more. Truly a win/win proposition, but those with cognitive deficits have often been ignored or seen as too unique to "accommodate". I hope this book and others like it, will spark a change in attitudes going forward. While the audience is most likely young adult crowd, this would be an acceptable read for younger readers of strong emotional maturity. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I am well past, young adult. Please note, that there are repeated incidents of serious violence (though not gratuitous), also there is a frequent use of vulgar language. Finally, (view spoiler)[.there is an incident where rape is attempted. (hide spoiler)] Sexuality among the cognitively challenged is explored in both sensitive but vulgar terms. I found it to be overly graphic and too detailed. However, I do understand its inclusion in the story and how it connected to the bigger picture. All of these were integral to the overall story. Frankly, this was a very strongly conveyed story and there was no indication that this was a debut work except by the publisher's admission. This is very suited to a movie script and I wouldn't be surprised to see it on the big screen, if it gets the proper marketing. It has "Big Hit" written all over it (well not literally), in fact, my copy was quite clean! Thank you to the Publisher, Gallery/Scout Press, Andrew David MacDonald and Goodreads for providing this ARC in return for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    Great debut novel. Tenderly told from the POV of a young woman named, Zelda. Though she suffers from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum disorder she still manages to face the many challenges in her life with grit and determination to become the hero of her own story. Uplifting and inspiring this story will leave you with a tear in your eye & a smile on your face. 4 stars. Great debut novel. Tenderly told from the POV of a young woman named, Zelda. Though she suffers from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum disorder she still manages to face the many challenges in her life with grit and determination to become the ‘hero of her own story.’ Uplifting and inspiring this story will leave you with a tear in your eye & a smile on your face. 4 stars.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Dennis

    When We Were Vikings is a cute, light, coming-of-age story about a woman named Zelda and her day-to-day life with her older brother Gert. Zelda suffers from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, but she doesn't let the haters get her down. Zelda is a good-natured, funny, protagonist and while this book may sound like it could venture a darker route, it's definitely a fun ride. Zelda is one of the most loveable protagonists I've ever encountered.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kerrin Parris

    When We Were Vikings is an unusual book. For my personal preference, I give it a 3-star rating. The story is narrated by Zelda, a 21-year-old high-functioning young woman who was born on the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum. Her father left home when she was a baby. After her mother died from cancer, she and her brilliant, but thuggish brother, Gert go to live with their uncle. Uncle Richard is truly a terrible person, a Grendel. Desperate to get away from him, Gert borrows money from a thug, who is a When We Were Vikings is an unusual book. For my personal preference, I give it a 3-star rating. The story is narrated by Zelda, a 21-year-old high-functioning young woman who was born on the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum. Her father left home when she was a baby. After her mother died from cancer, she and her brilliant, but thuggish brother, Gert go to live with their uncle. Uncle Richard is truly a terrible person, a Grendel. Desperate to get away from him, Gert borrows money from a thug, who is a Villian. He and Zelda are able to get their own apartment, but a great deal of trouble comes from having to repay the debt. Zelda knows she is different, and that she is slower to process things. She has help from a kind psychologist and her brother's on-again-off-again girlfriend. She has friends at a local community center, including a boyfriend, who is not as high functioning as Zelda. She copes by following rules and also by following a Code of Vikings, where courage, honor, heroism, and being loyal to her tribe are the most important things. However, life throws things at her that would be difficult for anyone to handle. "Sometimes life isn’t as simple as heroes and villains." While it seems that Zelda is dependent on others, especially her brother, she proves that she can be a legend in her own right. Would I recommend this book? It depends on who is asking. Teenagers: Absolutely not. My book club: Absolutely Not. There is too much filthy language, sexual situations, including sex between mentally disadvantaged people, and attempted rape. There is also violence and a strong criminal element. I felt very uncomfortable, especially with the constant expletives. But I can see how many people will enjoy the story of Zelda, her quirkiness, and her ability to deal with issues by drawing upon her Viking strength. The relationship between Zelda and Gert is particularly interesting. The ending is uplifting and hopeful. Thank you to NetGalley and to Gallery Books for my Advanced Reader Copy in exchange for an honest review. This book will be published on January 28, 2020. #WhenWeWereVikings #NetGalley If you would like to see my Recipe Recommendation for Legendary Swedish Meatballs, check out my blog, http://www.kerrinsbookreviews.com/whe...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Shelley

