Andrew David MacDonald’s debut novel, When We Were Vikings, is a moving and awe-inspiring story that will make you want to become a legend in your own way. Named one of Book of the Month’s January picks, this novel has been sweeping across the internet as one of the best books of the year.
For Zelda, a twenty-one-year-old Viking enthusiast who lives with her older brother, Gert, life is best lived with some basic rules, including “Fist bumps and dabs = respect” and “Strange people are not appreciated in her home.” 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. Sometimes life isn’t as simple as heroes and villains.
Fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and The Perks of Being a Wallflower will enjoy this tale, as well as those who love to see what it’s like living in someone else’s world. It is binge-worthy and so easy to fall in love with Zelda and her quirky nature. She is an unstoppable force and her resilience is inspiring and awesome. Seeing Zelda’s first-person POV takes the story to a different stratosphere. The way Zelda rationalizes things and interprets the things around her is beautiful and distinct. Her thoughts truly immerse you in her life and paints a picture that her life is not much different that anyone else’s.
Another important aspect of this story was its portrayal of those with mental disabilities. Zelda, who is on the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum, shows that she is a human being just like the rest of us. She has feelings, she wants to live her life, and she is brave and intelligent. She just sees the world in a different way. On top of this, the reader sees other characters, like Marxy, who are on the spectrum, but are still at different mental capacities. It was interesting to showcase all aspects of the mental ability/autism spectrum and emphasize that each individual is unique in their own way and that the world should be accepting of them no matter what.
On top of this, Zelda’s relationships with everyone is so enjoyable to read about. Her unconditional love for her brother; her loyalty to AK-47; the love she has for Marxy; and her appreciation for other people in her life, including her therapist and boss. It really portrays Zelda as a loyal and kind person. However, throughout the novel, the reader sees Zelda realize who is good and bad and her vow to “protect her tribe against the villains” further shows her strength and loyalty to those she loves.
I don’t think I can sing enough Viking praise about this book! All I can hope for is more from Zelda in the future. MacDonald’s storytelling is genius and will leave you wanting more of Zelda and her tribe. When We Were Vikings is just an absolutely gorgeous book that everyone should read at some point in their lives.
Hi! My name is Elisa and my bookshelf is quite literally overflowing! Join me in my journey of reading as many books as humanly possible!