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. You wouldn't know it by reading the "legends of our own making" blurbs, but this is not an upbeat, uplifting story. At best it's a "intellectually and socioeconomically disadvantaged heroine can kind of cope in the world with a lot of help from savior characters after going through a bunch of really awful stuff." I'm a bit surprised everyone is so overwhelmingly effusive. Is it the novelty of the FAS narrator? Or the tidy-ish ending after what is, mostly, a depressing story? As fond as I am of You wouldn't know it by reading the "legends of our own making" blurbs, but this is not an upbeat, uplifting story. At best it's a "intellectually and socioeconomically disadvantaged heroine can kind of cope in the world with a lot of help from savior characters after going through a bunch of really awful stuff." I'm a bit surprised everyone is so overwhelmingly effusive. Is it the novelty of the FAS narrator? Or the tidy-ish ending after what is, mostly, a depressing story? As fond as I am of the f-word myself, the language began to grate on me, and quickly. Innocent but disastrous first-time sex is fine, but (attempted) rape not so much. In any case: I started reading what I thought would be an analog to the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (although I read that a million years ago, I loved it then) and ended up alarmed that survivors of abuse and rape will be triggered by this "heart-swelling story." (Seriously, marketing people? Seriously?)

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kylie H

    I have quite mixed feelings about this book. Zelda is a 21 year old girl who has an intellectual disability due to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. She lives with her brother Gert who does his best for Zelda but appears to have his own demons that he is battling. Zelda is fascinated with vikings and decides that like vikings of old she shall go on a quest to save a fair maiden (her boyfriend Marxy), have a weapon and battle a villain. I liked the plot of the story and the characters but something in the I have quite mixed feelings about this book. Zelda is a 21 year old girl who has an intellectual disability due to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. She lives with her brother Gert who does his best for Zelda but appears to have his own demons that he is battling. Zelda is fascinated with vikings and decides that like vikings of old she shall go on a quest to save a fair maiden (her boyfriend Marxy), have a weapon and battle a villain. I liked the plot of the story and the characters but something in the telling detracted a little for me. There was a lot of swearing and anger there that for me sometimes seemed a bit gratuitous but that may just be me. I am sure that many will read this and really enjoy it. I really loved Zelda's character and was quite stressed by the predicament she found herself in. 3.5 stars from me. Thank you Simon & Schuster for the paperback ARC that I won!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Things this book is not: Light, easy, simple, purely humorous. Things this book is: Endearing, heartwarming, sad, hopeful, quirky, wonderful. I fell in love with Zelda and her tribe. Some of the portions of the book made my heart hurt and some of the themes are dark. But oh man...does love ever win. This for sure earned a spot in my "favorites of up lit". Similar to Eleanor Oliphant, our heroine will make you root for her and the pages will fly as you are praying that Zelda gets her happy ending. Things this book is not: Light, easy, simple, purely humorous. Things this book is: Endearing, heartwarming, sad, hopeful, quirky, wonderful. I fell in love with Zelda and her tribe. Some of the portions of the book made my heart hurt and some of the themes are dark. But oh man...does love ever win. This for sure earned a spot in my "favorites of up lit". Similar to Eleanor Oliphant, our heroine will make you root for her and the pages will fly as you are praying that Zelda gets her happy ending. I don't want to spoil the story so I'll just say I'm a better person for knowing Zelda. 4.5 stars

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sharah McConville

    4.5 Stars. When We Were Vikings is about Zelda, a unique 21 year old woman with fetal alcohol syndrome. Zelda lives with her brother Gert who cares for her and spends her days obsessing over Viking culture. When Gert gets himself into trouble Zelda decides to embark on her own quest to save him. Thanks to Simon and Schuster for my ARC.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tinichix (nicole)

    I just didnt connect with this one unfortunately. Its very similar in ways to Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine or The Bookish Life of Nina Hill but not anywhere as good in my opinion. I dont typically like to compare books but thats the kind of feel or vibe it has. I really enjoyed those other ones along the same line so I had very high hopes for this one. It fell flat for me. I was bored and didnt find the characters endearing. I wasnt a fan of some of the events and topics. I think it had a I just didn’t connect with this one unfortunately. It’s very similar in ways to Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine or The Bookish Life of Nina Hill but not anywhere as good in my opinion. I don’t typically like to compare books but that’s the kind of feel or vibe it has. I really enjoyed those other ones along the same line so I had very high hopes for this one. It fell flat for me. I was bored and didn’t find the characters endearing. I wasn’t a fan of some of the events and topics. I think it had a lot of potential. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind. I thought the Viking theme and references were going to be a nice touch to the story, but for me I think it was a little overdone. I think the narrator did a fantastic job with this audio if you happen to choose to do it in the audio book form. The actual story itself was just a miss for me and not one I connected with or enjoyed.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Brandi

    When We Were Vikings is a unique story about a young girl and her quest to become a Viking legend. I love when I stumble upon a book that doesnt check all the typical mainstream marks. Give me something off the beaten path, something a little different and my hands get grabby. Zelda has fetal alcohol syndrome, a result of her mother drinking heavily while pregnant. In her early twenties, Zelda lives with her older brother Gert, both parents have passed and after escaping an asshole uncle they are When We Were Vikings is a unique story about a young girl and her quest to become a Viking legend. I love when I stumble upon a book that doesn’t check all the typical mainstream marks. Give me something off the beaten path, something a little different and my hands get grabby. Zelda has fetal alcohol syndrome, a result of her mother drinking heavily while pregnant. In her early twenties, Zelda lives with her older brother Gert, both parents have passed and after escaping an asshole uncle they are now living on their own. I liked a lot about this book, I enjoyed Zelda’s journey becoming more independent and all the bumps along the way. Some of the stuff with the villains or as Zelda would say ‘fuck-dicks’, was a bit unneeded, maybe… idk, I’m a bit torn on some of it. Anyway, all and all, this was an entertaining read for me. *ARC provided via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

  29. 4 out of 5

    Karen Rush

    3.5 rounded up. This book was a hard one for me to rate. I loved much of it, the compelling inter-relationships, conversations and Zeldas incredible voice, her quirky Viking mentality and unique point of view. An impressively written debut and one unlike anything I've read. So, what didnt I like? Zelda and disabled friend Marxy are on the cusp of adulthood and are quite focused on a plan to do it for the first time. It was hard getting through these pages - uncomfortable and a recurrant focus. 3.5 rounded up. This book was a hard one for me to rate. I loved much of it, the compelling inter-relationships, conversations and Zelda’s incredible voice, her quirky Viking mentality and unique point of view. An impressively written debut and one unlike anything I've read. So, what didn’t I like? Zelda and disabled friend Marxy are on the cusp of adulthood and are quite focused on a plan to ‘do it’ for the first time. It was hard getting through these pages - uncomfortable and a recurrant focus. Thanks to Gallery/Scout Press for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Red Ink Book Reviews

    When We Were Vikings Andrew David Macdonald I was given an advanced copy of this book in order to provide an honest review. When We Were Vikings is a debut novel from Andrew David Macdonald. From the title of the book I was expecting the story to be a tale about Vikings going on epic adventures and creating more legendary Viking sagas. Instead this is a saga about a 21-year-old woman, Zelda. Zelda has developmental issues and has faced many hurdles in her life but is a Viking enthusiast who is When We Were Vikings – Andrew David Macdonald I was given an advanced copy of this book in order to provide an honest review. “When We Were Vikings” is a debut novel from Andrew David Macdonald. From the title of the book I was expecting the story to be a tale about Vikings going on epic adventures and creating more legendary Viking sagas. Instead this is a saga about a 21-year-old woman, Zelda. Zelda has developmental issues and has faced many hurdles in her life but is a Viking enthusiast who is determined to have her own legend, to become a strong, brave and powerful Viking herself. Because she isn’t what many consider to be normal, Zelda is determined to prove herself, prove she could be strong and brave, just like when there were Vikings. Zelda liver with her older brother Gert. Ever since their mother died, Gert has always been there to help and take care of her They did stay with their Uncle Richard for a time, but he was a villain who beat Gert and was a very creepy man. Unbeknownst to Zelda at the time, Gert borrowed some money from a person called Toucan. Toucan wasn’t what most people would call a nice person. He was a thug and in a gang. But Toucan had given Gert enough money to get them free from Uncle Richard, somewhere safe. Unfortunately, Gert is learning its harder to get out and away from people like Toucan then he originally thought. He doesn’t want to deal with Toucan anymore but there is a debt that must be paid. Zelda discovers the truth behind it all and is determined to help. Just like a Viking she sets out to help protect her tribe and contribute to the tribe’s hoard. While trying to establish her own independence and proving she can be just like everyone else, Zelda does what her brother had been too scared to do, she goes and confronts Toucan, trying to put an end to it all. This only seems to make things worse for her and Gert. Toucan starts hurting Gert and her boyfriend. Gert and Zelda must learn to be open and honest with each other and come together if they hope to defeat the villain, Toucan. “When We Were Vikings” is tale that really surprised me. It is a story about a courageous young woman who fought against the many prejudices she faced and was able to gain herself freedom and independence. She also achieved many things that many people would be too scared to even think about. This story highlights how, sadly, in today’s modern world many people are too quick to judge what they do not understand. Further, the families and friends of people like Zelda, need more support and understanding not judgement. We all need to take a step back and realise we are all just people, we are all just trying to make our own way in this world and a little support from each other wouldn’t hurt. “When We Were Vikings” is a beautiful and uplifting story. Hopefully people will read this story and realise we are all the same and remember to treat one another with a bit more respect and understanding.

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